Reconvening under the threat of continued violence and the protection of thousands of National Guard troops, the House was determined to hold Trump to account just one week before he was to leave office. At issue was his role in encouraging a mob that attacked the Capitol one week ago while Congress met to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, forcing lawmakers to flee for their lives in a deadly rampage.
The House adopted a single article of impeachment, voting 232-197 to charge Trump with “inciting violence against the government of the United States” and requesting his immediate removal from office and disqualification from ever holding one again.
Ten Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach: Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the party’s No. 3 leader in the House; 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; David Valadao of California and Tom Rice of South Carolina.
The defections were a remarkable break from the head of the party by Republicans, who voted unanimously against impeaching Trump just over a year ago.
The vote set the stage for the second Senate trial of Trump in a year, though senators appeared unlikely to convene to sit in judgment before Jan. 20, when Biden will take the oath of office. The last proceeding, over Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to smear Biden, was a partisan affair.
This time, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, was said to support the effort as a means of purging his party of Trump, setting up a political and constitutional showdown that could shape the course of American politics when the nation remains dangerously divided.
In a note to Republican colleagues on Wednesday, McConnell did not deny that he backed the impeachment push, but he said that he had “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.”
Trump showed no contrition for his actions. But in the run-up to the vote Wednesday, he issued a statement urging his supporters to remain peaceful as federal authorities warned of a nationwide wave of violence surrounding Biden’s inauguration.
“There must be no violence, no lawbreaking and no vandalism of any kind,” the president said in a statement that was read by Republicans from the House floor. “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.”
The House’s vote was historic. Only two other presidents have been impeached; none has been impeached twice, by such a large bipartisan margin, or so close to leaving office.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California implored colleagues before the vote 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.”
“He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love,” she said, adding later, “It gives me no pleasure to say this — it breaks my heart.”
Republicans, who stood unanimously behind Trump in 2019 during his first impeachment, were split over the charge this time.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican leader, spoke out against impeachment, warning that it would “further fan the flames of partisan division.” But he also pinned blame on Trump for the attack and batted down false suggestions from some of his colleagues that antifa had actually been responsible for the siege, not loyalists to Trump. He proposed censuring the president instead of impeaching him.
“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” McCarthy said. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”
Democrats and some Republicans had tried — briefly — to take another course. They urged Trump to resign voluntarily and voted late Tuesday to call on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to wrest the powers of the presidency from Trump for the remainder of his term. Trump refused, and so did Pence.