House votes to impeach Trump for the second time

U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol | Unsplash/Joshua Sukoff

The House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump Wednesday afternoon, making him the first president in American history to be impeached twice.

The impeachment of Trump comes just one week before he is set to leave office. The impeachment article presented against the president accused him of committing an “incitement of insurrection” after a group of his supporters stormed the Capitol building and committed acts of vandalism and violence following a speech where he called on the crowd to protest the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

Throughout his speech and in the two months following the election, Trump alleged that the results of the election were tainted by fraud. The impeachment vote comes one day after the House passed a resolution urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and declare the president unfit for office, a move that he declined to make.

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When all the votes were counted, 232 members of the House of Representatives supported the impeachment effort while 197 members voted against it. Unlike the last attempt to remove Trump from office, which was ultimately unsuccessful, the second impeachment effort has attracted some support from members of the president’s own party.

All 222 House Democrats supported the impeachment vote Wednesday, in addition to 10 Republicans. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a frequent Trump critic and the only House Republican to support the 25th Amendment push, was one of the Republicans who supported the president’s impeachment.

“The President of the United States encouraged an angry mob to storm the United States Capitol to stop the counting of electoral votes. This angry mob turned violent and caused destruction to our nation’s symbol of democracy. This insurrection led to countless injuries and the death of several people, including two of our U.S. Capitol Police Officers,” he said in a statement.

After arguing that “there is no doubt in my mind that the President of the United States broke his oath of office and incited this insurrection” and “used his position in the Executive to attack the Legislative,” Kinzinger indicated that he would “vote in favor of impeachment.”

The nine other Republicans who voted to impeach were Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash. and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, a newly elected member of Congress who flipped a district previously held by a Democrat, voted against the impeachment effort. She explained her intention to vote against impeachment in a statement Wednesday.

“I believe the President bears responsibility and that is why I urged him personally to call off those who were violently storming the Capitol last week,” she said. “I wish he had spoken up sooner, but he did not. Words matter; there must be accountability for those who feed into the dangerous rhetoric on either side of the ideological spectrum.”

“Impeachment is the wrong path forward for several reasons,” she added. “Speaker Pelosi is bypassing regular order – including the process of collecting evidence, conducting committee hearings, and having preliminary votes – to rush toward a second impeachment of President Trump. Just a week out from a new Administration, impeachment will only serve to feed the flames and further divide our nation.”

Following the House’s impeachment vote, the articles of impeachment will head over to the Senate, which will then conduct a trial. Trump’s removal from office would require the support of two-thirds of the Senators. Currently, Republicans and Democrats each have 50 seats in the Senate, meaning that 17 Republicans would have to vote in favor of his conviction in order to successfully remove him from office if all Democrats vote in favor of his removal as expected.

With less than a week left until President-elect Joe Biden takes office, it remains almost certain that the president will finish out his term. Explaining that “the Senate process will now begin at our first regular meeting following receipt of the article from the House,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., indicated that such a trial will not conclude before next week as he laid out the path forward for impeachment.

“Given the rules, procedures and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachment trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week,” he said in a statement. “The Senate has held three presidential impeachment trials. They have lasted 83 days, 37 days and 21 days, respectively.”

However, by the time the impeachment trial actually gets under way, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will have become Majority Leader because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will serve as the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, where both parties have 50 seats. Currently, Vice President Pence casts the tie-breaking vote, giving the Republicans the Senate majority for the time being.

“A Senate trial can begin immediately, with an agreement from the current Senate Majority Leader to reconvene the Senate for an emergency session, or it will begin after January 19th. But make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate; there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors; and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again,” Schumer said in a statement.

Whether or not a president can be convicted in an impeachment trial after he leaves office is a subject of debate among legal scholars. Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor emeritus, told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo that “the Constitution specifically says the president shall be removed from office upon impeachment” and therefore the Senate’s “jurisdiction is limited to a sitting president,” meaning that it will not have the ability to conduct an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office.

However, based on McConnell and Schumer’s statements, the Senate appears certain to conduct a trial of Trump despite the fact that he will be out of office soon. According to CNN, the president is looking at hiring his attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Dershowitz to defend him in a Senate impeachment trial.

Dershowitz contended that Trump’s remarks that his critics argue amount to an incitement to violence “comes within core political speech, and to impeach a president for exercising his First Amendment rights would be so dangerous to the Constitution.”

According to CNN, Trump is likely to make a statement addressing the impeachment later Wednesday evening. 

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