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President Trump just got impeached—again.
On Wednesday, Trump became the first president in American history to be impeached twice by the House of Representatives, capping off his divisive years in the White House with a scarlet mark of shame.
The House slapped Trump with a single article of impeachment for inciting insurrection, after he held a rally and riled up a mob that assaulted the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6 in a chaotic siege that resulted in at least five deaths. Moments before the violence began, Trump urged the crowd to “fight like hell.”
The measure won support from 10 Republicans, in a dramatic show of defiance against the president who has dominated GOP politics for five years.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Republican Rep. Lynn Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House GOP member and daughter of the arch-conservative former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney, said in a statement before the vote.
“He must go,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the chamber. “He is a clear and present danger to the country we all love.”
With his second impeachment, Trump outstripped former presidents Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson, who each earned the dubious distinction just once, and even Richard Nixon, who resigned the presidency in disgrace before Congress could impeach him.
Next up: Senate trial
All eyes will now turn toward the Senate, which is responsible for deciding whether to boot Trump out of office after the House vote, and to the wily Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell is reportedly “pleased” that Democrats moved to impeach Trump because it makes it easier to sweep Trump out of the Republican Party.
But McConnell has also taken the position that the Senate trial technically can’t start until next week, around the time Trump leaves office, on January 20.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged McConnell on Tuesday to invoke emergency powers to call the Senate back sooner. McConnell reportedly rebuffed Schumer on Wednesday afternoon.
Even if the Senate trial occurs after Trump steps down, it could still prove momentous. If Republicans in the Senate get on board and convict him, Congress could then tack on a measure that bars him from political office in the United States of America forever.
On the other hand, a long and vicious Senate trial could also distract lawmakers from passing President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda—like economic relief from the pandemic-induced downturn—and keep the national spotlight focused on Trump even after his turbulent presidency ends.
In December 2019, Democrats in the House voted to impeach Trump for attempting to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation of his then-rival, President-elect Joe Biden, and thus influence the 2020 election. But a month later, the Senate, where impeachment charges need a two-thirds vote to pass, decided to give Trump a pass.
10 GOP rebels
This time, 221 Democrats voted to impeach Trump and none voted against. On the other side of the aisle, 197 Republicans voted to clear him of the charge.
Ten Republicans broke ranks with their party and voted to impeach Trump. But even that small number marked a stark contrast from the straight party-line vote of Trump’s first impeachment.
Back then, House Republicans formed a unified front to protect their president.
The time the GOP split involved Cheney’s vote against Trump, plus nine other Republicans, including Rep. John Katko of New York, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler of Washington, and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan.
Together, they framed Trump’s actions as inexcusable.
“The president of the United States incited a riot aiming to halt the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another,” Herrera Beutler said. “The president’s offenses, in my reading of the Constitution, were impeachable based on the indisputable evidence we already have.”
The vote followed a day of fiery debate on the House floor.
Republicans who opposed impeachment argued the move would only further widen the country’s divisions.
Even so, none seemed prepared to give Trump’s actions on January 6 their full-throated support. Instead, they criticized Democrats for what they described as a rush to judgement without an investigation into the details of what happened at the Capitol last week.
Some Republicans who voted against impeachment still declared themselves disturbed by Trump’s handling of the situation—including House GOP House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who said Trump deserves some blame but still opposed impeachment.
“The president bears responsibility for [last] Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” McCarthy told the House floor on Wednesday. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”
McCarthy called for a vote of censure and for a commission to investigate what happened, instead of impeachment.
“I didn’t like the president’s speech either,” said GOP Rep. Tom McClintock of California. But, he said, Trump’s comments should be protected by freedom of speech, and the violence should be blamed on a few hotheads who got out of control. “Every movement has a lunatic fringe.”
Other Republicans framed their objections around criticizing Democrats for rushing to judgement.
“They want to cancel the president,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of Trump’s most vociferous backers in the House. “It’s about politics. It’s about getting the president of the United States.”
Republican freshman Rep. Nancy Mace rose to say that if she’d brought her children to the Capitol that day, their lives would have been in danger. And she argued Trump should be held accountable for his actions.
“What we’re doing today, rushing this impeachment in an hour or two-hour-long debate on the floor of this chamber,” she said, “poses great questions about the constitutionality of this process.”
Democrats responded that these concerns about moving too fast were nonsense and that the need to impeach Trump immediately was obvious.
“The president incited right-wing terrorists to attack the Congress,” said Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California. “If we don’t act now, the impeachment clause would essentially be meaningless.