WASHINGTON, RAW – The US House of Representatives has begun voting on whether to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting insurrection, a week after a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol in a deadly assault on American democracy.
The Democratic-led effort, which was expected to win passage in the House with some Republican support, would make Trump the first US president to be impeached twice.
But it appeared unlikely that the extraordinarily swift impeachment would lead to Trump’s ouster before the Republican president’s four-year term ends and Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20.
The Senate’s Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, rejected Democratic calls to convene the Senate in emergency session to begin an immediate impeachment trial, according to a spokesman.
The House was voting on a single article of impeachment – a formal charge – accusing Trump of “incitement of insurrection,” focused upon an incendiary speech he delivered to thousands of supporters shortly before the pro-Trump mob rampaged through the Capitol.
The mob disrupted the formal certification of Biden’s victory over Trump in the November 3 election, sent lawmakers into hiding and left five people dead, including a police officer.
During his speech, Trump repeated false claims that the election was fraudulent and exhorted supporters to march on the Capitol.
With a large presence of rifle-carrying National Guard troops inside and outside the Capitol, an emotional debate unfolded in the same House chamber where lawmakers crouched under chairs and donned gas masks on January 6 as rioters clashed with police officers outside the doors.
“The president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said on the House floor. “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
No US president has been removed from office through impeachment. Three – Trump in 2019, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 – were impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.
Some Republicans argued the impeachment drive was a rush to judgment that bypassed the customary deliberative process such as hearings and called on Democrats to abandon the effort for the sake of national unity and healing.
“Impeaching the president in such a short time frame would be a mistake,” said Kevin McCarthy, the House’s top Republican. “That doesn’t mean the president is free from fault. The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.”
A handful of Republicans backed impeachment, including Liz Cheney, the No.3 House Republican.
“I am not choosing a side, I’m choosing truth,” Republican Jamie Herrera Beutler said in announcing her support for impeachment, drawing applause from Democrats. “It’s the only way to defeat fear.”
In a break from standard procedure, Republican House leaders refrained from urging their members to vote against impeachment, calling the vote a matter of individual conscience.
Under the US Constitution, impeachment in the House triggers a trial in the Senate. A two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove Trump, meaning at least 17 Republicans in the 100-member chamber would have to join the Democrats.
McConnell has said no trial could begin until the Senate was scheduled to be back in regular session on January 19, one day before Biden’s inauguration. The trial would proceed in the Senate even after Trump leaves office.
McConnell said in a memo to his fellow Republicans he has not made a final decision on how he will vote on impeachment in the Senate.
No Republican senators have said they would vote to convict. Two have called on Trump to resign.
The FBI has warned of armed protests planned for Washington and all 50 US state capitals before Biden’s inauguration. Trump on Wednesday urged his followers to remain peaceful, saying in a statement: “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.”
The House previously voted to impeach Trump in December 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stemming from his request that Ukraine investigate Biden and his son Hunter ahead of the election, as Democrats accused him of soliciting foreign interference to smear a domestic political rival. The Senate in February 2020 voted to keep Trump in office.