Donald Trump on Wednesday became the first U.S. president to be impeached twice when 10 Republicans joined 222 Democrats to charge him with “incitement of insurrection,” exactly one week after a mob stormed the capitol building following a “stop the steal” speech by Trump.
The article passed 232-197 along a mostly party-line vote, yet unlike Trump’s first impeachment, this article included support from both parties. No Republicans backed impeachment during the vote in 2019.
A handful of Democrats opposed impeachment in 2019. On Wednesday, every Democrat supported impeachment.
The article now moves to the U.S. Senate, where its future is uncertain. It would take a two-thirds vote of senators to convict and remove Trump, although he already is set to leave office on Jan. 20 when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. Some supporters of impeachment have encouraged the Senate to vote on conviction even after Jan. 20 so as to prohibit him from running for president again. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday he has not decided how he will vote.
The article of impeachment says Trump “gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government” and “threatened the integrity of the democratic system.” The mob violence left five dead, including a law enforcement official. At the time, a Joint Session of Congress was meeting to certify Biden as the winner of the presidential election.
Since the insurrection attempt, 3,000 national guard troops have been brought to the District of Columbia, and a total of 15,000 are expected for the inauguration.
“In the months preceding the Joint Session, President Trump repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by State or Federal officials,” the article says. “Shortly before the Joint Session commenced, President Trump, addressed a crowd at the Ellipse in Washington, DC. There, he reiterated false claims that ‘we won this election, and we won it by a landslide.’ He also willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged – and foreseeably resulted in – lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like h-ll you’re not going to have a country anymore.’”
The article also says Trump “urged” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “‘find’ enough votes to overturn the Georgia Presidential election results and threatened Secretary Raffensperger if he failed to do so.”
Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton also were impeached. Neither were convicted.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a Trump supporter, opposed the impeachment article, although he also criticized the president. McCarthy pushed back on conspiracy theories that have been embraced by some on the right.
“Some say the riots were caused by Antifa. There's absolutely no evidence, and conservatives should be the first to say so,” McCarthy said. “... I believe impeaching the president in such a short timeframe would be a mistake. No investigations have been completed. No hearings have been held. What's more, the Senate has confirmed that no trial will begin until after President-elect Biden is sworn in. But here is what a vote to impeach would do: A vote to impeach would further divide this nation.
“... That doesn't mean the president is free from fault,” McCarthy said. “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action from President Trump – accept his share of responsibility, [and] quell the brewing unrest. … What we saw last week was not the American way. Neither is the continued rhetoric that Joe Biden is not the legitimate president. Let's be clear: Joe Biden will be sworn in as president of the United States in one week because he won the election.”
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) urged his colleagues to support impeachment.
“I've served with Ronald Reagan, with George H.W. Bush, and George Bush. I had respect for all of those presidents,” Hoyer said. “They cared about our country, they honored our Constitution, and they executed the duties of their office, consistent with the Constitution and laws of our country. That is not true of this president. And therefore, he ought to be removed. And we have the opportunity to do so. Is there little time left? Yes. But it is never too late to do the right thing.”
Rep. Nancy Mace, a Republican from South Carolina, said impeachment would further divide the country. She opposed the article.
“I believe we need to hold the president accountable. I hold him accountable for the events that transpired for the attack on our Capitol last Wednesday,” Mace said. “... If we're serious about healing the divisions in this country, Republicans and Democrats need to acknowledge this is not the first day of violence we've seen. We've seen violence across our country for the last nine months. And we need to recognize number one, that our words have consequences – that there is violence on both sides of the aisle. We've contributed to it.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican, voted for impeachment.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said in a statement. “Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.