House impeaches Trump in wake of mob attack on Capitol

10 Republicans joined all Democrats in 232-197 vote

Speaker Nancy Pelosi gavels the House into recess Wednesday after the chamber voted to impeach President Donald Trump.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi gavels the House into recess Wednesday after the chamber voted to impeach President Donald Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 13, 2021 at 1:59pm, Updated at 4:43pm

House Democrats in their second impeachment of President Donald Trump accomplished what they couldn’t in their first: They kept their party unified and brought some Republicans on board. 

The chamber on Wednesday voted 232-197 to approve a single article of impeachment charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for encouraging his supporters who attacked the Capitol last week.

[As House votes to impeach Trump, Democrats weigh options for Senate trial]

The article outlines Trump’s impeachable conduct, describing how for months leading up to the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College votes, he “repeatedly issued false statements” alleging widespread fraud and saying state and federal officials should not certify the results. 

Trump reiterated those false claims in a Jan. 6 speech outside the White House in which he also “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore,’” the resolution says. 

“Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts,” the resolution reads.

The impeachment article also cites Trump’s “prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification,” like his Jan. 2 phone call threatening Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to overturn the state’s results, as it notes he “threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power.” 

Wednesday’s vote makes Trump the first president in history to be impeached twice. The House first impeached him on Dec. 18, 2019, on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election. The Senate acquitted Trump of both charges on Feb. 5, 2020.

Trump has seven days left in office, and a Senate trial won’t occur in time to remove him any earlier.

But Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump “must be convicted by the Senate, 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.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell sent a note to his conference Wednesday refuting media press reports that have suggested he plans to support impeachment, but the Kentucky Republican left open the possibility he may reach that conclusion.

“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,” McConnell said. 

Bipartisan support

Ten Republicans, including the No. 3 in House GOP leadership, Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney, voted to impeach Trump.

All 222 Democrats supported the impeachment resolution as well. 

Republicans besides Cheney who voted to impeach Trump include Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington, John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Fred Upton and Peter Meijer of Michigan, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Tom Rice of South Carolina and David Valadao of California.

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The bipartisan support is different from the first time the House impeached Trump, when no Republican supported either article. 

The House Democrats who opposed the 2019 effort weren’t an issue this time, as the two who voted against both impeachment articles are no longer in the caucus. Minnesota’s Collin C. Peterson lost his reelection race in November and New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew switched to the Republican Party after the 2019 impeachment vote. Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard, who voted present on both articles, ran for the Democratic presidential nomination instead of for reelection.

Another Democrat, Maine Rep. Jared Golden, voted for the abuse of power charge but against obstruction of Congress. Golden supported the incitement of insurrection charge on Wednesday. 

“I do this without reservation, as I have no question or doubt about the president’s conduct and responsibility for last week’s assault upon the United States Capitol and the United States Congress,” he said in a statement.

Opposition arguments

The impeachment vote split the GOP leadership team, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise voting against the article and Cheney voting for it.

McCarthy in a floor speech said Trump “bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol,” but he argued against impeachment, saying it would “further fan the flames of partisan division.”

“Most Americans want neither inaction nor retribution. They want durable, bipartisan justice,” the California Republican said. “That path is still available, but it is not the path we are on today.”

Some hard-line Republicans, like Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona and Jim Jordan of Ohio, the respective current and former chairs of the House Freedom Caucus, have called for Cheney to step down or be removed from her leadership post because of her support for impeaching Trump. 

“The conference should have a second vote on that,” Jordan said Wednesday.

Cheney rejected those calls, saying she was “not going anywhere.”

“This is a vote of conscience. It’s one where there are different views in our conference. But our nation is facing an unprecedented, since the Civil War, constitutional crisis,” the Wyoming Republican said.

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Republicans opposed to impeachment have cited a variety of reasons: the rushed process, the fact that Trump only has seven days left in office and concern that the action would only further divide the country and potentially lead to further violence at a time when it needs to unify. 

Several GOP members in their floor speeches argued that Democrats only wanted to condemn violence and inciting rhetoric when it was politically convenient. Republicans quoted Democratic lawmakers encouraging their supporters to take to the streets during the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer and asked why they didn’t condemn violence that occurred in those instances.

Absent from most of the arguments against impeachment was any defense of Trump’s conduct.

Texas Rep. Jodey C. Arrington said in his floor speech that Trump didn’t incite the riots, before adding, “I’m not saying the president didn’t exercise poor judgement.” Democrats responded with groans. 

That was one of only a handful of incidents in which members showed any reaction to the mostly subdued debate. Others included Republicans booing after Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., concluded her speech, “It’s time to impeach the white supremacist-in-chief,” and Democrats applauding after Newhouse and Herrera Beutler gave speeches supporting impeachment.

Scalise drew the most applause of the day as he lauded the Capitol Police who fought back against the rioters on Jan. 6 and offered them his prayers. The Louisiana Republican, who credits the response of his Capitol Police detail during the 2017 congressional baseball practice shooting for saving his life, received a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle.

Commission alternative rejected  

Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, accused Democrats of pretending that impeachment could actually lead to Trump’s removal before his term is up. 

“It’s not going to happen,” Davis told CQ Roll Call. “And really, are they any better than those who set unrealistic expectations about somehow the Electoral College was going to be changed?”

Republican leadership used the previous question — a procedural vote that allows the minority to change the terms of debate — to call for consideration of Davis’ resolution to establish a bipartisan commission to examine the circumstances of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

The previous question was agreed to 221-203, defeating the Republican effort to establish the commission.

Democrats have panned Republicans for suggesting they need further investigation of the attack and evidence before considering impeachment.

“What happened this time was in plain view,” said House Administration Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, who has been involved in all of the modern-day presidential impeachments. “I mean, he incited a right-wing mob of insurrectionists to come and overturn constitutional government a week ago. You don’t need a long investigation to find that out.”

Transfer timing

Pelosi declined Wednesday morning to tell reporters when she planned to transfer the impeachment article to the Senate, which will determine how quickly the chamber can begin a trial.

But in a sign the speaker may move quickly, she took the unusual step of naming House impeachment managers for the Senate trial before the House vote.

Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a former constitutional law professor, will serve as lead impeachment manager. 

The other Democrats joining Raskin as managers are Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse of Colorado, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Joaquin Castro of Texas, Eric Swalwell and Ted Lieu of California, Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands and Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania. 

The managers are all different from the team that prosecuted Trump’s previous impeachment trial. 

The Senate is out of session until Jan. 19. McConnell on Wednesday rejected Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer’s request to use a 2004 emergency convening authority to bring the Senate back early, McConnell’s spokesman confirmed.

Some Democrats, like House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, have suggested Pelosi delay sending the impeachment article to the Senate so that chamber has time to confirm some of President-elect Joe Biden’s key nominees and pass additional coronavirus relief. 

But more Democrats, including Hoyer, have advocated sending the paperwork immediately and allowing the trial to proceed quickly.

“My thinking is it will be sent over as soon as possible,” Hoyer told reporters Wednesday, cautioning that he didn’t want to speak for Pelosi.

Jessica Wehrman contributed to this report.