The US House of Representatives has impeached Donald Trump for fomenting a deadly insurrection at the Capitol on 6 January 2021, making him the first president in the nation’s history to be impeached twice.
Wednesday’s ratified impeachment article, which officially accuses the president of “incitement to insurrection,” now awaits transmission to a Senate controlled for the next couple weeks by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The ratification came after a day of speeches from lawmakers recounting the harrowing experiences they faced as the pro-Trump rioters ransacked the legislature a week ago.
“Last week, I hid in an office for hours, terrified to open the door because I did not know if a rioter was on the other side ready to attack, kidnap, or murder me,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu. “Donald Trump must be held accountable.”
Mr McConnell, who will be relegated to minority leader later this month, has not publicly stated whether he will vote to convict Mr Trump at the outgoing president’s impending Senate trial, although he has privately told confidants he supported the House’s impeachment, the New York Times has reported.
Mr Trump has just seven days remaining at the White House before President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on 20 January.
He will not be removed in that time. Trials in the past have taken weeks, and Mr McConnell informed Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday that he will not agree to a proposal to reconvene the chamber for an emergency session next week to commence this one.
The Senate is scheduled to return on 19 January. The trial dates are still up in the air.
Regardless of the timing, the utter uncertainty on where many within the Senate GOP stand on conviction combined with Mr McConnell’s decision not to whip their votes means Mr Trump’s impeachment trial promises to be one of the most dramatic, uncertain, and momentous congressional votes in US history.
Democrats will need at least 17 Republicans to join them to banish Mr Trump from public office for good.
As she opened the debate on Wednesday’s impeachment resolution, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described last week’s deadly riot as a “day of fire” and called for the president’s conviction.
“He must go. He’s a clear and present danger to the nation we all love,” she said, staking her position that the rioters were “sent [to the Capitol] by the president” to mount an “armed rebellion.”
A mounting death toll
Five people have died as a direct result of last week’s riot, including a US Capitol Police officer bludgeoned to death by the mob and a woman who was shot by a policeman just outside the House chamber.
That death toll doesn’t include at least two other people who have committed suicide since the mayhem on 6 January: a USCP officer who had been protecting the Senate during the insurrection and a pro-Trump rioter who was subsequently arrested — and then released — in Georgia.
Led by Vice President Mike Pence, Congress was in the middle of certifying Mr Biden’s electoral victory when the pro-Trump throngs breached security at the Capitol and ran roughshod through the legislature, forcing lawmakers to halt the proceedings and scramble for their lives.
While Mr Trump has since denounced the mob that he stands impeached for having incited, the president continues to deny responsibility for organising and riling up the protest-turned-riot at the Capitol by addressing it with an hour-long speech laced with stolen-election conspiracies and inflammatory rhetoric shortly before it marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to terrorise lawmakers.
"If you read my speech, and many people have done it, and I’ve seen it both in the papers and in the media, on television, it’s been analysed, and people thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” the president claimed on Tuesday in response to questions from reporters about his role in the riots.
Just minutes before sending the crowd up to the Capitol last week, Mr Trump exhorted his supporters: “If you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
The impeachment article cites that and other inflammatory lines from the speech as grounds for dismissal from office, along with the president’s months-long effort to overturn the 2020 election results.
The article states: “In all this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperilled a coequal branch of government. He thereby betrayed his trust as president, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
A ‘fortress Capitol’
As lawmakers debated Wednesday’s vote inside the House chamber, outside was stationed the largest and most heavily armed security presence at the Capitol since at least the Civil War.
Hundreds of active National Guard troops in full camouflage, newly armed with assault rifles, stood watch around and within a massive perimeter encircling the Capitol and the adjacent House and Senate office buildings.
More than 6,000 members of the National Guard were deployed to the city this week, with as many as 10,000 expected by the weekend as federal law enforcement prepares to confront right-wing extremists planning other assaults.
On Wednesday, active Guard units milled about the Capitol Hill perimeter in pockets of five to eight as squads from the US Capitol Police scrutinised the IDs of lawmakers as well as staff and press at various checkpoints.
Thousands more were seen resting throughout the Capitol, casually lying down flat on their backs or propping their elbows on the very marble floors where US elected officials march to and from their business in the House and Senate chambers.
They scrolled through their phones, chatted in small groups, and took naps — all while clutching the black, military-grade rifles authorised by the Department of Defense on Tuesday.
Around 10am, Florida Republican Congressman Brian Mast, an Army veteran, delivered an impromptu tour to roughly three dozen troops in Statuary Hall outside the House chamber. A week earlier, supporters of the president had been parading through that same room carrying Trump 2020 banners and, in some cases, Confederate flags.
The scenes on Wednesday contrasted sharply with those from just a week earlier, when just 340 guardsmen and guardswomen had been activated throughout DC in preparation for the pro-Trump rally ahead of Congress’ Electoral College certification. Those troops, unarmed, had been mostly on traffic duty that day when the Trump-incited mob laid siege to the Capitol around 2pm.
Officials have warned that the mob’s success last week overtaking the Capitol could embolden radical Trump supporters to launch more attacks across the country as Mr Biden prepares to take office.
The FBI has issued a memo notifying local forces that pro-Trump activists are planning “armed protests” in all 50 state capitals next week.
