WASHINGTON – Donald Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, as a bipartisan House majority Wednesday voted to charge him with inciting insurrection by his supporters, who stormed the Capitol to block ratification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
The 232-197 House vote Wednesday came exactly one week after the Capitol suffered its most violent assault since the British burned it in the War of 1812.
In the final vote, 10 Republicans, including No. 3 GOP leader Rep. Liz Cheney, joined 222 Democrats in approving one article of impeachment.
The charges against Trump now go to the Senate, where a trial will not be held until after Trump leaves office on Jan. 20. A post-presidency conviction would be too late to cut short his term in office, but it could be followed by a vote on a measure to bar Trump from running again for president.
The emotional House debate split lawmakers not so much over whether Trump was to blame for the violence, but over whether he should be impeached with just one week left to his presidency.
“The president of the United States incited this insurrection and this armed rebellion,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaking in a Capitol now safeguarded by more military troops than are currently stationed in Afghanistan. “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation we all love.”
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., voted against impeachment, but for the first time publicly blamed Trump for the insurrection.
“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” he said on the House floor. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”
In a major break with the president, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is considering supporting Trump’s conviction when it comes to a trial in the Senate, according to sources familiar with his thinking.
In a memo to GOP colleagues Wednesday, McConnell did not deny widespread reports about his openness to conviction. “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,” he said.
Other Senate Republicans had already signaled openness, including Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Republican to support conviction last year.
McConnell on Wednesday rejected a request by Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer of New York that they invoke emergency authorities to bring the Senate back into session before that.
In a statement released after the House vote, McConnell noted that the Senate’s past impeachment trials took 21, 37 and 83 days.
“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. This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact.”
Schumer, who will succeed McConnell as majority leader, issued his own statement committing to a Senate vote on Trump’s impeachment, saying a trial could start immediately.
Biden, worried that a full-time impeachment trial would distract from his administration’s ability to get Cabinet nominations confirmed and his legislative agenda started, has discussed with McConnell the idea of “bifurcating” the Senate’s business to accommodate both a trial and his agenda. Alan Frumin, former Senate parliamentarian, said he saw no obstacle in Senate rules to doing so.
After the House vote, Trump released a video statement that attempted to distance himself from the Capitol attack, but made no mention of impeachment.
“Mob violence goes against everything I believe in, and everything our movement stands for. No true supporter of mine could ever support political violence,” he said in the video, which was recorded in the Oval Office. He asked his supporters to be “thinking of ways to ease tensions, calm tempers and help to promote peace in our country.”
The Capitol complex was wrapped in a level of security far higher than last week, surrounded by new fencing and populated with thousands of police, law enforcement officers and troops from several agencies. National Guard troops bivouacked overnight inside the Capitol, sleeping on the cold marble floors.