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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 January 2021

US ELECTIONS

Congress impeaches Trump for second time in unprecedented vote

Vote means president will probably stand trial in Senate after he leaves office

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi walks to the House floor at the US Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. Getty Images/AFP 
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi walks to the House floor at the US Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. Getty Images/AFP 

The House voted 232-197 on Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump, making him the only US leader in history to face impeachment twice.

Five representatives did not vote.

The article of impeachment charges Mr Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for allegedly encouraging last week’s mob to ransack Capitol Hill to prevent Congress from certifying president-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

“He incited a mob, he deployed the mob and he urged the mob on, to undermine what?” House majority leader Steny Hoyer told MSNBC before the vote.

“To undermine the counting of votes to determine who the president of the United States was.”

The vote was largely along party lines but a few Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in voting to impeach the president.

Chief among them was Liz Cheney, the House’s number three Republican.

“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” Ms Cheney said before the vote.

“Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president.

“The president could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not.”

Joining Ms Cheney were Republicans John Katko, Adam Kinzinger, Fred Upton, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse, Peter Meijer, Anthony Gonzalez, Tom Rice and David Valadao.

Today's impeachment vote is the most bipartisan in US history. The 10 Republican defectors surpassed the five Democrats who voted to impeach former President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Democrats chose to move forward with impeachment after Vice President Mike Pence rebuffed the non-binding resolution passed on Tuesday asking him and the Cabinet to remove Mr Trump by invoking the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution.

Once the House submits the article of impeachment to the Senate, the upper chamber will put Mr Trump on trial.

While that trial is unlikely to take place until after he leaves office next week, a Senate conviction could bar him from ever holding federal office again.

Mr Trump has strongly hinted that he intends to run for a second term as president in 2024.

But under the Constitution, two thirds of the Senate must vote in favour of conviction for the president to face any penalties.

The Senate failed to gather this number last year when only 48 senators voted to convict Mr Trump for abuse of power over allegations that the president sought to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating Mr Biden’s family.

At the time, Mitt Romney was the only Republican senator to join Democrats in voting to convict the president.

But The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell privately supports Mr Trump’s impeachment to effectively purge the president from the Republican party.

Publicly, however, Mr McConnell said on Wednesday that he had not made up his mind.

"I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate," Mr McConnell wrote in an email to his colleagues.

It is also unclear when Democrats intend to transfer the article of impeachment and initiate the Senate trial.

The Senate is not expected to reconvene until Tuesday, the day before Mr Biden’s inauguration.

Immediately transferring the article of impeachment could block the Senate calendar during the crucial first 100 days of the new administration.

Putting Mr Trump on trial right away could interfere with Mr Biden’s attempts to have the Senate confirm his Cabinet nominees and muster enough support in Congress to pass another economic stimulus package to battle the effects of Covid-19.

Majority whip Jim Clyburn has suggested that the House could hold on to the article of impeachment until after Mr Biden’s first 100 days in office, delaying the Senate trial until May.

Last year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed transferring the articles of impeachment for weeks before sending them to the Senate.

Democrats are virtually guaranteed to set the parameters for the trial, as Republicans will not have control of the Senate after next week.

Newly elected Senate Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are due to take office before Georgia’s January 22 election certification deadline.

This will evenly split control of the Senate between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.

Vice president-elect Kamala Harris, who is set to take office next week, will cast any tie-breaking votes.

In a video released after the vote, Mr Trump condemned the violence at the Capitol, saying, "Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country."

"America is a nation of laws. Those who engaged in the attacks last week will be brought to justice," he said, and called on those planning to stage protests before the inauguration to do so peacefully and lawfully.

Updated: January 14, 2021 03:43 AM

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