Members of the lower chamber of Congress voted 232 to 197 in favour of impeaching the Republican president on Wednesday over one charge: “incitement of insurrection.”
Ten Republicans broke party ranks to vote for impeachment.
In the impeachment article introduced on Monday, Democratic lawmakers argued that Trump “threatened the integrity of the Democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government.”
“He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States,” the article read.
The lawmakers said Trump “demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.”
The vote to impeach comes one week after thousands of the president’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., in an effort to interfere with the confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory.
The rioters sent hundreds of lawmakers, their staffers and members of the media fleeing. The building was locked down for hours as law enforcement worked to secure it.
Five people, including one Capitol police officer, died as a result of the violence.
“Today in a bipartisan way, the House demonstrated that no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “That Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our country and that once again we honoured our oaths of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United states, so help us God.”
In a statement, GOP Rep. Tom Rice — who voted to impeach — said he doesn’t know if Trump’s speech last week “amounted to incitement of a riot,” but said “any reasonable person could see the potential for violence.”
“I have backed this President through thick and thin for four years,” he said in a statement released after the vote. “I campaigned for him and vetoed for him twice. But, this utter failure is inexcusable.”
In the days since the protest, dozens have been arrested and are now facing charges.
In December 2019, Trump became the third U.S. president to have been impeached – joining Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.
He is now the first in the history of the republic to be impeached twice.
The House first impeached Trump over two charges – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after he attempted to pressure Ukrainian officials to announce an investigation Biden’s son Hunter.
He was ultimately acquitted by the Republican-held Senate in February 2020, and remained in office.
In the days after the violent protest at the Capitol, lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum have called for the president to resign.
Republican senators Pat Toomey and Lisa Murkowski are among the elected officials who have broken party ranks and called for Trump to vacate the office.
On Tuesday, House members returned to the floor to vote on a resolution calling upon Vice-President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and use his constitutional authority to remove Trump from office.
The resolution passed with a 223 to 205 vote.
However, in a letter to Pelosi, Pence said he would not remove Trump from office, saying doing so is “not in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our Constitution.”
“Last week I did not yield to pressure to exert power beyond my Constitutional authority to determine the outcome of the election, and I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our nation,” he wrote in the letter.
Pence urged all members of Congress to “avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment.”
“Work with us to lower the temperature and unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden as the next president of the United States,” Pence said, pledging to do his part to “ensure an orderly transition of power.”
Biden calls for accountability
In a statement Wednesday evening, Biden called the riot at the Capitol an “armed insurrection against the United States of America.”
“And those responsible must be held accountable,” he said.
The president-elect said those who voted to impeach trump “followed the Constitution and their conscience.”
Biden said the country “remains in the grip of a deadly virus” and a “reeling economy.”
“I hope that 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,” he said.
Trump condemns violence
In a video released by the White House’s official Twitter account shortly after he was impeached, Trump said he was “shocked and deeply saddened by the calamity at the capitol last week.”
“I want to be very clear: I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week,” he said. “Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement.
Speaking of reports of additional protests leading up to inauguration day, Trump said everyone deserves to have their voice heard “in a respectful and peaceful way.”
“That is your first amendment right,” he said. “But I cannot emphasize that there must be no violence no lawbreaking, and no vandalism of any kind,” he said.
“Everyone must follow our laws and obey the instructions of law enforcement.”
According to Trump, federal agencies have been directed to “use all necessary resources to maintain order.”
He said “thousands” of members of the National Guard will be brought in to Washington, D.C. to ensure there is a smooth transition of power.
Trump did not discuss his impeachment in the video.
What happens next?
Like last time, now that the House has voted to impeach the president, the process moves on to the Senate.
The upper chamber of Congress will now hold a trial to discuss the charge.
Pelosi said Tuesday Rep. Jamie Raskin will serve as lead impeachment manager and will argue for removing the president from office during the Senate trial.
Democrats Diana DeGette, David Cicilline, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Ted Lieu, Stacey Plaskett, Joe Neguse and Madeleine Dean have also been named as impeachment managers.
Speaking on the House floor Tuesday evening, Pelosi said removal of the president is an “unprecedented action.”
“But it is required because it is an unprecedented moment in history because the danger that he poses,” she said.
The upper chamber will be tasked, again, with deciding whether to remove Trump, an action never before taken by Congress.
However, with only one week left in his tenure, experts say this is unlikely to happen.
In a statement released shortly after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate process “will now begin at our first regular meeting following receipt of the article from the House.”
The Senate is not scheduled to be in session until Jan. 19, which could be McConnell’s last day as Senate leader.
McConnell said “given the rules, procedures, and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachments trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week,” he said.
“Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office.”
He said “in light of this reality” he believes Congress should spend the next seven days “completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power to the incoming Biden Administration.”
Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris are scheduled to be sworn into office on Jan. 20.
“A lot of it is symbolic,” Matthew Lebo, chair of political science at Western University said of the move to impeach the president.
“But just because the guy is not going to be president doesn’t mean you can ignore the possibility that he’s committed high crimes and misdemeanors (and) potentially treason,” he told Global News in a previous interview.
Lebo explained that the Senate trial can continue past the 20th, and could result in Trump losing privileges granted to former presidents including his pension or secret service protection.
The GOP could also bar Trump from running for office again in 2024, he said.
-With a file from The Associated Press
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