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House impeaches Trump for second time; Senate must now weigh conviction

Trump is the first president to be impeached twice, and the vote was the most bipartisan of its kind in history.
Image; President Donald Trump disembarks Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on July 15, 2020.
President Donald Trump disembarks Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on July 15, 2020.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The House impeached President Donald Trump on Wednesday for a second time, charging him with "incitement of insurrection" for his role in the violent riot by a pro-Trump mob in the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead and terrorized lawmakers as they sought to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

The vote to impeach passed the Democratic-controlled House by 232-197, with 10 Republicans voting against Trump. It was the most bipartisan vote on a presidential impeachment in history, doubling the five Democrats who voted to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998.

The House is expected to immediately send the article of impeachment to the Senate, requiring it to begin the process of holding a trial to determine whether to convict Trump and potentially bar him from ever running for any federal office again.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that the trial would begin after the Senate reconvenes on Tuesday, just one day before Biden is sworn into office, and that it would not conclude until Trump was out of office.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the GOP leadership, was the highest-ranking Republican to vote to impeach Trump. She was joined by John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Fred Upton of Michigan, Peter Meijer of Michigan, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Tom Rice of South Carolina, David Valadao of California, and Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington. Four other Republicans didn't vote.

No House Republican voted to impeach Trump during the inquiry that resulted in a Senate acquittal earlier in his term.

Democrats described in detail the horrific scenes from the rioters' occupation of the Capitol and linked them directly to Trump's words at a rally before the assault.

"Those insurrectionists were not patriots," Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on the House floor, kicking off two hours of debate before the final vote was held. "They were not part of a political base to be catered to or managed. They were domestic terrorists, and justice must prevail.

"But they did not appear out of a vacuum. They were sent here, sent here by the president, with words such as a cry to 'fight like hell,'" Pelosi continued. "The president saw the insurrectionists not as the foes of freedom, as they are, but as the means to a terrible goal: the goal of him personally clinging to power."

Many House Republicans argued during the debate that Trump was not afforded due process and that the impeachment process was rushed. Some said impeaching Trump for a second time would only further divide the country, while others maintained that his actions on Jan. 6 did not meet the legal standard for incitement.

"I believe impeaching the president in such a short time frame would be a mistake,” Kevin McCarthy of California, the top House Republican, said during the debate.

"No investigations have been completed. No hearings have been held,” he added. “A vote to impeach will further fan the flames of partisan division.” But McCarthy said Trump needed to accept his share of responsibility for the riot, and he said a congressional censure would be in order.

Other Republicans cried hypocrisy, criticizing Democrats for their support for the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the country last summer.

"For months, our cities burned, police stations burned, our businesses were shattered, and they said nothing," said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., one of the most enthusiastic supporters of Trump in Congress. “Some have cited the metaphor that the president lit the flame. Well, they lit actual flames."

It is unclear what will happen in the Senate once the trial begins. Although Trump is likely to have already left office by then, a vote to convict him could still bar him from holding federal office again.

McConnell told his Republican colleagues Wednesday afternoon that he remains undecided whether he will vote to convict.

“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” McConnell wrote in a letter to his colleagues.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that McConnell had privately voiced support for the Democrats' move to impeach Trump, and his office did not issue a statement denying the report.

McConnell’s leadership team — which includes Sens. John Thune of South Dakota, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Rick Scott of Florida and Roy Blunt of Missouri — were not given a heads-up from McConnell ahead of the Times article and felt blindsided, according to multiple aides familiar with the day's events.

It is rare for McConnell to stake out a position without first consulting with his leadership team or even his entire conference. Some aides believe that if McConnell were to come out publicly in favor of conviction, other senators would join him.

The Senate trial will run into the first days of Biden's administration. Some Democrats have raised concerns that the trial could tie up the Senate's time, hindering Biden's ability to quickly confirm his Cabinet nominees and get his administration up and running.

Biden, in a statement on Wednesday, called on the Senate to take up impeachment while passing legislation as "the nation remains in the grip of a deadly virus and a reeling economy."

"I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation," he said. "From confirmations to key posts ... to getting our economy going again. Too many of our fellow Americans have suffered for too long over the past year to delay this urgent work."

The impeachment vote follows a House vote late Tuesday to formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office, citing his inability to continue acting as president. The act, which was largely symbolic, passed the House by 223-205 along partisan lines, with Kinzinger as the sole Republican to vote in favor.

Pence, who was one of the targets of the violent mob that attacked the Capitol last week, informed Pelosi shortly before the vote that he would not invoke the 25th Amendment, writing in a letter to Pelosi that he did not believe "such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution."

Lawmakers arrived at the Capitol on Wednesday morning to debate the impeachment article just one week after the attack, entering a now heavily guarded building swarming with thousands of National Guard members.

Hundreds of the armed officers slept at the Capitol on Tuesday night. The Senate Historical Office said it was aware of only two other occasions during which troops stayed overnight in the Capitol: during World War II and during the riots in Washington in 1968.

The "incitement of insurrection" article of impeachment was introduced Monday by three House Democrats: Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Ted Lieu of California and David Cicilline of Rhode Island. It says Trump has "demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law."

"He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of government," the five-page article of impeachment continues. “He thereby betrayed his trust as president, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States."

The article also cites Trump's Jan. 2 phone call urging Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to overturn the state's election results as part of his effort "to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election."

As the House debated the article of impeachment, Trump, unable to tweet about the process, as he did when the House impeached him in December 2019, because Twitter banned his account last week, released a statement urging that “there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind.”

“That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers,” he said.

Pelosi named nine Democratic impeachment managers for the trial Tuesday, with Raskin leading the team that will seek to prosecute Trump.

Pelosi also announced on Wednesday that heavy fines would be imposed on members of Congress who don't adhere to the new screening protocols to enter the House chamber.

The first offense will be a $5,000 fine and the second will be a $10,000 fine.

"The fines will be deducted directly from Members’ salaries by the Chief Administrative Officer," she said. “It is tragic that this step is necessary, but the Chamber of the People’s House must and will be safe."