The House of Representatives on Wednesday impeached Donald Trump for inciting a violent insurrection against the government of the United States a week after he encouraged a mob of his supporters to storm the US Capitol, a historic condemnation that makes him the only American president to be charged twice with committing high crimes and misdemeanors.
After an emotional day-long debate in the chamber where lawmakers cowered last week as rioters vandalized the Capitol, nearly a dozen House Republicans joined Democrats to embrace the constitution’s gravest remedy after vowing to hold Trump to account before he leaves office next week.
The sole article of impeachment charges the defeated president with “inciting an insurrection” that led to what the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said would be immortalized as a “day of fire” on Capitol Hill.
The president, Pelosi said, represented a “clear and present danger to the nation we all love”.
The final count was 232 to 197, with 10 members of the president’s party supporting his unprecedented second impeachment, making it the most bipartisan impeachment vote in US history. Among them was Liz Cheney, the No 3 House Republican and daughter of Dick Cheney, George W Bush’s vice-president. Though she did not rise to speak on Wednesday, she issued a blistering statement announcing her decision, in which she said that there had “never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States” than Trump’s conduct on 6 January.
"The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” said Cheney in a statement.
Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, attempted to carve a middle path for his caucus. He said Trump “bears responsibility” for Wednesday’s attack, while warning that impeachment would “further fan the flames of partisan division”. As an alternative, he proposed a censure.
caucus[ˈkɔːkəs]: n. 核心组织；干部会议；核心会议；党团会议
The House was prepared to immediately transmit the article of impeachment to the Senate after Wednesday’s vote. In a statement, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said there was “simply no chance” of concluding a trial before Trump leaves office, ensuring that the affair would begin during the inaugural days of Joe Biden’s presidency.
Though consequences for Trump will not include premature removal from office, the Senate trial would not be entirely symbolic. Two-thirds of the 100-member body are required to convict a president, meaning 17 Republicans would have to join Democrats to render a guilty verdict.
If convicted, it would then require only a simple majority to disqualify him from ever again holding public office.
The deadly assault a week ago came as the House and Senate were in session to certify Biden’s victory in November’s presidential election, a result Trump refused to accept. Five people died during the siege, including a police officer.
A remorseless Trump on Tuesday called his inflammatory language at a rally immediately before the mob marched on the Capitol “totally appropriate”. Efforts to hold him accountable were nothing more than a “continuation of the greatest witch-hunt in the history of politics”, he said.
After his impeachment, Trump released a video statement belatedly condemning the violence and appealing to his supporters for calm ahead of Biden’s inauguration next week – remarks lawmakers implored him to make during the hours-long siege of the Capitol.
Trump’s day of reckoning on Capitol Hill comes less than a year after he was acquitted in a Senate impeachment trial for pressuring Ukraine to open investigations into Biden and his son. But with just days left in his presidency, the political landscape had shifted dramatically.
No House Republicans voted in support when Trump was impeached in 2019 over his attempts to persuade the leader of Ukraine to investigate the family of Biden, then his election rival.
But as fear turned to fury in the days since the attack on the Capitol, senior Republican leaders signaled – tacitly and explicitly – a desire to purge the party of Trump. Their break with the president came only after months of tolerating and indulging his campaign of lies about a stolen election, long after it was undeniably clear he had lost.