WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House for a historic second time Wednesday, charged with “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly mob siege of the Capitol in a swift and stunning collapse of his final days in office.
With the Capitol secured by armed National Guard troops inside and out, the House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump. The proceedings moved at lightning speed, with lawmakers voting just one week after violent pro-Trump loyalists stormed the U.S. Capitol, egged on by the president’s calls for them to “fight like hell” against the election results.
Trump is the only U.S. president to be twice impeached.
Members of the Kentucky delegation followed party lines with the lone Democrat voting against impeachment and the one Democrat voting for it.
Republican Sixth District U.S. Rep. Andy Barr released the following statement after voting in opposition to the impeachment:
“The President’s rhetoric on January 6th prior to the violence and mayhem at the U.S. Capitol building was regrettable and irresponsible. It was inappropriate for the President to discourage the Vice President from discharging his duties under the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act, neither of which give the Vice President, while acting as President of the Senate, unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not. Moreover, the President failed to appreciate the gravity of the crisis as it unfolded and should have taken more decisive and forceful action to intervene and help diffuse the situation,” Barr said.
“That said, I disagree with my colleagues who claim that the President’s words constituted “incitement to insurrection,” which is what House Democrats specifically allege in their article of impeachment. The U.S. Supreme Court has set the standard for speech that may be prosecuted as criminal incitement without violating the First Amendment. Based on the facts, I do not believe the President’s words, while unfortunate, satisfy the legal definition of incitement.
“But beyond the legal analysis of the President’s words, given the highly toxic and polarized political climate in which we find ourselves, and recognizing that a mere seven days remain in the term of this President during which there is no conceivable prospect for removal by the Senate, I fail to see how impeachment offers the country a constructive path forward toward reconciliation and healing. In fact, I see this vote on impeachment as less about upholding the standards of the presidency and more about carrying out an act of political vengeance, which will further divide an already divided country and pour gasoline on an already scorching fire.
“The President is not blameless. But now is the time for our nation’s leaders to lower the temperature and do their best to unite the country. Last week, President-elect Biden said, “Now it is time to turn the page, to unite, to heal.” I agree with the President-elect and I call on other Democrats in Congress to back up that rhetoric, show real leadership and, for the sake of our country, abandon this politically charged impeachment effort, which will set back any hope for reconciliation and further inflame the passions which have brought our country to this difficult moment,” Barr concluded.
Fifth District U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers released the following statement after voting against an impeachment:
“What we need in America today is hope for a united and peaceful nation, gaining strength at every corner, not another vote to divide our country from within. President Donald Trump is not our enemy and President-elect Joe Biden is not our enemy. Over the last four decades, I have served alongside six U.S. Presidents, including four Republicans and two Democrats – Biden will be the third. Through different administrations, I have always reached across the aisle and worked to find common ground for the good of the American people, and we need to get back to the people’s business. However, today’s impeachment vote is not the way to bring Americans together,” Rogers said.
“House Democrats have been working to remove President Trump since he took the oath of office four years ago, and this second attempt in his final days of office, only deepens the anguish and the growing political divide in our nation. The violent rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6th, leading to the loss of innocent lives and damage across this great institution, will rightly be held responsible for their actions to the fullest extent of the law – and that should be our focus,” Rogers continued.
Republican Congressman James Comer released the following statement:
“Today, I voted against yet another attempt to impeach President Trump. With a new President taking office one week from today, it’s time for America to unify as a nation and tackle our biggest challenges. But today’s furtherance of Nancy Pelosi’s obsession with impeaching the President will only raise tensions higher and divide Americans further. Without a fair and deliberative hearing in Congress, this rushed impeachment is nothing but a political stunt by Nancy Pelosi just seven days before President Trump leaves office. In the interest of national unity, House Democrats must set aside their obsession with partisanship and focus on addressing the needs of the American people,” Comer stated.
Third District Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, voted to impeach and released the following comments:
“Never in American history has a President taken such brazen, lawless, and reckless action against our own nation as Donald Trump undertook last week. And yet, while this dark episode was unprecedented, it was entirely consistent with the behavior he has displayed each day for well over the last four years. It is an understatement to say that history will not look kindly on this President. But history will also harshly judge a Congress that failed to stop him and a Republican Party that allowed him to evade the law and believe himself a dictator,” Yarmuth said.
