Donald J Trump on Wednesday became the first American president to be impeached twice, as 10 members of his party joined with Democrats in the House to charge him with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in egging on a violent mob that stormed the Capitol last week.
Reconvening in a building now heavily militarised against threats from pro-Trump activists and adorned with bunting for the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R Biden Jr, lawmakers voted 232 to 197 to approve a single impeachment article. It accused Trump of “inciting violence against the government of the United States” in his quest to overturn the election results, and called for him to be removed and disqualified from ever holding public office again.
The vote left another indelible stain on Trump’s presidency just a week before he is slated to leave office and laid bare the cracks running through the Republican Party. More members of his party voted to charge the president than in any other impeachment. Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, declaring the past week one of the darkest chapters in American history, implored colleagues to embrace “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 dear and that hold us together.” The House’s action set the stage for the second Senate trial of the president in a year. The precise timing of that proceeding remained in doubt, though, as senators appeared unlikely to convene to sit in judgment before January 20, when Biden will take the oath of office.
Trump’s fate lies with McConnell
Trump’s unprecedented second impeachment heads to the Senate, where his fate rests with Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who now has more leverage than ever over the president in his final week in office. McConnell told Republican colleagues in a letter Wednesday he would block starting an impeachment trial before Joe Biden takes office January 20 and control of the Senate shifts to Democrats.
But he also said he has not yet made up his mind on whether to vote to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection.
That allows Trump to finish his term without being removed from office. But McConnell has left open the option that if Trump were to instigate more unrest, he could turn against him. That
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