First came the testimony and closing arguments – Congress members laid out a four-year reign of terror that was Donald Trump’s presidency.
Then came the verdict – Congress voted Wednesday to impeach Trump, and in the process, placed an exclamation stamp at the end of perhaps the most divisive presidency in American history.
It also marked the first time that a president was impeached twice – in Trump’s case, it is the second consecutive January that House members agreed to the strongest rebuke it could provide a sitting president.
Trump was impeached in 2020 for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. This time, Congress nailed him for “incitement of insurrection,” a shameful charge – probably the most dishonorable of any president.
Ten Republican Congress members joined 221 Democrats in the historic vote to impeach Trump.
The Senate must now host a trial and decide whether to remove Trump, who has just one week remaining in his term.
The trial will take place after President-elect Biden takes office and Trump leaves. At that point, Democrats would hold the majority in the Senate, increasing the chance for a conviction.
The law allows for an impeachment trial after a president has left office, and the consequences are severe if Trump is convicted.
“For years, we have been asked to turn a blind eye to the criminality, corruption, and blatant disregard to the rule of law by the tyrant president we have in the White House. We as a nation can no longer look away,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) declared.
Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern, chair of the House Rules Committee, blasted: “President Donald Trump and his allies were stoking the anger of a violent mob.”
“A member of this very body proclaimed on that stage, today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” McGovern, of Massachusetts, stated. “Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani called for trial by combat. Then Donald Trump told the crowd, ‘we’re going to have to fight much harder. You’ll never take back our country with weakness.”
Despite some pushback from die-hard Trump supporters in Congress, the House voted to impeach the 45th president.
Unlike the first time the House impeached, Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the Senate Republican leader, has expressed support for impeachment.
At least seven other Republicans have voiced that they, too, favor impeaching Trump.
If convicted in the Senate, Trump would no longer be eligible to hold public office, lose his $200,000 lifetime pension and forfeit a $1 million per year travel allowance.
Trump would still maintain eligibility for Secret Service protection.
The House impeachment resolution that passed Wednesday cited “incitement and insurrection” for the president’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Before introducing impeachment legislation, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) attempted to pass a resolution to ask Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of the president if deemed unfit for duty, to jettison Trump from office.
The law has only been used a handful of times, most recently when, on Jun. 8, 2002, President George W. Bush’s powers were transferred to Vice President Dick Cheney for about an hour because Bush was under sedation for a medical procedure.
Had the 25th Amendment been invoked, Pence would have assumed the presidency and served the remainder of Trump’s term.
However, Pence declined to invoke the measure.
“[Trump] needs to be removed. He’s dangerous,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated, echoing the sentiments of more than 200 members of Congress.
“The president not only incited an insurrection against our government – but has in word and in deed led a rebellion,” Congresswoman Omar declared on the House floor. “We cannot simply move past this or turn the page for us to be able to survive as a functioning democracy.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) also railed against the pro-Trump insurrectionists as “terrorists radicalized by” the president.
“We were attacked by terrorists, but this time the terrorists were radicalized right here in the United States,” Chu said “Worse, they were radicalized by the president, who intentionally lied to his supporters that the election was stolen, and then told them when to come to D.C., where to protest and who to direct their anger at.
“The need to remove Trump from office could not be more urgent,” she said. “He is too dangerous to remain in office. Donald Trump must be held accountable. He must be impeached.”
In the impeachment legislation, Congress members wrote that the president “demonstrated that he would remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.”
Further, the resolution states, “President Trump warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”
Specifically, the resolution identifies Trump’s Jan. 2 phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urging him to “find” enough votes to overturn the state’s election results.
“We cannot allow this unprecedented provocation to go unanswered,” House members said in a statement. “Everyone involved in this assault must be held accountable, beginning with the man most responsible for it – President Donald Trump. We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies — foreign and domestic.”