Donald Trump is impeached for second time
Staff Reporter: The house on Wednesday impeached President Donald Trump over his role in last week’s U.S. Capitol riots, charging him with “incitement of insurrection” and taking the unprecedented step of impeaching a president twice during his time in office.
Thirteen months after his first impeachment, Trump swiftly faced the prospects of another proceeding in the wake of the riots to stop congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Rioters breached security, forced the Capitol complex into an hours-long lockdown and caused violent disruptions that led to the deaths of five people, including a police officer at the Capitol. The House ultimately voted to impeach in a 232-197 bipartisan vote.
The stunning – and expedited – rebuke came together exactly one week after the deadly incident and Trump’s earlier speech to supporters encouraging them to “take our country back.” Democrats overwhelmingly banded together to call for Trump’s removal from office, arguing that he remains a “clear and present danger” even with only a week left in office. They condemned the president’s consistent efforts to undermine a free and fair election in November and argued that this pattern shows he remains a national security risk.
But unlike his first impeachment in December 2019, which garnered no GOP support, 10 Republicans broke with the party and voted to impeach the outgoing president, including Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Jamie Herrera Beutler of Washington, John Katko of New York, Fred Upton of Michigan, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Dan Newhouse of Washington, Peter Meijer of Michigan, Tom Rice of South Carolina, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio and David Valadao of California.
“We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion, against our country. He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation we all love,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said as she opened two hours of debate over whether to charge the president again with committing high crimes and misdemeanors.
While Trump’s second impeachment had bipartisan support, the emotions and tensions on display throughout Wednesday’s debate illustrated the fragility of Congress, the fears that persist over safety and the decision now laying before Republicans about how to proceed as a party in a post-Trump world.
Much of the debate largely broke down between calls for accountability versus unity – mixed in with a handful of fiery speeches from GOP members standing by the president.
“Instead of moving forward as a unifying force, the majority is choosing to divide us further,” said House Rules Committee Ranking Member Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who was one of the 147 Republicans to vote last week against the certification of Biden’s win. “There is no reason to rush forward like this other than the obvious fact that there’s seven days left.”
But Democrats cast aside their opponents’ calls to unify by moving on, especially when many believe that some GOP members should also be held responsible for perpetuating disputed claims about the 2020 election or echoing Trump’s rhetoric.
“In the first impeachment, Republicans said we didn’t need to impeach him because he learned his lesson. Well, we said if we didn’t remove him, he’d do it again,” Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana said in a floor speech likely to be his last before he leaves Congress to become White House chief of staff. “Simply put: We told you so.”
Over the past four years, Republicans have been reluctant to break with Trump, fearing blowback from his loyal base and the political influence he wielded in primary elections. Trump rarely faced pushback from his own party but only in the waning days of his presidency has he received his biggest bipartisan rebukes to date: the first override of a Trump veto against a major defense policy bill and, just two weeks later, another impeachment charge. And with one week left in the Trump era, the dam broke open a little further.
Of the GOP defectors, Cheney, the No. 3 Republican, was the most high-profile one and illustrated the real-time shift in the party. In a scathing rebuke, Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, laid the blame squarely and completely on Trump – a statement that was repeatedly invoked by Democrats during debate as they sought to convince more Republicans to follow her lead.
But Cheney’s decision to impeach the president sparked the ire of some GOP colleagues, prompting calls for her resignation or removal as conference chairwoman. While some were willing to break with their party and Trump, the backlash over her defiance underscored that not all in the party are looking for a political realignment after Trump.
While they all condemned the riots and violence at the Capitol, the majority of Republicans still voted against impeachment: Some warned that it was too “divisive” and a rushed process, others blamed “cancel culture,” and some said accountability over Trump’s actions should come through alternative options like a censure resolution or a bipartisan commission to investigate the siege.
“That doesn’t mean the president isn’t free from fault. 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,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who opposed impeachment and voted against the certification of the 2020 results.
To be sure, many of the Republicans who called for unity were the ones who voted to overturn Biden’s Electoral College victory just hours after reconvening the session put on pause by a violent mob that abruptly stormed the Capitol.
And during the two hours of debate managed by one of Trump’s fiercest defenders in Congress – Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio – a number of Republicans still defended the president, his choice of words to rioters prior to the breach and his legacy.
“It is with weariness and a certain unhealthy morbid curiosity that I watched the beast attempt to devour President Donald Trump again. The craving to crush President Trump has never been satisfied,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs of Arizona said.