House Votes to Impeach President Trump Following Capitol Riots

Discussions ahead of the impeachment vote focused on the dangers of division and of dangerous rhetoric

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) displays a signed article of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump a second time, after Vice President Mike Pence declined to use the 25th amendment to remove him from office after protestors breached the U.S. Capitol last week.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) displays a signed article of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump a second time, after Vice President Mike Pence declined to use the 25th amendment to remove him from office after protestors breached the U.S. Capitol last week. (photo: Stefani Reynolds / Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives voted 232-197 Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time. 

And unlike the first time in late 2019, there was a bipartisan element this time, with 10 Republican representatives voting in favor of impeachment.

The article of impeachment stated that Trump willfully incited “violence against the Government of the United States” for his Jan. 6 speech, which contained “statements that encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — imminent lawless action at the Capitol.” Following President Trump’s speech protesting the presidential election certification on Jan. 6, a mob of Trump-supporting protestors halted the vote to certify the election by storming the Capitol Building which endangered members of Congress, who were forced to evacuate. The violence resulted in the deaths of five people, including one protestor, Ashli Babbitt, who was shot in the neck, and one Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, who died from a head injury he sustained during the riot.

President Trump defended his speech Tuesday morning, saying, “they’ve analyzed my speech and my words and my final paragraph, my final sentence, and everybody — to the tee — thought it was totally appropriate.” Trump said that “as far as this is concerned, we want no violence — never violence,” and “on the impeachment, it’s really a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics. It’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely ridiculous. This impeachment is causing tremendous anger, and you’re doing it, and it’s really a terrible thing that they’re doing.” 

However, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called attention to the forceful language in the president’s speech prior to the riot, including telling his supporters to “fight like hell” as well as his initial inaction as the violence was unfolding along with his statement on Twitter that “these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away” amid his calls for the violence to stop.

Democratic leaders forcefully condemned President Trump from the floor of the House Wednesday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the president “a clear and present danger to the nation we all love.” She said that “we know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go.” While the impeachment vote was largely along party lines, 10 Republicans broke with their party and joined with the Democrats. 

 

Republicans Voting to Impeach

The Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote for impeachment were Reps. Liz Cheney, Wyo., Jaime Herrera Beutler, Wash., John Katko, N.Y., Adam Kinzinger, Ill., Fred Upton, Mich., Dan Newhouse, Wash., Peter Meijer, Mich., Anthony Gonzalez, Ohio, David Valadao, Calif., and Tom Rice, S.C.

Rep. John Katko, a Catholic, was the first House Republican to announce that he would vote to impeach the president following the rioting last week. In a statement Monday, he said “It cannot be ignored that President Trump encouraged this insurrection — both on social media ahead of January 6th, and in his speech that day. By deliberately promoting baseless theories suggesting the election was somehow stolen, the president created a combustible environment of misinformation, disenfranchisement, and division. When this manifested in violent acts on January 6th, he refused to promptly and forcefully call it off, putting countless lives in danger.”

“To allow the President of the United States to incite this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy,” he added. “For that reason, I cannot sit by without taking action. I will vote to impeach this President.”

Rep. Beutler commented on the House floor Wednesday that “my vote to impeach our sitting president is not a fear-based decision. I am not choosing a side, I’m choosing truth. It’s the only way to defeat fear.” In a statement Tuesday, she wrote “the President of the United States incited a riot aiming to halt the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next,” and that while she understands “the argument that the best course is not to further inflame the country or alienate Republican voters” she is “also a Republican voter” who believes “my own party will be best served when those among us choose truth.”

Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyo., the third-ranking House Republican and the highest-ranking to call for Trump’s impeachment, condemned his actions in a scathing statement Tuesday. “The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence,” she wrote. “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.”

 

The Case Against Impeachment

Rep. Cheney is already facing some backlash within the party over her strong denunciation of President Trump as a petition, pushed by members of the House Freedom Caucus, is circulating to remove her from her leadership role as House Republican Conference Chair. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is behind that push, arguing that Rep. Cheney no longer represents the views of the majority of House Republicans. Freshman Catholic Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., also argued that impeachment “will only further divide our country” and that Cheney “ignored the preferences of Republican voters” proving she’s “unfit to lead.”

During remarks prior to the impeachment vote, many Republicans outlined why they did not believe impeachment was the correct response to the rioting and deaths in the Capitol. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said that “impeaching the president in such a short timeframe would be a mistake,” as “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.” He also believed “a vote to impeach would further divide this nation.”

“That doesn’t mean the president is free from fault,” McCarthy added. ”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.” He said that in this case he believed “a fact-finding commission and a censure resolution would be prudent.” 

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., a Catholic who was shot in 2017 by a left-wing activist targeting Republicans, said on the House floor that he opposed “this rushed impeachment brought forward without a single hearing,” and that impeachment would “divide a nation that is calling out for healing.” In an op-ed Tuesday, Scalise wrote that “violent rhetoric helps radicalize people. Republicans and Democrats alike must have the moral clarity to call this language out whenever it is spoken, not only when it comes from the other side of the political aisle.”

 

Impending Senate Trial

Now that the House has impeached President Trump, an impeachment trial will be held in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has stated that he will not bring the Senate back until the final day of President Trump’s term, Jan. 19, at the earliest. He said that “given the rules, procedures, and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachment trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week.” McConnell has not indicated how he would vote on impeachment, saying in a note to Republican colleagues that he would weigh the legal arguments whenever they are presented to the Senate.

Since the impeachment trial will take place when Trump is no longer in office, if he is found guilty senators would be able to bar him from holding future office. Two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 senators, would need to vote to convict President Trump.

Every Senate Democrat and 17 Republicans would have to vote to convict President Trump for him to be barred from office. During the last impeachment trial, only Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, joined his Democratic colleagues in voting against the president. Currently, several Republican senators, including Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, have signaled that they are open to voting to impeach Trump.

The United States Capitol building at sunset in the District of Columbia.

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