By Terrance Turner
Jan. 13, 2021
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) walking to the House Floor for a vote at the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives voted 232-197 to impeach Donald Trump. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have cast votes to impeach President Trump again in a historic first, according to CNN. The final vote was 232-197. “On this vote, the ayes are 232; the nays are 197. The resolution is adopted,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, banging her gavel. The impeachment resolution charges Trump with a single article, “incitement of insurrection,” for his role in last week’s deadly Capitol riot.
In the end, 232 House members voted to impeach the President, including 10 (!) Republicans. They are: Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Rep. Peter Meijer (Mich.), Rep. Dan Newhouse (Wash.), Rep. Tom Rice (S.C.), Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), and Rep. David Valadao (Calif.). “This is the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the history of the United States,” said CNN reporter Phil Mattingly.
The next step is a trial. But the soonest Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell would start an impeachment trial is next Tuesday, the day before Trump is set to leave the White House, McConnell’s office told the Associated Press. Though Trump won’t be convicted before his term is up, impeachment is also intended to prevent Trump from ever running for office again. (If convicted, Trump would lose funding for traveling and office staff, according to lawyer and View co-host Sunny Hostin. Trump would also lose the presidential pension: $200,000 a year, for life.)
McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses, 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. But in a note to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote.”
As soon as the gavel came down, Trump became the only President in history to be impeached twice. The vote took place after hours of vigorous and often heated debate.
At around 11:15 am, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi opened debate with a poignant seven-minute speech. In her remarks, Pelosi noted that “in his annual address to our predecessors in Congress in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of the duty of the Patriot, in an hour of decisive crisis for the American people. ‘Fellow citizens,’ he said, ‘we cannot escape history. We will be remembered in spite of ourselves; no personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We, even we here,’ he said, ‘hold the power and bear the responsibility.’ In the Bible St. Paul wrote, ‘Think on these things.’ We must think on what Lincoln told us,” Pelosi said.
“We, even here — even us, here — hold the power and bear the responsibility. We, you and I, hold and trust the power that derives most directly from the people of the United States, and we bear the responsibility to fulfill that oath that we all swear before God and before one another: that oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God.
We know that we face enemies of the Constitution; we know that we experienced the insurrection that violated the sanctity of the people’s Capitol and attempted to overturn the duly recorded will of the American people. And we know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
Pelosi continued: “Since the presidential election in November — an election the president lost — he has repeatedly lied about the outcome, sowed self-serving doubt about democracy, and unconstitutionally sought to influence state officials to repeal reality. And then came that day of fire we all experienced.
The president must be impeached, and I believe the president must be convicted by the Senate, a constitutional remedy that will ensure that the Republic will be safe from this man who was so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold dear, and that hold us together.
It gives me no pleasure to say this. It breaks my heart. It should break your heart. It should break all of our hearts, for your presence in this hallowed chamber is testament to your love for our country, for America, and to your faith in the work of our founders to create a more perfect union.
Those insurrectionists were not patriots. They were not part of a political base to be catered to and managed. They were domestic terrorists, and justice must prevail. But they did not appear out of a vacuum. They were sent here by the president with words such as a cry to ‘Fight like hell.’ Words matter. Truth matters. Accountability matters. In his public exhortations to them, the president saw the insurrectionists, not as the foes of freedom, as they are, but as the means to a terrible goal, the goal of his personally clinging to power, the goal of thwarting the will of the people,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi asked her colleagues: “I ask you to search your souls and answer these questions. Is the president’s war on democracy in keeping with the Constitution? Were his words and insurrectionary mob a high crime and misdemeanor? Do we not have the duty to our oath to do all we constitutionally can do to protect our nation and our democracy from the appetites and ambitions of a man who has self-evidently demonstrated that he is a vital threat to liberty, to self-government, and to the rule of law?”
Rep. Jim Jordan answered none of those questions. Instead, he talked about a four-year-old article in a local paper. “On Jan. 20, 2017, 19 minutes into President Trump’s administration, at 12:19 p.m., The Washington Post’s headline was ‘Campaign to impeach President Trump has begun.’ Now, with just one week left, they are still trying.” Jordan argued that the impeachment was an example of “cancel culture”, that Democrats were trying to cancel the president.
Jordan offered little commentary about the riot itself. Instead, he threw out false equivalence between the Capitol riots and the Black Lives Matter protests this summer: “Riots are OK for some,” he claimed. “Democrats can raise bail for rioters and looters this summer. But somehow when Republicans condemn all the violence, the violence this summer, the violence last week, somehow we’re wrong.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: 93% of Black Lives Matter protests this summer were peaceful. Yet black protesters were met with chemical dispersants, rubber bullets and hand-to-hand combat from police. More than 14,000 arrests were made, per the Associated Press. But when pro-Trump white people stormed the Capitol — swarming steps, climbing walls, smashing windows, breaking glass, throwing fire extinguishers, acting like BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD — police welcomed them through barricades and in some cases took selfies with them. Barely more than a few dozen arrests. Members of a wild mob were escorted from the premises, some not even in handcuffs. But Rep. Jordan didn’t mention that.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy was more measured. He not only condemned the riots but held Trump accountable for them. “Madam Speaker, let me be clear: last week’s violent attack on the Capitol was undemocratic, un-American and criminal. Violence is never a legitimate form of protest. Freedom of speech and assembly under the constitution is rooted in non-violence. Yet the violent mob that descended upon this body was neither peaceful nor democratic. It acted to disrupt Congress’s constitutional responsibility.” He, too, quoted Lincoln: “A young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln famously said, ‘There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.’ Yet for several hours last week, mob law tried to interfere with constitutional law.”
