The House of Representatives on Wednesday, 13th January, impeached outgoing United States President Donald Trump for inciting a violent insurrection against the government of the US, a week after he encouraged a mob of his supporters to storm the US Capitol, a historic condemnation that makes him the only American president to be charged twice with committing high crimes and misdemeanors.
After an emotional day-long debate in the chamber where lawmakers cowered last week as rioters vandalized the Capitol, nearly a dozen House Republicans joined Democrats to embrace the constitution’s gravest remedy after vowing to hold Trump to account before he leaves office next week.
The sole article of impeachment charges the defeated president with “inciting an insurrection” that led to what the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said would be immortalized as a “day of fire” on Capitol Hill.
The president, Pelosi said, represented a “clear and present danger to the nation we all love”.
The final count was 232 to 197, with 10 members of the president’s party supporting his unprecedented second impeachment, making it the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the US history. Among them was Liz Cheney, the No 3 House Republican and daughter of Dick Cheney, George W Bush’s vice-president. Though she did not rise to speak on Wednesday, she issued a blistering statement announcing her decision, in which she said that there had “never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States” than Trump’s conduct on 6 January.
“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” said Cheney in a statement.
Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, attempted to carve a middle path for his caucus. He said Trump “bears responsibility” for Wednesday’s attack, while warning that impeachment would “further fan the flames of partisan division”. As an alternative, he proposed a censure.
The House was prepared to immediately transmit the article of impeachment to the Senate after Wednesday’s vote. In a statement, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said there was “simply no chance” of concluding a trial before Trump leaves office, ensuring that the affair would begin during the inaugural days of Joe Biden’s presidency.
In a statement, Biden said the House had exercised its power to “hold the president accountable”, and that he hoped “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”.
Though consequences for Trump will not include premature removal from office, the Senate trial would not be entirely symbolic. Two-thirds of the 100-member body are required to convict a president, meaning 17 Republicans would have to join Democrats to render a guilty verdict.
If convicted, it would then require only a simple majority to disqualify him from ever again holding public office.