The U.S. House rushed ahead Tuesday toward impeaching President Donald Trump for the deadly Capitol attack, taking time only to try to persuade his vice president to push him out first. Trump showed no remorse, blaming impeachment itself for the “tremendous anger” in America.
Already scheduled to leave office next week, Trump is on the verge of becoming the only president in history to be twice impeached. His incendiary rhetoric at a rally ahead of the Capitol uprising is now in the impeachment charge against him — to be taken up Wednesday — even as the falsehoods he spread about election fraud are still being championed by some Republicans.
The House on Tuesday night approved a resolution urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump with a Cabinet vote, although Pence had already said he would not do so. The resolution, passed 223-205 almost entirely along party lines, urged him to “declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”
Hours before the vote Pence had said no. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he said it would not be in the best interest of the nation and it was “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden.”
Meanwhile, five Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, announced they would vote to impeach Trump on Wednesday, cleaving the Republican leadership, and the party itself.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” said Cheney 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.”
As lawmakers reconvened at the Capitol for the first time since the bloody siege, they were bracing for more violence ahead of Democrat Biden’s inauguration, Jan. 20.
“All of us have to do some soul searching,” said Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, an author of both pieces of legislation, imploring other Republicans to join.
Trump, meanwhile, warned the lawmakers off impeachment and suggested it was the drive to oust him that was dividing the country.
“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” Trump said.
In his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence, the outgoing president offered no condolences for those dead or injured, only saying, “I want no violence.”
With Pence’s agreement to invoke the 25th Amendment ruled out, the House will move swiftly to impeachment on Wednesday.
Trump faces a single charge — “incitement of insurrection” — in the impeachment resolution after the most serious and deadly domestic incursion at the Capitol in the nation’s history.
Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, argued that Trump must go because, as she said in Spanish, he’s “loco” – crazy.
Republican Reps. 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, too, would vote to impeach. Kinzinger was the lone Republican voting in favor of the resolution calling on Pence to act.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said the “cancel culture” was just trying to cancel the president. He said the Democrats had been trying to reverse the 2016 election ever since Trump took office and were finishing his term the same way.
Though a handful of House Republicans will join the impeachment vote — and leaders are allowing them to vote as they wish — it’s far from clear there would then be the two-thirds vote needed to convict from the narrowly divided Senate. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania did join Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling for Trump to “go away as soon as possible.”
Unprecedented events, with just over a week remaining in Trump’s term, are unfolding in a nation bracing for more unrest. The FBI has warned ominously of potential armed protests by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden’s inauguration, and Capitol Police urged lawmakers to be on alert. The inauguration ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol will be off limits to the public.
With new security, lawmakers were required to pass through metal detectors Tuesday night to enter the House chamber, not far from where Capitol police, guns drawn, had barricaded the door against the rioters. Some Republican lawmakers complained about it.
A Capitol police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot a woman during the violence. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.
Biden has said it’s important to ensure that the “folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage — that they be held accountable.”
Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down Biden’s first days in office, the president-elect is encouraging senators to divide their time between taking taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID relief while also conducting the trial.
As Congress resumed, an uneasiness swept the halls. More lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19 after sheltering during the siege. Many lawmakers were voting by proxy rather than come to Washington, a process that was put in place last year to limit the health risks of travel.
One of Trump’s closest allies in Congress, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was among those echoing the president, saying “impeachment at this time would have the opposite effect of bringing our country together.”
The impeachment bill from Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California, Raskin of Maryland and Jerrold Nadler of New York draws from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden.
Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.
Like the resolution to invoke the 25th Amendment, the impeachment legislation also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes, as well as his White House rally ahead of the Capitol siege, in which he encouraged thousands of supporters last Wednesday to “fight like hell” and march to the building.
The mob overpowered police, broke through security lines and windows and rampaged through the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to scatter as they were finalizing Biden’s victory over Trump in the Electoral College.
While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.
Trump was impeached by the House in 2019 over dealings with Ukraine and acquitted in 2020 by the Senate.