Mr Trump has declared a state of emergency in Washington ahead of Mr Biden’s inauguration on 20 January.
And on Wednesday, just as the House was debating his impeachment, the president released a statement urging Americans to refrain from “violence” and “lawbreaking” in the days ahead.
“In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” Mr Trump said in his statement. “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. Thank You.”
Terrorists ‘radicalised by the president’
Such statements are too little too late for lawmakers supporting the president’s impeachment.
On the House floor Wednesday, they argued his conduct during and leading up to the riots disqualified him from holding his current position and running again in 2024, a penalty which could be inflicted upon Mr Trump should he be tried and convicted by the Senate.
“The president not only incited an insurrection against our government, but has in word and deed led a rebellion,” said Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. “We cannot simply move past this or turn the page for us to be able to survive as a functioning democracy.”
Ms Pelosi believes the president should be convicted by the Senate, telling lawmakers in her seven-minute speech on Wednesday that the move would serve as a “constitutional remedy that will ensure that the republic will be safe from this man who is so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold so dear.”
The speaker also decried the violent throngs of pro-Trump rioters from last week and anyone who supported their thuggery.
“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,” she said.
The president’s most loyal supporters on Capitol Hill have persisted in defending his legacy.
Speaking first for Republicans in the two-hour impeachment resolution debate was Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio, who Mr Trump recently awarded the presidential medal of freedom during a closed-door ceremony at the White House.
Mr Jordan complained of “cancel culture” while enumerating Mr Trump’s apparent accomplishments, which he said included new border wall construction along the US-Mexico border.
“If it continues, it won’t just be Republicans who get cancelled, it won’t just be the president of the United States,” the congressman said. “Cancel culture will come for us all.”
Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, who is joining the Biden administration, recalled Mr Trump ordering the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during the presidential debates last year, calling Mr Trump “unfit” for office due to his consistent defense of and support for the very white supremacist groups who perpetrated the attack on the Capitol last week.
Giving closing remarks for the Democrats, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland fought back tears as he addressed Republican claims that Mr Trump wants a peaceful transfer of power.
“There hasn't been a peaceful transition. I don't know what you're talking about. You're living in a different country than I am,” Mr Hoyer said.
A bipartisan impeachment
Unlike the first impeachment of Mr Trump in December 2019 for upending US national security policy in Ukraine in an attempt to smear Joe Biden, Wednesday’s fast-track impeachment resolution garnered bipartisan support, with several Republicans voting for it.
That cohort included some members of prominence within the Republican chain of command, such as House GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney and Congressman John Katko, the top Repubican on the House Homeland Security Committee.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame. ... There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Ms Cheney, the third-highest-ranking member in the House GOP, said in a statement on Tuesday previewing her vote to impeach the president.
GOP Congressman Dan Newhouse of Washington received a vigorous round of applause from his Democratic colleagues after announcing on the floor on Wednesday his intent to vote “yes” on impeachment.
“These articles of impeachment are flawed, but I will not use [legislative] process as an excuse. There is no excuse from President Trump’s actions,” Mr Newhouse said. “With a heavy heart and clear resolve, I will vote yes on these articles of impeachment.”
The Senate could see an even greater degree of bipartisanship despite the stakes of their vote being much higher.
Utah Senator Mitt Romney made history at Mr Trump’s first impeachment trial by becoming the first senator of an impeached president’s own party to vote for his conviction.
While Trump allies such as Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Roger Wicker of Mississippi came out earlier this week in opposition to the impeachment effort, saying it would only further inflame nationwide partisan tensions, other Republicans are remaining open-minded.
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska said last week he would consider convicting Mr Trump, characterising the president’s actions last Wednesday inciting his supporters to violence at the Capitol “wicked.”
GOP Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, have both called upon Mr Trump to resign, although their stances on impeachment and removal remain unclear.
Every Democrat in the chamber is expected to vote to convict Mr Trump.
Democrats to present their case
Prosecuting the case against Mr Trump in the Senate will be lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee who specialises in constitutional law.
Mr Raskin and fellow Judiciary Democrats David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Ted Lieu of California drafted the impeachment article.
Mr Cicilline and Mr Lieu will join Mr Raskin as impeachment managers, along with six other Democratic lawmakers.
The others are: Diana Degette of Colorado, Joaquin Castro of Texas, Eric Swalwell of California, Stacey Plaskett of the US Virgin Islands, Joe Neguse of Colorado, and Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania.
Notably, none of the nine Democratic impeachment managers chairs a committee or has reached liberal bogeyman status in conservative circles (save, perhaps, for Mr Swalwell).
Chairmen Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler of the House Intelligence and Judiciary panels took on outsize antagonistic personas in Fox News’ and other conservative media outlets’ coverage at Mr Trump’s first impeachment trial, where they had been managers.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Tuesday it is this new batch of impeachment managers’ “constitutional and patriotic duty” to persuade the Senate to remove Mr Trump in the final hours of his presidency and bar him from taking elected office again.
The Democratic staff of the House Judiciary Committee has compiled 76 pages of materials and evidence to support the prosecution of their case before the Senate.
That evidentiary report concludes that Mr Trump “committed a high Crime and Misdemeanor against the Nation by inciting an insurrection at the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election.”