US in uncharted waters in unprecedented second impeachment of Trump

McConnell says Senate trial won’t start before inauguration.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gestures after the Congress certified the Electoral College votes of the 2020 presidential election, in US Capitol in Washington, US January 7, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gestures after the Congress certified the Electoral College votes of the 2020 presidential election, in US Capitol in Washington, US January 7, 2021.
America will be in uncharted territory when the US Senate meets for the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, the first US president to be impeached a second time and face trial by lawmakers.
The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on Wednesday on charges of incitement after his supporters rampaged in the Capitol, following the president’s speech urging the crowd to fight President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. Trump, who falsely claims he lost due to widespread voting fraud, was charged with “incitement of insurrection” a week after the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
Some 232 members of the House, including all Democrats and 10 Republican members, voted in favor of the impeachment, with 197 Republican members voting against it.
“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 before the vote. “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
No US president ever has been removed from office through impeachment. Three – Trump in 2019, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 – previously were impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.
Under the 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. If Trump is already out of the White House, historical precedent suggests the Senate could disqualify him from holding office in the future with only a simple majority vote.
House majority leader Steny Hoyer indicated that he would like to send the impeachment articles to the Senate as soon as possible. “I don’t think we are going to wait,” he told MSNBC. However, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell clarified that a Senate trial would not start before January 20, which means that Senate trial would only take place during Biden’s presidency. In a memo to his fellow Republicans, McConnell said he has not made a final decision on how he will vote on impeachment in the Senate.
Biden has urged Senate leaders to avoid a bitter trial during his first days in the White House so that they can focus on the economy, getting the coronavirus vaccine distribution program on track, and confirming crucial cabinet nominees.
“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,” Biden said in a statement on Wednesday night.
Biden’s inauguration has been scaled back due to security concerns and the COVID-19 pandemic. The West Front of the Capitol building, where the swearing-in occurs, is now fortified by fencing, barriers and thousands of National Guard troops.
The House vote took place following a heated debate. Some Republicans argued that 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.
“The president bears responsibility for last Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” said House minority leader Kevin McCarthy. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action of President Trump.”
He added that he would vote against the impeachment: “I believe impeaching the president in such a short time-frame would be a mistake. No investigation has been completed, and no hearings had been held,” and that a vote to impeach “would further divide this nation.”
House minority whip Steve Scalise said that he opposed a “rushed impeachment without a single hearing.”
Republican Congressman Jim Jordan defended Trump and said that Democrats are trying to “cancel the president.”
“It needs to stop because if it continues it won’t just be Republicans who get canceled, it won’t just be the president of the United States,” he said. “The cancel culture will come for us all.”
Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, one of the members who drafted the articles of impeachment, said: “They may have been hunting for Pence and Pelosi to stage their coup, but every one of us in this room right now could’ve died.”
Trump released a statement addressing reports of further riots planned for next week ahead of Biden’s inauguration. “In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking, and NO vandalism of any kind,” Trump said in a statement. “That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers.”
Security has been beefed up significantly on Capitol Hill, and according to DC police, as many as 20,000 could be in Washington for inauguration week.
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 investigates 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 voted in February to keep Trump in office.