The House voted Wednesday to impeach President Trump over his role in the deadly Capitol riot, making him the only president to be impeached twice.
The House voted largely along party lines in favor of impeaching the president for “incitement of insurrection.” Democrats voted unanimously in favor of impeachment and were joined by ten Republicans.
The Republicans who crossed the aisle in favor impeachment were: Peter Meijer of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Fred Upton of Michigan, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse both of Washington State, Tony Gonzalez of Ohio, Tom Rice of South Carolina, and Representative John Katko of New York, who was the first Republican to publicly back impeachment.
In 2019 when Trump was impeached the first time, no House Republicans voted in favor of impeachment and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Senate Republican to vote to convict. House GOP leadership said they would not lobby rank-and-file Republican members to vote against impeachment this time.
House Democrats filed an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday over his rhetoric before and during the uprising at the Capitol last week, when Trump supporters forced their way past security and into the halls of Congress. The violence at the Capitol on January 6 ended with five dead. In the aftermath of the riot, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle condemned the speech Trump delivered to supporters in front of the White house earlier in the day, as well as his failure to step in and rebuke his supporters as the violence as was unfolding.
“I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” the president told his supporters at the rally, but he warned, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” The president went on to urge his supporters to show “strength,” cautioning them that “weakness” would allow Democrats to steal the election that he rightfully won. And, in a tweet ahead of the rally, Trump urged his supporters to flock to Washington and predicted it would be “wild.”
Later, as the riot was ongoing, Trump wrote in a now-removed tweet that, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away.”
Hours into the riot, Trump released a video message in which he repeated his claims about the election being stolen from him but told the rioters to end the violence and go home.
“You have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order,” Trump urged in his video message, adding that his supporters “can’t play into the hands of these people.”
Twitter subsequently took down Trump’s tweet as well as his video message, citing a “risk of violence.” In the days that followed, his account was banned from Twitter and other major social media platforms altogether.
On Tuesday, Trump denied responsibility for inciting the violence.
“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,” the president told reporters.
In the wake of the riot, several Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that Trump is a “clear and present danger” to the country and demanded that he be removed immediately.
Cheney, who chairs the House Republican Conference, came out Tuesday in favor of Democratic impeachment efforts, making her the first member of House GOP leadership to announce support for impeachment.
Facing calls for her to resign from Trump allies including Ohio congressman Jim Jordan, Cheney said, “I’m not going anywhere.”
“This is a vote of conscience. It’s one where there are different views in our conference. But our nation is facing an unprecedented, since the civil war, constitutional crisis. That’s what we need to be focused on,” Cheney said.
Republicans who voiced their opposition to impeachment on Wednesday argued that it would only divide the country further.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy acknowledged Wednesday that Trump “bears responsibility” for last week’s attack on Congress but that he supports a formal censure of the president rather than impeachment.
“A vote to impeach will further fan the flames of the partisan division,” McCarthy said on the House floor.
Minority Whip Steve Scalise said he opposes such a “rushed” impeachment, noting that it was brought to the floor “without a single hearing.”
“Emotions are still high, but in this moment we need to be focused on toning down the rhetoric and helping heal this nation as we move toward a peaceful transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden,” Scalise said.
In the upper chamber, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is reportedly pleased about Democratic efforts to impeach Trump, saying he believes Trump has committed impeachable offenses and that the move will make it easier for Republicans to purge him from the party. A spokesman for McConnell confirmed Wednesday that the Senate trial would not begin until after Trump leaves office.
“While the press has been full of speculation, 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 wrote in a note to Republicans on Wednesday.
Meanwhile the upper echelons of the Trump administration have thinned out since the events of January 6. Several of Trump’s Cabinet-level officials submitted their resignations and cited the violence, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
President-elect Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated on Wednesday next week. The National Guard said Monday that it will increase the number of troops in Washington, D.C. to at least 10,000 by Saturday ahead of the inauguration in case of further violence.