Donald Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice after the House of Representatives approved an impeachment charge of inciting an insurrection following the riotous invasion of the Capitol last week.
The resolution, passed just days before President-elect Joe Biden is to be inaugurated on Jan. 20, accused the president of making “statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol,” in the weeks following the election and during a speech outside the White House in the hours before the attack.
Unlike the last vote 13 months ago, when no Republicans voted to impeach the president, 10 backed the effort this time around, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said in a statement Tuesday evening. “Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President.”
Republican Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Fred Upton of Michigan, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington, Peter Meijer of Michigan, John Katko of New York, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Ann Wagner of Missouri also voted to impeach, along with all 222 Democrats in the House.
President Trump issued a statement in the middle of the proceedings calling for there to be no more violence at demonstrations likely to occur in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration.
“In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” 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.”
The impeachment article will now be sent to the Senate, where it will take up the question of whether to remove the president from office and whether to bar him from holding federal office again.
Two-thirds of the Senate would need to vote to remove the president, and it would have to pass a separate resolution to bar him from federal office. After Senators-elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are seated as soon as next week, there will be 50 senators caucusing with the Democrats — meaning 17 Republicans would have to vote to convict.
During the previous impeachment proceedings in the Senate in January 2020, the only Republican to vote to remove Trump from office was Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, but there are indications that there will be more support this time around.
The New York Times reported Tuesday evening that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, has told associates that he thinks the president committed impeachable acts and that he is pleased Democrats are moving to impeach him.
In a note to his Republican colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said that “While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” according to a spokesman.
Other Senate Republicans that may vote to remove the president from office include Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
If Mitch McConnell ends up supporting conviction, “that would provide cover for several other Republican Senators to follow suit,” according to Benjamin Salisbury, director of research and senior policy analyst at Height Securities.
“However, there is an open debate among those members eager to move beyond the Trump-era whether impeachment and debarment would close the chapter or make the President a martyr, exacerbating differences,” he wrote in a Wednesday note to clients.
A trial is unlikely to begin until the Senate is back in session on Jan. 19 though, just one day before Trump leaves office, because McConnell will not consent using a rule that allows the Senate to reconvene with the approval of just the majority and minority leaders of each party, rather than unanimous consent of all 100 senators.
That means that a Senate vote to remove the president from office would likely occur after Trump has already left office. A vote to remove the president, however, is required before the Senate could move to disqualify him from holding federal office again.