McCarthy added: “The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” But he added: “I believe impeaching the President in such a short timeframe would be a mistake.” That line was echoed by Republicans throughout the day.
They maintained their opposition even in the face of stirring rhetoric by Democrats. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) made the case in bold-faced terms. “Donald Trump is the most dangerous man to ever occupy the Oval Office,” Rep. Castro said. “I want to take you back one week ago today, when people were barging through these doors, breaking the windows — with weapons. Armed. Pipe bombs. Coming here to harm all of you. To harm the Senate. To harm the Speaker.” He asked his fellow lawmakers: “What do you think they would have done if they had gotten in? What do you think they would have done to you? And who do you think sent them here? Thw most dangerous man to ever occupy the Oval Office.”
“If inciting a deadly insurrection is not enough to get a president impeached, then what is?” Mr. Castro asked. “All of us must answer that question today. The Constitution requires us to impeach and remove Donald John Trump.”
But few Republicans seemed swayed — until that afternoon. “Madam Speaker, this is a sad day. But not as sad or disheartening as the violence we witnessed in the Capitol last Wednesday. We are all responsible,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA). “We must all do better,” he said.
“These articles of impeachment are flawed,” Newhouse continued. “But I will not use process as an excuse. There is no excuse for President Trump’s actions. The President took an oath to protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Last week, there was a domestic threat at the door of the Capitol, and he did nothing to stop it. That is why, with a heavy heart and clear resolve, I will vote yes on these articles of impeachment.”
A stunned House burst into applause.
UPDATE (Jan 25, 2021): The House of Representatives delivered the article of impeachment to the Senate roughly an hour ago, in a procession broadcast as a CBS Special Report. Rep. Jamie Raskin read the article aloud on the Senate floor. “In his conduct while President of the United States and in violation of his consitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States […] and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, Donald John Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by incitng violence against the Government of the United States,” Raskin read.
Article I, “Incitement of Insurrection,” formally charges the president with inciting a violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. With this motion, former president Donald Trump becomes the first president in history to be impeached twice. His trial begins next month.
UPDATE (8:40 pm): In an exclusive interview with MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says that the trial negotiations are still underway. Asked whether it’s been decided that there will be no witnesses in the trail, Schumer said no. “We have only negotiated the preliminary motions in the trial,” Schumer said. That includes the date, which will be Feb. 8.
In a telling aside, Schumer told Maddow: “I don’t think there’s a need for a whole lot of witnesses. We were all witnesses.” He asked rhetorically: “Who were the witnesses? The entire American people.”
UPDATE (Jan. 26):45 Republican senators voted to declare the impeachment trial unconstitutional this afternoon. Backing Sen. Rand Paul, the senators voted against allowing the trial to go forward. Senator Paul,(R-Kentucky) forced the vote after arguing that it was unconstitutional to hold an impeachment trial of a former president. But that assertion widely disputed by scholars and even the Senate itself in the past, as the New York Times points out.
In the end, the trial will proceed. The Senate voted 55 to 45 in favor of its continuation. But that means that it is unlikely enough Republicans will vote to convict Donald Trump. Two-thirds of the Senate must agree to conviction, meaning 17 Republican senators would have to join Democrats in a vote. But only five Republicans voted today to continue the trial: Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Nebraska) and Patrick Toomey (Pennsylvania).
In a typical display of defiance, Sen. Paul also refused to wear a mask on the Senate floor today, even though President Biden signed an order requiring them in federal buildings. Biden made mention of this in remarks today:
UPDATE (8:11 PM, Jan. 31): CNN reported last night that all five of the lawyers on Trump’s impeachment defense team have left. “Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, who were expected to be two of the lead attorneys, are no longer on the team. A source familiar with the changes said it was a mutual decision for both to leave,” CNN said. “As the lead attorney, Bowers assembled the team. Josh Howard, a North Carolina attorney who was recently added to the team, has also left, according to another source familiar with the changes. Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris, from South Carolina, are no longer involved with the case, either.”
The move leaves the former president with no lawyers on his defense — barely a week before the impeachment trial is scheduled to begin. In the absence of any trained lawyers, Trump was at one point considering defending himself. CNN analyst Maggie Haberman wrote:
IUPDATE (Feb. 4, 2021): The former president will not testify at his impeachment trial next week. House Democrat and impeachment manager Jamie Raskin wrote a letter to Trump requesting that he testify:
“Two days ago, you filed an Answer in which you denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment. You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense,” Raskin wrote in the letter.
“In light of your disputing these factual allegations, I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath, either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021. We would propose that you provide your testimony (of course including cross-examination) as early as Monday, February 8, 2021, and not later than Thursday, February 11, 2021. We would be pleased to arrange such testimony at a mutually convenient time and place.”
Hours after the letter was released, Trump adviser Jason Miller told NPR that “the president will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding.” Separately, Trump’s lawyers dismissed the request as a “public relations stunt.” After his legal team quit on Saturday, Trump did manage to secure two lawyers: David Schoen and Bruce Castor.
Please watch this space for further updates.