With seven days left in President Donald Trump’s term, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted for a second time to impeach him—this time gaining some Republican support.
The vote was 232-197, with 10 House Republicans joining all House Democrats.
The House impeached Trump on a charge of “incitement to insurrection” based on his speech to a large crowd in Washington that assembled to protest Congress’ certifying the Electoral College vote for President-elect Joe Biden.
Shortly after the president’s speech, a riot broke out about a mile away at the Capitol and hundreds broke into the building, resulting in the deaths of four protesters and one Capitol Police officer.
The House voted on Dec. 18, 2019, to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in connection with a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Senate acquitted Trump on Feb. 5, 2020.
Trump becomes the first U.S. president to be impeached twice as well as the third president to be impeached. The others were Democrat Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Democrat Bill Clinton in 1998.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he hasn’t decided whether he would vote to convict Trump after a trial. In a note to fellow Senate Republicans, McConnell wrote: “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 announced Wednesday that the previous presidential impeachment trials lasted 83 days (Johnson), 37 days (Clinton), and 21 days (Trump), respectively, and said “there is simply no chance that a fair, serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week.”
The Senate will not be in session until Jan. 19, when it will be split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, and would not be able to begin an impeachment trial until Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.
So, even if there were a two-thirds Senate majority to remove Trump from office, his term would expire at noon that day. The Senate still could hold a trial, however, to determine whether to disqualify Trump from holding federal office in the future.
Here are nine highlights from the House’s day of debate.
1. Republican Support for Impeachment
Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., who was among the 10 GOP lawmakers to vote for impeachment, said that both political parties are responsible for not condemning violence.
The other House Republicans who ended up voting to impeach the president are Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, John Katko of New York, Fred Upton of Michigan, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, Peter Meijer of Michigan, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Tom Rice of South Carolina, and David Valadao of California.
Newhouse cited the violent riots that occurred in his own state last summer following the death of a black man in Minneapolis police custody May 25.
“We are all responsible. My colleagues are responsible for not condemning rioters this past year, like those who barricaded the doors of the Seattle Police Department and attempted to murder the officers inside,” Newhouse said, adding:
Others, including myself, are responsible for not speaking out sooner, before the president misinformed and inflamed a violent mob who tore down the American flag and brutally beat Capitol Police officers. …
We must all do better. These articles of impeachment are flawed. But I will not use process as an excuse. There is no excuse for President Trump’s actions.
The president took an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Last week, there was a domestic threat at the door of the Capitol and he did nothing to stop it. That is why, with a heavy heart and clear resolve, I will vote yes on these articles of impeachment.
2. Jim Jordan: ‘Obsession That is Broadening’
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, noted that “on Jan. 20, 2017, 19 minutes into President Trump’s administration, at 12:19 p.m., The Washington Post’s headline was ‘Campaign to impeach President Trump has begun.’ Now, with just one week left, they are still trying.”
“Now it’s impeachment round 2. It’s always been about getting the president, no matter what,” Jordan said. “It’s an obsession that is broadening. It’s not just about the president anymore. It’s about … canceling the president and anyone who disagrees with them. The ayatollah can tweet, but the president can’t. Democrats can object [to the Electoral College results] on Jan. 6, 2017, but Republicans can’t object on Jan. 6, 2021. Democrats say Antifa is a myth. Republicans condemn all violence all the time.”
Earlier Wednesday morning, during debate over House rules for proceeding with impeachment, Jordan reminded the House that several congressional Democrats in 2017 objected to certifying Alabama’s Electoral College votes for Trump—although Trump won the state comfortably.
However, he said, congressional Democrats criticized Republicans for objecting to certifying the votes from Pennsylvania, which had experienced numerous legal questions before the Nov. 3 election:
Americans are tired of the double standard. They are so tired of it. Democrats objected to more states in 2017 than Republicans did last week. But somehow we are wrong. Democrats can raise bail for rioters and looters this summer. But somehow when Republicans condemn all the violence, the violence this summer, the violence last week, somehow we are wrong. And Democrats can investigate the president of the United States … try to investigate him for four years, but will not look at an election that 80 million Americans, half the electorate … have their doubts about. I do not know where all this goes, and this is frightening for the country.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., sought to defend his vote four years ago against certifying Electoral College votes for Trump as “a protest vote.”
“What the gentleman fails to acknowledge is that we all acknowledged Donald Trump is the president the day after the election,” McGovern said of Jordan, adding: “Coming up on this floor and talking about what-aboutism and trying to make these false equivalencies—give me a break.”
3. Pelosi: ‘All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., invoked a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, and a Democrat president, John F. Kennedy, in demanding Trump’s impeachment, saying, “This is not motivated by partisanship.”
“We bear the responsibility to fulfill that oath that we all swear before God and before one another—the oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God,” Pelosi said, adding:
The president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.
The president must be impeached and I believe the president must be convicted by the Senate, a constitutional remedy that will ensure that the republic will be safe from this man who was so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold dear and that hold us together.
4. What Trump Had to Say
The president released a statement Wednesday as lawmakers debated, addressing reports of protests planned across the country before and including Inauguration Day.
“In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” Trump said in the written statement. “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. Thank You.”
Trump posted a conciliatory video after the vote in which he also condemned violence and vandalism committed in his name, without mentioning his second impeachment.
House members debated Trump’s level of responsibility for the Capitol riot. In his speech during the “Save America Rally” held south of the White House before the riot, the president said at one point: “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
However, Trump also told the crowd: “Fraud breaks up everything, doesn’t it? When you catch somebody in a fraud, you’re allowed to go by very different rules.”
