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 toxic political environment that so deeply divides Americans.
But now Democrats in the House of Representatives have cast him in an even more prominent, formal role: he is the only president in history to be impeached twice.
“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.”
Pelosi briefly addressed the significance of the day before signing articles of impeachment.
The New York Times reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had “embraced” the Democrat-led impeachment effort, even though he has rejected opening a Senate trial of the president before Joe Biden succeeds him next week.
Unlike Trump’s first impeachment last year, some House Republicans were outraged by Trump’s actions last week, when he egged on thousands of his supporters, all but ordering them to storm the building that symbolizes American democracy and “fight like hell” — which they did.
The vote Wednesday afternoon was 232 to 197. Ten Republicans approved impeachment, the largest number of representatives ever to vote against a president of their own party.
The vote followed what was supposed to be two hours of debate, with each party getting one hour. Few representatives spoke for more than a minute, with many taking only 30 seconds. In the end, the debate continued for well over three hours.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened debate by 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….”
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, CNN reported.
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.
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 saw “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.
Sen. 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,” said Axios.
“If you’re McConnell, you want to be remembered for defending the Senate and the institution,” Axios says, citing “a Republican familiar with McConnell’s thinking.”
Vice President Mike Pence refused to invoke the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which would have allowed Trump’s own cabinet to remove him from office.
Republicans who supported impeachment were 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.”