Even before last week’s riot in the U.S. Capitol, Donald Trump was assured of a place in the history books as the central figure in the political chasm that divides Americans.
But now Democrats in the House of Representatives are poised to cast him in an even more prominent, formal role: the first president in history to be impeached twice.
And unlike the first time, last year, even some House Republicans appear outraged by Trump’s actions one week ago, when he egged on thousands of his supporters, all but ordering them to storm the building that symbolizes American democracy.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened debate of the article of impeachment at about 12:30 p.m. ET, calling Trump “a clear and present danger” to the nation.
“We know that the President of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go,” she said.
Pelosi said the “domestic terrorists” who raided the Capitol “did not appear out of a vacuum. They were sent here, sent here by the president with words such as a cry to ‘fight like hell.’”
The rioters, she said, were “the means to a terrible goal” of Trump “personally clinging to power … thwarting the will of the people. The goal of ending in a fiery and bloody clash, nearly two and a half centuries of our democracy.”
Some Republicans were quick to push back, reports CNN.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a staunch Trump supporter, said Democrats are trying to “cancel” the president.
“It’s always been about getting the president no matter what. It’s an obsession,” Jordan said.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the House minority leader, said the president “bears responsibility” for the attack on the Capitol, but he opposed impeaching Trump with just a week left in his term.
Previous impeachments, including those of Andrew Johnson in the 19th Century, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Trump last year, required months of investigation and debate. Not so this time.
House Democrats see “little need to investigate what happened, since most members of Congress heard Trump speak to his supporters and were in the Capitol when the mob broke in,” says the Associated Press.
Early in the proceedings, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) said the debate is taking place at an “actual crime scene and we wouldn’t be here if it were not for the president of the United States.”
“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government,” reads the 4-page article of impeachment. “He will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.”
“Returning to a heavily fortified Capitol, protected by thousands of National Guard [troops], lawmakers began what was expected to be a daylong debate on an article of impeachment that accuses the president of ‘inciting an insurrection’ that led to the rampage by his supporters,” says the New York Times.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “is furious at Trump for his total lack of remorse for the Capitol siege, and believes that Trump could only be an impediment to Republicans regaining the Senate majority that they lost on the president’s watch,” says Axios.
The Times reports that McConnell is has “embraced” the Democrat-led impeachment effort.
But there seems little chance that impeachment will lead to a Senate trial of the president before Joe Biden takes over the White House.
McConnell aides “told staff for Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) that Republicans would not consent to reconvening Friday for an impeachment trial” says the Washington Post, citing an unnamed official “familiar with private deliberations.”
Some House Republicans — estimates ranged from half a dozen to as many as two dozen — appeared certain to vote for impeachment.
They are led by Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranked Republican in the House, who said on Tuesday that there has “never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States” than Trump’s actions last week.
With Trump due to leave office in just a week, some have wondered why impeaching him again is worth the trouble.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said this last Friday:
“The answer: Precedent. It must be made clear that no president, now or in the future, can lead an insurrection against the U.S. government.”