The U.S. House of Representatives voted 232-197 Jan. 13 to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting insurrection, making him the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.
Ten Republicans joined the Democrats in approving the article of impeachment, which said Trump “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence” against the U.S. government in his Jan. 6 speech at a rally preceding the joint congressional meeting to certify an Electoral College victory for Democrat Joe Biden. A mob stormed and occupied the building, interrupting Congress’ work, injuring more than 50 policemen and resulting in five deaths.
The Senate, however, apparently will not convene in time to hold a trial before Trump leaves office. A spokesman for Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday the majority leader would not call the Senate back into emergency session for a trial, according to the Associated Press. The Senate will not reconvene until Jan. 19, the day before Biden is inaugurated.
A Senate trial could be held after Trump leaves office, when Democrats will hold the majority despite a 50-50 divide, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the deciding vote.
In December 2019, the Democratic-controlled House voted to impeach Trump on two articles – one for abuse of power and the other for obstruction of Congress – in a party-line vote. The Senate acquitted the president in both cases in February 2020, with Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah the only Republican to vote to convict. He supported only the article on abuse of power.
Before Trump’s first impeachment, the House had voted to impeach only Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. The Senate failed to convict either president, although Johnson survived by only a vote. The House initiated an impeachment inquiry against Richard Nixon in 1974, but he resigned before the Judiciary Committee sent articles of impeachment to the full chamber.
The House-approved impeachment article said Trump’s conduct Jan. 6 and in preceding weeks “gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
According to the article, Trump should be impeached, removed from office and disqualified “to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”
During the debate, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said on Twitter Trump “has proven he is a clear and present danger to our American democracy” and should be removed from the presidency.
In opposing impeachment during Wednesday’s debate, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called for a censure resolution, saying an impeachment vote “would further divide the nation.” McCarthy also said, “That doesn’t mean the president is free from fault. The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.”
In a 225-203 vote Jan. 12, the House urged Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which provides a means for the president to be removed because of his inability “to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” In a letter to Pelosi the same day, Pence rejected the request, saying he does not believe “such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution.”
The effort to impeach Trump picked up limited momentum among Republicans Tuesday when Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking GOP member in the House, said she would vote for impeachment.
“None of this would have happened without the President,” Cheney said in a written statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
On Jan. 8, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore asked Trump to resign to bring healing to the United States. In a post Jan. 11 on his website, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission wrote, “If I were the President, I would resign. If I were the Vice President, I would assemble the cabinet in accordance with the 25th Amendment. If I were a Member of Congress, I would vote to impeach. And if I were a United States senator, I would vote to convict.”
Some conservatives have supported Trump’s removal from office since the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol. Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, described impeachment and conviction as “an appropriate, and probably a necessary, response.” The editors of National Review described it as an “impeachable offense” but questioned the impeachment vote’s prudence at this time.
In response to reports of more protests to come, Trump issued a statement Jan. 13 calling for “NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind. 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.”
A day earlier, the president said, referring to his Jan. 6 speech, that others whom he did not identify have “analyzed my speech and words and my final paragraph, my final sentence, and everybody, to the T, thought it was totally appropriate.”
Later Tuesday, Trump said, “The impeachment hoax is a continuation of the greatest and most vicious witch hunt in the history of our country,” and contended “it is causing tremendous anger and division and pain.”
Before the Jan. 6 rally, Trump had spent two months claiming the Nov. 3 election had been stolen from him, though scores of lawsuits regarding state results had failed to gain any favorable rulings. On Twitter, he urged people to come to Washington for a protest he said “will be wild.”
Trump told the large crowd Jan. 6, “We will never give up. We will never concede.” He called for rally participants to march to the Capitol peacefully, but he also told them if they “don’t fight” they are “not going to have a country anymore.”
A mob described by U.S. Capitol Police as “thousands of individuals” overwhelmed law enforcement outside the Capitol and used metal pipes, chemicals and other weapons against police officers, according to the Capitol Police. More than 50 police officers were injured, and one died Jan. 7.
Members of Congress took cover after the mob entered the Capitol, and a Capitol Police officer shot and killed a female Trump supporter outside the House chamber. Three other people died on the Capitol grounds from what were described as medical emergencies.
The Senate and House eventually reconvened later Jan. 6 and certified the election results over opposition from some Republicans.
Trump finally appeared to concede after Congress certified the results early Jan. 7. He also announced the transition to the next administration would be orderly. In a tweet Friday morning, the president said he would not attend Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)