A majority in the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time, marking the fourth impeachment of a US president in history. Trump will also become the first president to be impeached by the House twice.
Congress admonished his role in last week's riot at the U.S. Capitol that killed five people. Ten Republican representatives, including Liz Cheney, R-Wy., the GOP caucus' third-ranking members, were among those who joined the Democratic majority in voting in favor of impeachment.
What happens next in the impeachment process is unclear. Trump, whose term comes to an end on Jan. 20, will likely remain in power until the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated Wednesday that he will not call the Senate back to Washington this week, and is still weighing his options when the Senate returns next week. The Senate could consider Trump’s impeachment after he leaves office. The Senate could vote to ban him from holding federal office ever again, which would preclude him from running for president in 2024.
The House of Representatives considered one article of impeachment against Trump — inciting an insurrection. In the early debate of the article on Wednesday morning, Democrats argued that while Trump will be leaving office soon, he must be held accountable for his actions.
"For years we have been asked to turn a blind eye to the criminality, corruption, and blatant disregard to the rule of law by the tyrant president we have in the White House," Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, said. "We as a nation can no longer look away."
Several Republican members rose to argue that the Democrats' push to impeach was rushed. Rep. Nancy Mace, a newly-elected congresswoman from South Carolina, said that while she thought Trump needed to be held accountable for his actions, she did not feel she could vote in favor of impeachment.
Unlike Trump's first impeachment — where the House charged him with "abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress" — this time, the push to charge Trump comes with bipartisan support. In late 2019, no Republicans voted for impeachment, and a handful of Democrats voted against charging Trump as well.
The House's move to impeachment comes after a resolution passed on Tuesday night calling on Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to consider their powers under the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Prior to the vote, Pence released a statement saying that he did not plan to invoke the 25th Amendment.
"I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution," Pence said.
A trial may be held in the Senate in the weeks to come. If two-thirds of Senators vote to impeach, Trump would be the first president convicted in an impeachment trial. If Trump is convicted in the impeachment process, the Senate could also vote to bar Trump from holding public office ever again — which would prevent him from running for president in 2024.
While Sen. Mitch McConnell — the most powerful Republican in the upper chamber — often sways his fellow Republicans to toe the line, said he is undecided on what to do when the Senate returns.
“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.
The New York Times reports that McConnell is "pleased" with the impeachment efforts, seeing it as a way to "purge" Trump from the Republican party.
Moments before last week's riot, Trump addressed supporters at a rally on the National Mall, where he encouraged supporters to go to the Capitol building and encourage lawmakers to use a largely ceremonial rubber-stamp session to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
"We're going walk down to the Capitol, and we're going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women," Trump said at that speech. "We're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong."
On Wednesday, as the House debated an article of impeachment and days after the FBI warned that more violent rallies may follow, Trump released the following statement. "In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind. 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. Thank You."
The riots briefly disrupted the electoral certification. Video from the riots showed some insurrectionists calling for Pence's execution, following his decision to follow his Constitutional duty and not overturn the election.