Donald Trump becomes 1st U.S. president to be impeached for a 2nd time
Impeachment came after 2 months of president's false election claims and last week's Capitol riot
U.S. President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives for a historic second time Wednesday, charged with "incitement of insurrection" over the deadly mob siege of the Capitol in a swift and stunning collapse of his final days in office.
With the Capitol secured by armed National Guard troops inside and out, the House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump. The proceedings moved at lightning speed, with lawmakers voting just one week after violent pro-Trump loyalists stormed the U.S. Capitol, egged on by the president's calls for them to "fight like hell" against the election results.
Ten Republicans fled Trump, joining Democrats who said he needed to be held accountable and warned ominously of a "clear and present danger" if Congress should leave him unchecked before Democrat Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.
It was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in modern times, more so than Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1998.
The Capitol insurrection stunned and angered lawmakers, who were sent scrambling for safety as the mob descended, and it revealed the fragility of the nation's history of peaceful transfers of power.
WATCH | Trump impeached for 2nd time:
The riot also forced a reckoning among some Republicans, who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.
During debate on the article of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Republicans and Democrats to "search their souls" ahead of the historic afternoon vote.
'Clear and present danger'
Trump "must go," Pelosi said. "He is a clear and present danger to the nation we all love."
Actual removal seems unlikely before the Jan. 20 inauguration of president-elect Biden.
Minutes after the House vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested in a statement that Trump's Senate trial will not start before Jan. 19, the chamber's next scheduled business day.
It's also about the time Democrats take over majority control of the Senate. The timetable essentially means McConnell is dropping the trial into the laps of Democrats.
"There is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial" could end before Biden takes office, McConnell wrote. He said it will "best serve our nation" if the government spends the coming week "completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power" to Biden.
Still, McConnell did not rule out voting to convict Trump in the event of a trial. In a note to his fellow Republican senators just before the House was to begin voting, he said he is undecided.
"While the press has been full of speculation, 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 wrote.
Biden released a statement calling the impeachment "a bipartisan vote cast by members who followed the Constitution and their conscience." But he expressed concern about the Senate trial perhaps disrupting the early days of his presidency, citing the need to take action on pandemic response, the economy and confirming key cabinet positions.
"I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation," he said.
Trump disavows violence in new statement
In a new video released after the House vote, Trump disavowed the violence of Jan. 6., but did not mention the impeachment.
"I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week. Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement."
He said that his Make America Great Again movement has always been about upholding the rules of law.
WATCH | Trump calls on his supporters to be peaceful amid concerns about additional violence:
Trump's tone was very different from the video statement he released while his supporters were still assaulting the U.S. Capitol last week, when he called them patriots and told them he loved them and that they were special.
Appearing to be reading a statement from a Teleprompter Wednesday, Trump asked his supporters to think of "ways to ease tensions, calm tempers and help to promote peace in our country."
10 Republicans break with Trump
While Trump's first impeachment in 2019 brought no Republican votes in the House, at least eight House Republicans announced in advance that they would break with the party to join Democrats this time, saying Trump violated his oath to protect and defend U.S. democracy.
In the end, 10 Republicans voted to impeach.
Among them was Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House and the daughter of former vice-president Dick Cheney.
As two Republican lawmakers — Washington Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler — announced on the floor they would vote to impeach, Trump issued a new statement urging "NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind" to disrupt Biden's ascension to the White House.
In the face of the accusations against him and with the FBI warning of more violence, Trump said, "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."
But he has repeatedly declined to take any responsibility for last week's riots.
Capitol security tight
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said for the first time that Trump does bear responsibility, acknowledging on the House floor before the vote that Biden is the next president and that radical liberal groups were not responsible for the riots, as some conservatives have falsely claimed.
As for threats of more trouble from intruders, security was exceptionally tight at the Capitol, with shocking images showing massed National Guard troops, secure perimeters around the complex and metal-detector screenings required for lawmakers entering the House chamber.
"We are debating this historic measure at a crime scene," said Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern.
Though McConnell is declining to hasten an impeachment trial, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press the Republican leader believes Trump committed impeachable offences and considers the Democrats' impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic president's hold on the party.
McConnell called major Republican donors last weekend to gauge their thinking about Trump and was told that Trump had clearly crossed a line. McConnell told them he was through with Trump, said the strategist, who demanded anonymity to describe McConnell's conversations.
The New York Times first reported McConnell's views on impeachment on Tuesday.
The stunning collapse of Trump's final days in office, along with warnings of more violence ahead, leaves the nation at an uneasy and unfamiliar juncture before Biden takes office.
The four-page impeachment resolution relied on Trump's own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden's election victory, including at a White House rally on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, in making its case for "high crimes and misdemeanours" as demanded in the U.S. Constitution.
Trump took no responsibility for the riot, suggesting it was the drive to oust him rather than his actions that was dividing the country.
"To continue on this path, I think it's causing tremendous danger to our country, and it's causing tremendous anger," Trump said Tuesday in his first remarks to reporters since last week's violence.
5 deaths connected to riot
A Capitol police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.
Lawmakers scrambled for safety and hid as rioters took control of the Capitol, delaying by hours the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing Biden's victory.
The Republican lawmakers who chose to vote yes, including Cheney, were unswayed by the president's logic. Their support of impeachment cleaved the Republican leadership, and the party itself.
"The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack," said Cheney in a statement. "There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution."
Unlike a year ago, Trump faces impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own re-election as well as the Senate Republican majority.
The president was said to be livid by the perceived disloyalty from McConnell and Cheney, as calls mounted for her ouster.
He was also deeply frustrated that he could not hit back with his shuttered Twitter account, the fear of which has kept most Republicans in line for years, according to White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing who weren't authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Late Wednesday, another social media platform banned Trump. Snap Inc. permanently terminated his Snapchat account "in the interest of public safety, and based on his attempts to spread misinformation, hate speech, and incite violence," a company spokeswoman said in a statement.
WATCH l Trump pans House's efforts:
The team around Trump has hollowed out, without any plan for combating the impeachment effort. Trump leaned on Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to push Republican senators, while chief of staff Mark Meadows called some of his former colleagues on the Hill.
Trump watched much of Wednesday's proceedings on TV from the White House residence and his private dining area off the Oval Office.
House first called for 25th Amendment
The House tried first to push Vice-President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to intervene, passing a resolution Tuesday night calling on them to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office.
Pence made it clear he would not do so, saying in a letter to Pelosi, that it was "time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate president-elect Joe Biden."
It's far from clear if there will be the two-thirds vote in the evenly divided Senate needed to convict Trump, though at least two Republicans have called for him to "go away as soon as possible."
The FBI warned ominously of potential armed protests by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden's inauguration. Capitol Police urged lawmakers to be on alert. Charges of sedition are being considered for rioters.
Biden has said it's important to ensure that the "folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage — that they be held accountable."
Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down his first days in office, the president-elect is encouraging senators to divide their time between his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID-19 relief while also conducting the trial.
With files from CBC News and Reuters