And he said: “We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Jordan later read the president’s statement on the House floor.
A criminal prosecution of Trump based on inciting an insurrection would be highly unlikely, but impeachment does not carry the same standard of proof as the criminal justice system does.
Federal law defines an insurrectionist as “Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto.” Federal riot law includes provisions on those “with intent” to “incite a riot” or to “aid and abet any person in inciting or participating in or carrying out a riot.”
5. Biggs: ‘Your Appetite Will Be Unfulfilled’
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said the impeachment vote a week before Trump leaves office is just the latest chapter of Democrats’ hunting the president.
“The craving to crush President Trump has never been satisfied. Not through investigations, not through false allegations, and not even through an impeachment that was wholly without merit,” Biggs said of last year’s Senate trial, which acquitted Trump. “And the timing of this impeachment makes little sense.”
Democrats, he said, believe “your hunger will be finally satiated by impeaching this president without completion of the full term of his office.”
“You don’t merely seek victory, but you seek obliteration of your nemesis,” Biggs said, adding:
Instead of stopping the Trump train, his movement will have grown stronger, for you will have made him a martyr. Surely you are aware of this. That is why you seek to silence conservative voices. Your chums that sit on corporate boards of corporate America, yes, the same companies that the left vilifies, promise to starve Republicans from receiving their PAC donations. But I bet that the groundswell of support for President Trump and his policies will not go away.
Biggs also talked about various Trump policy accomplishments, including a strong economy, a stronger military, and stronger border security, before warning Democrats:
Your appetite will be temporarily assuaged, while you will no doubt continue to chase after leaders of this movement. But your appetite will be unfulfilled. I urge you, do not—and I’m mixing metaphors here—attempt to douse the remaining burning embers of this movement with gasoline. No one wants that. I urge you, please consider the reckless action in which you engage today.
6. Hoyer: ‘Make America Grieve Again’
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., compared the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to the beginning of the Civil War, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Hoyer referred to Cheney, the House’s No. 3 Republican as chairwoman of the GOP conference, in his call to oust Trump, saying: “She knows of what she speaks.”
Cheney, daughter of a former vice president, defense secretary, and House leader, said Tuesday that she would vote to impeach Trump.
Hoyer noted the volume of Trump supporters last Wednesday wearing his campaign-themed red caps emblazoned with “Make America Great Again,” a slogan often known by the acronym MAGA.
Hoyer said those supporters attempted to begin “MAGA Civil War” on Jan. 6.
“They had the hats on of the army of MAGA, which I refer to as ‘Make America Grieve Again,’” Hoyer said. “We grieved at Fort Sumter. We grieved on Dec. 7, 1941, and we grieved on 9/11. And yes, we grieved on Jan. 6 of this year.”
Hoyer, Pelosi’s top deputy, insisted on accountability for the president.
“There are consequences to actions, and the actions of the president of the United States demand urgent clear action by the Congress of the United States,” he said.
7. Failure to Meet Criminal Definition
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., a second-term lawmaker who is a former Navy JAG Corps officer, state district judge, and state senator, made a legal argument.
“With just seven days left in President Trump’s term, they are fast-tracking impeachment proceedings, a move which will no doubt further divide an already fractured nation,” Reschenthaler said. “Even House Democrats’ last impeachment effort—which was rushed through in record time—at the very least, that had expert input, depositions, hearings, and deliberations. This latest attempt at impeachment ignores all precedent and ignores all due process. It cannot be voted on in the Senate before Joe Biden is sworn into office.”
The Pennsylvania Republican said the House’s charge of “incitement to insurrection” never would meet the legal standard, particularly since Trump called for the gathering on the Ellipse, in the president’s words, to “peacefully and patriotically make your voice heard.”
“There was no mention of violence, let alone calls to action,” Reschenthaler said, adding:
Just pull up the criminal statute. Look at the criminal code. President Trump’s words would not even meet the definition of incitement under criminal statutes. The measure before us today sets a dangerous precedent whereby political parties can justify impeachment simply because they do not agree with the president.
8. ‘Dispatched His Mob to Assassinate Pence’
Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., made some of the most far-reaching allegations against Trump, outlining an intentional plan to kill public officials.
“He summoned and dispatched his men to kidnap and hurt many of us. He is unfit to hold office,” Espaillat, a third-term lawmaker, said.
“He summoned and dispatched his mob to assassinate Vice President [Mike] Pence, to assassinate Speaker Pelosi. He is unfit to hold office. He summoned and dispatched a mob that waved the racist Confederate flag and assaulted this Capitol.”
9. McCarthy: Trump ‘Bears Responsibility’ for Riot
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who called a second impeachment needlessly divisive, suggested a bipartisan censure of the president would be the better path. Trump held some responsibility for the riot, McCarthy said.
“Impeaching the president in such a short timeframe would be a mistake. No investigations have been completed. No hearings have been held,” McCarthy said. “What’s more, the Senate has confirmed that no trial will be held until after President-elect Biden is sworn in.”
The California Republican said an impeachment vote would fan partisan flames.
“That doesn’t mean the president is free from fault. The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress from mob rioters,” McCarthy said, adding:
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. Quell the brewing unrest and assure President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term.
The president’s immediate action also deserves congressional action, which is why I think a fact-finding commission and a censure resolution would be prudent. Unfortunately, that is not where we are today.