Trump impeached after Capitol riot

President Donald Trump greets the crowd at a rally on Jan. 6, in Washington, D.C. Following the rally, scores marched to the U.S. Capitol, where a crowd breached the building and violence ensued. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House for a historic second time Wednesday, charged with “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly mob siege of the Capitol last week.

With the Capitol secured by armed National Guard troops inside and out, the House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump. The proceedings moved at lightning speed, with lawmakers voting just one week after pro-Trump loyalists stormed the U.S. Capitol, seemingly egged on by the president’s calls for them to “fight like hell” against the election results during a rally earlier in the day.

Ten Republicans joined Democrats who said President Trump needed to be held accountable and warned ominously of a “clear and present danger” if Congress should leave him unchecked before Democrat Joe Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20.

Trump is the only U.S. president to be twice impeached. It was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in modern times, more so than against Bill Clinton in 1998.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi presides over the US House of Representatives vote on the impeachment of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol. (TNS photo/Saul Loeb)

The Capitol insurrection stunned and angered most lawmakers, who were sent scrambling for safety as the mob descended, and it revealed the fragility of the nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power. The riot also forced a reckoning among some Republicans, who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invoked Abraham Lincoln and the Bible, imploring lawmakers to uphold their oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign “and domestic.”

She said of President Trump: “He must go, he is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

At the White House, watching the proceedings on TV, President Trump later released a video statement in which he made no mention at all of the impeachment but appealed to his supporters to refrain from any further violence or disruption of Biden’s inauguration.

“Like all of you, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the calamity at the Capitol last week,” he said, his first condemnation of the attack. He appealed for unity “to move forward” and said, “Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for. … No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement.”

President Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 acquit. He is the first president to be impeached twice. None has been convicted by the Senate, but Republicans said Wednesday that could change in the rapidly shifting political environment as officeholders, donors, big business and others peel away from the defeated president.

President-elect Biden said in a statement after the vote that it was his hope the Senate leadership “will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation.”

Delaware’s lone member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester was one of the 232 who voted to impeach President Trump.

“One week ago, violent rioters, inspired and incited by the President of the United States, stormed the Capitol in an attempted violent insurrection,” Rep. Blunt Rochester said. “While I have long believed that Donald Trump is unfit for office but the attack of January 6th displayed that he represents a clear and present danger to our country. His actions were so egregious and dangerous they demand the most serious response afforded to the Congress under our Constitution, delivered as swiftly as possible.

“Today, I voted to impeach Donald Trump because our nation cannot afford to have him in office another day longer. Before our country can reach reconciliation, we must recognize our truths. Before we can heal and unite, we must require accountability. The rioters tried to shake us, but they did not break us, and today, in the cathedral of our democracy that those rioters stormed, we voted to hold Donald Trump accountable.”

U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D. Del., also supported the vote to impeach the president.

“Even after losing both the popular vote and Electoral College to Joe Biden in November, Donald Trump has refused to concede that a free and fair election took place and that he lost by a clear margin.”

“After he exhausted all of his legal options to contest the election, he still refused to concede,” Sen. Carper said. “Words matter. Donald Trump’s misinformation about the election was the tinder, and Donald Trump’s words last Wednesday — calling on white supremacists and other extremists to march down to the Capitol and ‘fight like hell’ — lit the match. Donald Trump incited an insurrection with the explicit purpose of overturning the results of a free and fair election and committing acts of violence against members of Congress and his own Vice President.

“Five Americans, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer, were killed during an attack on our Capitol and our democracy that was the direct result of the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump. And, in the week that has followed, we continue to learn new and disturbing details of this attack. If this isn’t an impeachable offense, then nothing is. The House of Representatives, including 10 Republicans, sent a clear and bipartisan message by impeaching Donald Trump for the second time for his role in this heinous act of violence and betrayal of his oath. As Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), the third highest-ranking Republican in the House, said so very well, ‘None of this would have happened without the President,’ and he must be held accountable.”

The soonest Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell would start an impeachment trial is next Tuesday, the day before Trump is already set to leave the White House, McConnell’s office said. The legislation is also intended to prevent Trump from ever running again.

McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and considers the Democrats’ impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic president’s hold on the GOP, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

McConnell told major donors over the weekend that he was through with Trump, said the strategist, who demanded anonymity to describe McConnell’s conversations.

In a note to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote.”

In making a case for the “high crimes and misdemeanors” demanded in the Constitution, the four-page impeachment resolution approved Wednesday relies on Trump’s rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a rally near the White House on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.

A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the Jan. 6 riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. The riot delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory.

Ten Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, voted to impeach Trump, cleaving the Republican leadership, and the party itself.

Cheney, whose father is the former Republican vice president, said of Trump’s actions summoning the mob that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a President” of his office.

From the White House, Trump leaned on U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to push Republican senators to resist, while chief of staff Mark Meadows called some of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill.

The president’s sturdy popularity with the GOP lawmakers’ constituents still had some sway, and most House Republicans voted not to impeach.

Security was exceptionally tight at the Capitol, with tall fences around the complex. Metal-detector screenings were required for lawmakers entering the House chamber, where a week earlier lawmakers huddled inside as police, guns drawn, barricaded the door from rioters.

“We are debating this historic measure at a crime scene,” said U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

Conviction and removal of Trump would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which will be evenly divided.

Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling for Trump to “go away as soon as possible.”

Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down his first days in office, President-elect Biden is encouraging senators to divide their time between taking taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID-19 relief while also conducting the trial.

The House had first tried to persuade Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke their authority under the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Pence declined to do so, but the House passed the resolution anyway.

The impeachment bill also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes.

While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.