It was another historic day in Donald Trump’s presidency as Democrats and Republicans sparred in the House of Representatives over whether to impeach him for an unprecedented second time. The House voted 232 to 197 in its favour as the Democrats prevailed due to their majority in the lower chamber. In an extraordinary move, 10 Republicans broke rank with their party to approve the article of impeachment.
The second impeachment was triggered after the storming of the Capitol on January 6 by hundreds of the president’s armed supporters which resulted in the death of five people and scores of injuries. They were protesting the certification process of Joe Biden’s victory by the Congress.
Donald Trump is accused of inciting a violent insurrection against the United States government. According to the article of impeachment, Trump “repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the presidential election results were fraudulent and should not be accepted”.
The article also makes reference to the part of Donald Trump’s speech where he asked his supporters to “fight like hell” or they “will not have a country anymore”. It concludes that he is a “threat to security, democracy and the Constitution”.
Donald Trump joins Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton who are the only two other presidents to have been impeached. However, there have been no convictions.
Donald Trump was first impeached just a year ago over allegations of improperly seeking help from Ukraine to boost his chances of re-election. He was accused of seeking damaging information from a foreign country about his political rival Joe Biden. However, he was cleared by a majority of senators at his trial.
At the time, Donald Trump’s acquittal was possible because the Republicans had a majority in the Senate and all of them voted unanimously not to impeach him. However, things could be different this time as support for him within the party seems to be wavering.
Debate that led to impeachment
Emotions and sharp rhetoric ran high as lawmakers from across the aisle spoke choosing their respective sides of history. The Democrats said they wanted accountability from the President who they described as dangerous and unfit for office. A majority of Republicans on the other hand alleged that an attempt to impeach a second time was a vengeful and divisive plot from the other side determined to destroy the president.
The top Democrat in the House Nancy Pelosi opened the debate for the Democrats calling Donald Trump a “clear and present danger”, a phrase some other Democrats also invoked in their speeches.
“We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go,” Nancy Pelosi said.
Nancy Pelosi shows the impeachment article. (Reuters)
Speaking first for the Republicans, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio a fierce supporter of the president who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from him this week – accused the Democrats of trying to “cancel the president”.
Jordan further added, “It needs to stop, because if it continues, it won’t just be Republicans who get cancelled, it won’t just be the president of the United States — the cancel culture will come for us all.”
Republicans who support the president have long argued that the left is consumed by a hatred of Donald Trump even though he has improved the economy, appointed three judges to the Supreme court and reformed the criminal justice system.
Among the 10 Republicans who voted alongside Democrats to impeach Donald Trump was Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican and daughter of former Vice-President Dick Cheney.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a hard-hitting statement.
The other nine rebel Republicans are Representatives John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Fred Upton of Michigan, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, Dan Newhouse of Washington state, Peter Meijer of Michigan, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, David Valadao of California and Tom Rice of South Carolina.
Senior Republican and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that the president “bears responsibility for the attack on Congress by mob rioters,” but refused to vote in favour of impeachment.
.@POTUS: In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge 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. Thank You. pic.twitter.com/mOOGZjqTLW
— Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) January 13, 2021
Democrats directly accused Donald Trump of inciting the mob that attacked the Capitol and that a majority of Republicans are afraid of Trump and the political consequences of turning their backs on him.
The gravity of the attack on the Capitol seems to be slowly dawning upon the president as more shocking evidence emerges every day. While the House was debating the article of impeachment, Donald Trump issued a statement urging no violence. “There must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism,” he stated.
He also issued another statement on video after the vote making no mention of the impeachment but further condemning the mob violence at the Capitol which he says “angered and appalled millions of Americans across the political spectrum.”
What will happen next?
The Senate which is the upper chamber of the legislature will have to hold a trial. If convicted, Donald Trump could be barred from running for office ever again. A two-third majority is required in the Senate for the conviction to take place.
The Senate is divided 50-50 between the two parties which means that the Democrats will need at least 17 Republicans to vote in favour of the article of impeachment. According to New York Times, as many as 20 Senate Republicans are open to voting against Donald Trump. If a conviction doesn’t happen then the president is considered impeached but not removed from office.
The Senate trial will likely only be able to take place after Donald Trump leaves the White House. However, there is some suggestion that the trial may be delayed until after the incoming president, Joe Biden, is able to confirm his cabinet members and implement some of his legislative agenda.