“For four years, this President has disgraced his office, trampled rights, ruined lives, and fueled the flames of bigotry and hate. Six people died as a result of his insurrection last week, many were injured and far more remain traumatized whether they were here at the Capitol that day or watched from afar. For the second time, I will vote to impeach the President knowing that it is unlikely he will be removed from office before the end of his term. I do so because I, like the President, swore an oath to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic… and to faithfully discharge the duties of the office,’ but unlike the President, I intend to honor it.
“I do so because, last week, Donald Trump committed the most heinous act ever committed by a U.S. President, and I am one of 535 people charged with holding him accountable. I vote to impeach the President because it is the right thing to do. And it’s time for that to mean something again,” Yarmuth concluded.
The Capitol insurrection stunned and angered lawmakers, who were sent scrambling for safety as the mob descended, and it revealed the fragility of the nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power. The riot also forced a reckoning among some Republicans, who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invoked Abraham Lincoln and the Bible, imploring lawmakers to uphold their oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign “and domestic.”
She said of Trump: “He must go, he is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
Holed up at the White House, watching the proceedings on TV, Trump took no responsibility for the bloody riot seen around the world, but issued a statement urging “NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind” to disrupt Biden’s ascension to the White House.
In the face of the accusations against him and with the FBI warning of more violence, Trump said, “That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers.”
Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 acquit. He is the first to be impeached twice. None has been convicted by the Senate, but Republicans said Wednesday that could change in the rapidly shifting political environment as officeholders, donors, big business and others peel away from the defeated president.
The soonest Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell would start an impeachment trial is next Tuesday, the day before Trump is already set to leave the White House, McConnell’s office said. The legislation is also intended to prevent Trump from ever running again.
McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and considers the Democrats’ impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic president’s hold on the GOP, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
McConnell told major donors over the weekend that he was through with Trump, said the strategist, who demanded anonymity to describe McConnell’s conversations.
In a note to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote.”
Unlike his first time, Trump faces this impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own reelection as well as the Senate Republican majority.
Even Trump ally Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, shifted his position and said Wednesday the president bears responsibility for the horrifying day at the Capitol.
In making a case for the “high crimes and misdemeanors” demanded in the Constitution, the four-page impeachment resolution approved Wednesday relies on Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a rally near the White House on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. The riot delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory.
Ten Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, voted to impeach Trump, cleaving the Republican leadership, and the party itself.
Cheney, whose father is the former Republican vice president, said of Trump’s actions summoning the mob that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a President” of his office.
With the team around Trump hollowed out and his Twitter account silenced by the social media company, the president was deeply frustrated that he could not hit back, according to White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
From the White House, Trump leaned on Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to push Republican senators to resist, while chief of staff Mark Meadows called some of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill.
The president’s sturdy popularity with the GOP lawmakers’ constituents still had some sway, and most House Republicans voted not to impeach.
Security was exceptionally tight at the Capitol, with tall fences around the complex. Metal-detector screenings were required for lawmakers entering the House chamber, where a week earlier lawmakers huddled inside as police, guns drawn, barricade the door from rioters.
“We are debating this historic measure at a crime scene,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.
During the debate, some Republicans repeated the falsehoods spread by Trump about the election and argued that the president has been treated unfairly by Democrats from the day he took office.
Other Republicans argued the impeachment was a rushed sham and complained about a double standard applied to his supporters but not to the liberal left. Some simply appealed for the nation to move on.
Rep. Tom McClintock of California said, “Every movement has a lunatic fringe.”
Yet Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo. and others recounted the harrowing day as rioters pounded on the chamber door trying to break in. Some called it a “coup” attempt.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., contended that Trump was “capable of starting a civil war.”
Conviction and removal of Trump would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which will be evenly divided. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling for Trump to “go away as soon as possible.”
Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down his first days in office, Biden is encouraging senators to divide their time between taking taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID-19 relief while also conducting the trial.
The impeachment bill draws from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden. Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.
The House had first tried to persuade Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke their authority under the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Pence declined to do so, but the House passed the resolution anyway.
The impeachment bill also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes.
While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.