First president to be impeached twice,
Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald J. Trump for a second time in two years. Charged with “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump is now the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.
The article of impeachment argues that the president “gravely” endangered “the security of the United States and its institutions,” and threatened “the integrity of the democratic system, [interfering] with the peaceful transition of power, and [imperiling] a coequal branch of Government.” Authors of the article concluded that President Trump “has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. Donald John Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”
Seven days before President-elect Joseph R. Biden is set to be sworn in as the 46th president on Jan. 20, a bipartisan group of representatives — 10 Republicans and 222 Democrats — voted 232-197 in favor of the article of impeachment. In a Capitol secured by National Guard, representatives spent the morning debating and held the vote around noon, a week after the attack.
Attention now turns to the Republican-controlled Senate. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a democrat from Maryland, said the House plans to immediately send the article to the Senate for a trial.
Questions remain over whether the Senate will have enough time to hold a trial before Biden’s inauguration.
The Senate is scheduled to meet again on Jan. 19, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, can reconvene the chamber sooner. Doug Andres, press secretary for McConnell, confirmed Wednesday that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was informed that McConnell would not consent to reconvening the Senate immediately.
“Given the rules, procedures, and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachment trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week,” McConnell said in a statement.
This decision will push a trial into the first days of the Biden administration.
A two-thirds majority is needed in the Senate to convict the outgoing president, a considerable number in a chamber that will be divided in half when Georgia certifies that Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won their respective senatorial races.
Political experts seemingly agree that conviction would depend on either implicit of explicit support from McConnell. “If McConnell ultimately supported conviction, members of his leadership team would likely follow the leader’s vote,” write the Los Angeles Times. “Other Republicans have already signaled openness, including Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Republican to support conviction last year.”
In a letter to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision” on how he will vote and “intend[s] to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate.”
If the Senate, presumably then under the leadership of incoming Majority Leader Schumer, votes to convict Trump after he has left office, “the Constitution allows a subsequent vote to bar an official from holding ‘any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States,’” writes The New York Times. The vote would require a simple majority, meaning Vice President-elect Kamala Harris could be the tiebreaker if no Republicans supported the motion. However, as The Times points out, “There is no precedent … for disqualifying a president from future office, and the issue could end up before the Supreme Court.”