By JEREMY HERB, MANU RAJU, LAUREN FOX and PHIL MATTINGLY
A majority of the House has voted to impeach President Donald Trump for his role inciting the riot at the US Capitol last week in a swift and bipartisan condemnation that will make Trump the first president in United States history to be impeached twice.
While the vote is still open and members can change their votes until the chair gavels in the final tally, the House has reached the threshold – 217 votes – to impeach the president. House Democrats and at least nine Republicans – including the House’s No. 3 Republican – were expected to vote to impeach Trump exactly one week after a deadly mob overran Capitol Police, ransacked the US Capitol and put the lives of Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers in danger.
“We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi 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.”
The speed of the vote and the Republican support underscores the fury that lawmakers feel about Trump’s role inciting the rioters who overtook the Capitol with months of false rhetoric about the election being stolen from him. The impeachment resolution the House is voting on charges Trump with a single article, “incitement of insurrection.”
The number of Republicans who will ultimately vote for impeachment remains unclear, with GOP sources predicting around a dozen defections. While House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise are opposed to impeachment – arguing that it’s a divisive response – they aren’t lobbying their conference against it, and the No. 3 House Republican, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, announced Tuesday she would vote in favor, issuing a scathing statement that charged there had “never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
McCarthy said Wednesday that Trump “bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” urging the president to accept his share of responsibility and “quell the brewing unrest.” McCarthy, however, argued the House should create a bipartisan commission instead of impeachment.
“I believe impeaching the president in such a short timeframe would be a mistake,” McCarthy said. “No investigations have been completed. No hearings have been held.”
The division within the Republican Party starkly contrasts the House Democrats’ 2019 impeachment of Trump, when House Republicans were united in opposition. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he believes impeaching Trump will make it easier to get rid of the president and Trumpism from the Republican Party, The New York Times, CNN and other news outlets reported Tuesday, in another sign that Republicans are rapidly putting distance between the party and the president who ruled it the last four years.
In a note to his GOP colleagues Wednesday afternoon, McConnell wrote, “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.”
Still, McConnell is not planning to bring the Senate back for a trial before Jan. 19, meaning the trial won’t begin until Trump is out of office and President-elect Joe Biden has been sworn in, according to Republican sources, in a Senate led by incoming-Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Democrats have quickly coalesced around using impeachment in the final days of Trump’s presidency to serve as a proper response to the president’s conduct and as a way to push for his removal from office before the end of his term, although that scenario looks unlikely. The House approved a resolution urging Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power late Tuesday evening, but Pence sent a letter ahead of the vote saying he would not do so.
Pelosi has brushed aside Republican efforts to take a different action, such as censure, in response to Trump’s role in the riot. She named impeachment managers on Tuesday evening, a team of nine Democrats who will be led by Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, ahead of a likely trial in the days after Biden is sworn in. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said late Tuesday the House would send the articles to the Senate immediately.
Democrats have only grown more resolute in their push to impeach Trump over the riot as more information has come out about the attack on the Capitol, including violent images of Capitol police officers being attacked. Wednesday’s vote is happening as thousands of National Guard troops are guarding every nook of the Capitol complex ahead of next week’s inauguration, and they slept on the floors of the Capitol building the night before the impeachment vote.
Trump has showed no contrition for his role in last week’s Capitol riot, railing against impeachment on Tuesday in his first public remarks since the incident. A source close to the president said he’s not considering resigning.
“It’s been analyzed,” Trump said of his remarks last week to the crowd before the riots. “People thought what I said was totally appropriate.”
Trump, unable to post his thoughts on Twitter after his account was permanently suspended in the fallout from the riots, released a statement just before Wednesday’s vote saying, “In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind. 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.”
Wednesday’s impeachment vote threatens to complicate the opening days of the Biden administration, both in his efforts to reach out to Republicans and because the Senate is likely to be tied up with a trial just as Biden is taking office.
Both Biden and Schumer have argued that the Senate will try to divide its days while conducting the trial, so the Senate can confirm Biden’s nominees and consider Covid-19 stimulus legislation while also carrying out the impeachment trial.