WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump is set to be impeached for the second time, with the House preparing for the unprecedented vote a week after encouraging a crowd of loyalists to “fight like hell” against the election results and the US Capitol has become the target of a deadly siege.
While Trump’s first impeachment last year brought no Republican votes in the House, a small but significant number of leaders and other lawmakers are breaking with the party to join Democrats on Wednesday, unwilling to put more American decency and democracy at risk, even with days remaining in the presidential term.
The staggering collapse of Trump’s final days in office, amid alarming warnings of more violence from his supporters, leaves the country in a difficult and unknown situation ahead of Democrat Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
“If inviting a mob to insurgency against your own government isn’t an unforgivable event, then what is it? Said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Editor of the articles of impeachment.
Trump, who would become the only US president to be twice impeached, faces a single charge of “inciting insurgency.”
The four-page impeachment resolution builds on Trump’s own inflammatory rhetoric and the lies he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a White House rally on April’s Day. January 6 attack on the Capitol, to support its arguments in favor of serious crimes and misdemeanors. as required by the Constitution.
Faced with his potential place in history, Trump cautioned lawmakers, suggesting it was the drive to oust him rather than his actions around the bloody riot that divided the country.
“To continue on this path, I think this poses a huge danger to our country, and it causes enormous anger,” Trump said on Tuesday, his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence.
A Capitol policeman died of his injuries during the riot and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people have died in what authorities have described as medical emergencies. Lawmakers had to fight for safety and go into hiding as rioters took control of the Capitol and delayed the final step to finalize Biden’s victory by hours.
The outgoing president offered no condolences for the deceased or injured, saying only: “I don’t want violence”.
At least five Republican lawmakers, including third-largest House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, were not convinced by the president’s logic. Republicans have announced they will vote to impeach Trump, dividing the Republican leadership and the party itself.
“The President of the United States called this crowd, gathered the crowd and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution. ”
Unlike a year ago, Trump faces impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own re-election as well as the Republican majority in the Senate.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is reportedly angry with Trump, and it’s unclear how an impeachment trial would play out. In the House, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, one of Trump’s main allies, rushed to suggest lighter censorship instead, but that option fell apart.
So far the Republican representatives: John Katko of New York, a former federal prosecutor; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Air Force veteran; Fred Upton of Michigan; and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state announced they will also join Cheney in voting for impeachment.
The House first tried to push Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to intervene, passing a resolution Tuesday evening calling on them to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office. The resolution urged Pence to “declare what is obvious to a horrified nation: that the president is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of office.” ”
Hours before the vote, however, Pence made it clear that he wouldn’t. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Pence said it was “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden.”
Debate over the resolution was intense after lawmakers returned from Capitol Hill for the first time since the siege.
Representative Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, argued that Trump has to go because, as she put it in Spanish, he is “loco” – crazy.
In opposition, Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio said the “cancellation culture” was simply trying to overturn the president. He said Democrats had tried to reverse the 2016 election since Trump took office and ended his term the same way.
Although more Republicans could vote to impeach – and leaders allow them to vote however they want – it is far from clear that then there would be the two-thirds of the votes needed in the equally divided Senate to condemn and to impeach Trump. Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling on Trump to “leave as soon as possible.”
Unprecedented events, just over a week away from Trump’s tenure, are unfolding as the FBI worryingly warned of possible armed protests by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden’s inauguration. Capitol Police urged lawmakers to be on alert.
With new security, lawmakers were forced to go through metal detectors to enter the House chamber, not far from where Capitol Police, guns, barricaded the door against rioters. Some Republican lawmakers have complained about the screening.
Biden said it was important to make sure that “the people who have engaged in sedition and threatening life, degrading public property, have done great damage – that they are held accountable.”
Ignoring fears that an impeachment trial would bog down his early days in office, the president-elect encourages senators to split their time between making his priorities of confirming his candidates and approving the COVID-19 remedy while also leading the trial.
The impeachment bill is inspired by Trump’s false statements about his election defeat to Biden. Judges across the country, including some named by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, said there was no no signs of widespread fraud.
Like the resolution to invoke the 25th Amendment, the impeachment bill also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes and his White House rally to “fight back.” like hell ”on the way to the Capitol.
While some have questioned the president’s impeachment so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, Secretary of War William Belknap was indicted by the House on the day he resigned, and the Senate called a trial months later. He was acquitted.
Associated Press editors Alan Fram and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.