- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 13, 2021

With last week’s attack on Congress ringing as a battle cry, the House voted Tuesday to impeach President Trump for the second time in his four-year tenure, accusing him of inciting an insurrection.

Ten Republicans joined all the chamber’s Democrats, a slight but significant show of bipartisanship that Democrats said signals Mr. Trump’s hold on American politics is slipping.

Only the fourth successful impeachment in history, it comes just a week before the president is slated to leave office anyway.

Republicans said that looming departure was reason to skip the spanking and let him slip into retirement. Democrats countered that Mr. Trump is capable of untold mayhem with seven more days in office.

“Every second this president remains in office is a danger to this country and the world,” said Rep. James McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat. “We have no idea what he is capable of doing — whether he will pardon these terrorists, whether he will go to war.”

The 232-197 vote marks the highest total ever for impeachment of a president, topping Mr. Trump’s 2019 votes and that of Presidents Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson. It was also the most bipartisan impeachment in history.

What happens next is unclear.

The Senate signaled it wouldn’t begin a trial until next week — just as President-elect Joseph R. Biden is being sworn in and Mr. Trump is being ushered out. There are legal questions as to whether a trial could even be held in such a case.

A trial would also last weeks, senators suggested, which would leave the Senate tied up just as it should be working to confirm Mr. Biden’s Cabinet and get a start on his agenda.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, signed the impeachment resolution Wednesday evening but hadn’t said when she would transmit it to the Senate.

The single article of impeachment connected Mr. Trump’s two-month defiance of the election results and his words last week at a rally with supporters to the assault on the Capitol that came just an hour after his speech.

As Congress was counting Electoral College votes to confirm Mr. Biden’s victory, the mob pushed through barricades, smashed doors and windows to break into the building, took over the Senate chamber and forced an armed standoff at the doors of the House chamber. One rioter was fatally shot in the corridors outside the chamber, and a Capitol Police officer died after being attacked by the mob.

“They did not appear out of a vacuum. They were sent here, sent here by the president, with words such as a cry to ‘fight like hell,’” Mrs. Pelosi said.

The assault and threats of more violence around the inauguration have shaken Capitol Hill to the core. Mr. McGovern pointed out that Wednesday’s impeachment debate was taking place in “a crime scene.”

A sense of siege pervaded Wednesday’s proceedings, with a new 8-foot wall encircling the complex outside the Capitol. National Guard troops slumbered on the marble corridors inside, with rifles and riot shields at hand nearby.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, now must pass through metal detectors to conduct floor business.

Rep. Jason Crow, Colorado Democrat, said some Republican colleagues have told him they feared being killed if they voted for impeachment.

“My response was, you know not to be unsympathetic but ‘welcome to the club,’” he told MSNBC. “That’s leadership. Our country is in a very challenging time.”

Leading the pro-impeachment Republicans was Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican lawmaker in the House and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a statement Tuesday announcing her decision.

Democrats seized on her words and repeated them on the House floor as a defense against Republican complaints about the speed of the effort.

“She knows of what she speaks,” said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat.

But the vast majority of Republicans opposed impeachment, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Some Republicans defended Mr. Trump on the floor by saying they could see no link between his speech last week and the assault on the Capitol.

Others accused Democrats of hypocrisy, saying they have been just as harsh in their rhetoric in recent years by urging confrontations with conservatives and the president’s top aides.

Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who led opposition Wednesday, said Democrats have been determined to impeach since the day Mr. Trump took office. To make another attempt with a week left in his tenure was telling, he said.

“It’s not just about impeachment anymore; it’s about canceling the president and anyone that disagrees with them,” he said.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said the president needed to shoulder some blame. He said he could have been part of an effort to censure Mr. Trump, had Democrats been willing to pursue that option.

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” the chamber’s top Republican said.

While he voted against impeachment, he said Mr. Trump still has work to do to make amends, including shouldering some responsibility for the attack and moving to shut down the ongoing sense of unrest from his supporters.

Soon after Mr. McCarthy spoke, Mr. Trump issued a statement calling for calm.

“In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be 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,” he said.

Later, he released a video chastising last week’s pro-Trump mob and repeating his call for an orderly transition.

“Like all of you, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the calamity at the Capitol last week. I want to be very clear. I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week,” he said. “Making America Great Again has always been about defending the rule of law, supporting the men and women of law enforcement, and upholding our nation’s most sacred traditions and values.”

The president did not mention the impeachment vote in his video, though he reportedly did watch the proceedings from the Oval Office.

Democrats sped this impeachment through faster than any of the three other presidential proceedings. No hearings were held, and the language of the charge wasn’t revealed until Monday.

But the desire to impeach Mr. Trump dates back to his early days in office.

His previous impeachment came in late 2019 after a phone call where he appeared to pressure Ukraine’s president to investigate Mr. Biden. No Republicans voted for impeachment that time.

The Senate, after a relatively brief trial that did not involve hearing from any witnesses, voted to acquit Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump joined Johnson and Mr. Clinton as the only presidents to be impeached. President Richard M. Nixon was on the verge of being impeached and almost certainly convicted, but he resigned to avoid that.

Several Democrats said the fact that they are back again with another impeachment is an “I told you so” moment for Republicans who protected the president the last time.

Impeachment, which is the formal bringing of charges, takes only a majority vote in the House.

Conviction in the Senate takes a two-thirds vote, though the legal questions about trying a president out of office still linger.

There is precedent, though, The Senate in the 1800s held a trial for a Cabinet official who had resigned.

One argument for holding a trial is that the Senate could also vote to bar him from future office as part of the punishment. That is attractive to some Republicans eager to prevent Mr. Trump from another attempt at the White House in 2024.

Democrats said the Senate could erase the legal questions about timing by bringing the Senate back immediately. Most senators are home this week.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said any fair impeachment trial would take weeks anyway, so the starting point doesn’t matter.

“In light of this reality, I believe it will best serve our nation if Congress and the executive branch spend the next seven days completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power to the incoming Biden administration,” Mr. McConnell said.

He also said he has not made up his mind about how he will vote.

House Democratic leaders could decide to delay sending the articles over for weeks, pushing a Senate trial off to give Mr. Biden a chance to get settled and begin working on his agenda before senators get bogged down in impeachment proceedings.

That strategy is also fraught with political peril, though, because it would leave Mr. Trump looming over Washington well after most lawmakers on Capitol Hill hoped he would be in their rearview mirror.

Decisions on timing now rest with Mrs. Pelosi.

She brushed aside questions about timing on Wednesday and focused instead on the moment at hand.

Borrowing from former President John F. Kennedy, she said Congress was acting as “the watchmen on the walls of world history” and only Mr. Trump’s ouster would suffice.

“We cannot escape history. Let us embrace our duty,” she said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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