Government

Trump becomes first president twice impeached

Most bipartisan presidential impeachment vote ever

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday greets National Guard troops occupying and surrounding the newly fenced-in Capit
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday greets National Guard troops occupying and surrounding the newly fenced-in Capitol complex in Washington. More troops were guarding the complex than currently are stationed in Afghanistan. (Melina Mara/Washington Post)
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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 a week ago stormed the Capitol to block ratification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

It was a defining moment that may eclipse any policy accomplishments of Trump’s presidency — tax cuts, business deregulation and remaking the federal judiciary — and illustrated how far he has fallen in the year since his last impeachment and trial, when all but one congressional Republican — Sen. Mitt Romney — stood by him.

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.

It was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in modern times, more so than against Bill Clinton in 1998. Indeed, one casualty of the Capitol siege seemed to be Trump’s iron grip on the GOP.

In the final vote, 10 Republicans, including No. 3 GOP leader Rep. Liz Cheney, joined Democrats in approving one article of impeachment.

The charge against Trump now go to the Senate, where a trial will not be held until after Trump leaves office Jan. 20. A post-presidency conviction would be too late to cut short his term, but 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 one week left to his presidency.

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“The president of the United States incited this insurrection and this armed rebellion,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaking in a Capitol still reeling from the siege, now safeguarded by more military troops than currently are 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.

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” he said on the floor. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”

In a major break with the president he has loyally served for four years, a furious 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.

If McConnell came down in favor of conviction, it could open a path for other Republicans to seize an opportunity to make a clean break with an increasingly unpopular and erratic president.

Even in the Senate, Republicans are beginning to envision what was unthinkable just days ago: that there might be enough votes, although not likely until Trump is out of office.

Conviction requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which will be evenly divided.

Other Republicans have already signaled openness, including Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Republican to vote for conviction of Trump last year.

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McConnell 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 the inauguration.

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.

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.

Although there was some talk of the House postponing the delivery of the impeachment articles to the Senate to avoid slowing Biden’s start, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters they would be transferred as soon as possible. House Democrats are steadfastly opposed to a delay, arguing that Trump poses a danger.

Sending a message of defiance to last week’s mob, Pelosi appeared late Wednesday at a lectern that had been stolen and later returned.

After the House vote, Trump released a video that attempted to distance himself from the 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.

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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.

Iowa officials did not respond to questions from The Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau whether the state had sent any Guard members to Washington.

Lawmakers and staff were required to walk through magnetometers to gain entrance to the chamber, though some resisted the devices.

Only about 20 people — wearing masks and keeping social distance — were on the House floor when the debate was called to order.

“We are debating this historic measure at an actual crime scene, and we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the president of the United States,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D- Mass.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, one of Trump’s most loyal allies, did not defend the president but portrayed the impeachment effort as part of a Democratic effort to undercut Trump’s presidency from the start.

“It’s always been about getting the president no matter what,” said Jordan, who has said he believed Cheney should be voted out of the leadership for supporting impeachment.

The 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment represented a record level of support for impeachment from a president’s own party. In addition to Cheney, they were Herrera Beutler of Washington, Fred Upton of Michigan, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of New York, Dan Newhouse of Washington, Tom Rice of South Carolina, Peter Meijer of Michigan and David Valadao of California.

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The Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press and Erin Murphy of The Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau contributed.

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