Just over a year ago, Donald Trump became just the third president in United States history to be impeached. Now, a week after whipping up a violent revolt on the Capitol that left five dead, he has become the first president ever to be impeached a second time. The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 232-197 to once again impeach Trump, pushing for his removal—with a week left in his presidency—on the grounds that he committed high crimes and misdemeanors by inciting the insurrection.
“The President of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion, against our common country. He must go,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during a debate before the vote. “He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
The historic vote, with 10 Republicans joining the Democratic majority, sets up the second Senate impeachment trial for Trump in less than a year, comes at a time of extraordinary tumult in the U.S.: After months of recklessly pushing baseless conspiracy theories and risible lies that the election was “rigged” against him, the president summoned his supporters to Washington as lawmakers convened January 6 to certify Joe Biden’s victory and told them to “fight like hell” for him. When the MAGA mob stormed the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to take cover as armed insurrectionists stalked the halls of congress, Trump repeatedly refused to take adequate action to stop them, eventually calling on his supporters to go home while also praising them as “very special” and expressing support for their rebellion against an election victory he said was “stripped away” from them. Amid continued threats of violence, National Guard troops were camped out Wednesday in the Capitol for Wednesday’s vote.
Hundreds of National Guard troops nap inside the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center as the House prepares to debate on an article of impeachment against President Trump.
📷 J. Scott Applewhite / AP pic.twitter.com/EnsR9waonj
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 13, 2021
Trump and the loyalists who helped touch off the violence were immediately condemned by Democrats and even many in the Republican party that once protected him, with his dangerous behavior and the threat of further violence in the waning days of his presidency triggering resignations from his administration and calls to step down or be removed. Some of Trump’s Cabinet officials discussed sidelining him via the 25th Amendment, and Pelosi threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings if Vice President Mike Pence didn’t act. Although at least some of the pro-Trump rioters appear to have been trying to find and execute Pence for insufficient loyalty as they overran the Capitol, the vice president resisted the 25th Amendment, telling Pelosi on Tuesday night that it is time to “come together” and “heal.”
As Pelosi made good on her threat to impeach Trump a second time, some Republicans who opposed the measure made similarly empty appeals to unity. “This will only bring up the hate and fire more than ever before,” Republican Representative Jason Smith said on the House floor. But such arguments rang hollow after 147 Republicans in the the House and a handful in the Senate, including Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, rejected democracy one week earlier by voting to overturn the election results—just hours after the MAGA mob had been removed from the Capitol. Moreover, citing concern of further violence by the president’s supporters only underscored the importance of holding him accountable. “For years, we have been asked to turn a blind eye to the criminality, corruption, and blatant disregard to the rule of law by the tyrant president we have in the White House,” progressive Representative Ilhan Omar said in a speech Wednesday. “We as a nation can no longer look away.”
Ten GOP lawmakers—including Liz Cheney, the number three Republican in the House, and Adam Kinzinger, a rare Trump critic in the House—joined their Democratic colleagues in voting to impeach.
It was a sobering moment to vote in support of impeachment today; to walk over to the U.S. Capitol, our symbol of democracy, and recall the violent insurrection we witnessed here just one week ago. This is not a vote I took lightly, but a vote I took confidently. I'm at peace.
— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) January 13, 2021
That’s a change from December 2019, when not one House Republican broke ranks, despite overwhelming evidence that Trump attempted to strongarm a foreign leader into smearing Biden, his eventual 2020 opponent, and then to thwart the investigation into his misconduct. Democrats succeeded in impeaching him in a party line vote at the time, but Mitch McConnell smothered the case in the Senate early last year, keeping the president in office. But the protection from removal Trump previously enjoyed is no longer guaranteed, with McConnell now reportedly welcoming impeachment as a way to finally cut ties with the weakened president and several other GOP senators apparently open to convicting.