House Democrats Vote for Impeachment as Trump Condemns Capitol Break-in

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Photographers take pictures of the article of impeachment against President Donald Trump prior to it being signed at the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection, following Vice President Mike Pences refusal to use the 25th amendment to remove him from office for his role in the breach of the U.S. Capitol last week.
Photographers take pictures of the article of impeachment against President Donald Trump prior to it being signed at the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Image: Stefani Reynolds / Getty Images)

The House of Representatives has impeached Donald Trump for a second time, passing House Resolution 24 by a 232-197 margin. Ten Republicans crossed party lines, voting in favor of impeachment. 

Calls for Trump’s impeachment were put forward by Democrats following the breach of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 during the Joint Session of Congress that later confirmed Joe Biden as President-elect of the United States.

H. Res 24, should it run its course, would dash any ambitions Trump may have for either a 2024 presidential campaign or a run for senator or governor, as Section 3 of the 14th Amendment is specifically cited in the Resolution. The portion of the Constitution cited provides to prohibit any person who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States after taking an oath for office from holding any position in office.

The specific action the impeachment relies upon is a statement President Trump made regarding allegations of election fraud at a rally ahead of the Jan. 6 Joint Session of Congress to his supporters, stating: “If you don’t fight like Hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.”  

The motion also cites Trump’s Jan. 2 conference call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, referencing statements the president made during a 62-minute  phone conference. However, the meaning and context of Trump’s words appear to have been misconstrued to suggest that the President had asked Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the election. The impeachment documents also claim that Trump threatened the Secretary of State. 

Unprecedented impeachment

The impeachment, passed in a single seven-hour session, marks not only the fastest impeachment in U.S. history, but is the first time a president has been impeached twice in the same term.

All Democrats voted in favor of the Resolution to impeach. Ten Republicans broke party lines, including: Liz Cheney (R-Wyo), John Katko (R-NY), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill), Fred Upton (R-Mich), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash), Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Tom Rice (R-SC), David Valadao (R-Calif), and Peter Meijer (R-Mich). 

During debate, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), a former Navy prosecutor, spoke up for Trump: “At his rally, President Trump urged attendees to ‘peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.’ There was no mention of violence, let alone calls to action.” 

“President Donald Trump’s words would not even meet the definition of incitement under criminal statutes,” he said.

In a statement issued before the proceedings, Trump responded to reports of further demonstrations leading up to and during President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, asking for “NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” stating: “That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for.”

In a video statement issued by President Trump after the House vote, he addressed the nation, emphasizing that the break-in at the Capitol building was an attack on America and had outraged Americans across the political spectrum: 

“I want to be very clear. 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. Making America great again has always been about defending the rule of law, supporting the men and women of law enforcement, and upholding our nation’s most sacred traditions and values.” -Donald Trump

“Mob violence goes against everything I believe in, and everything our movement stands for. No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence. No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement or our great American flag. No true supporter of mine could ever threaten or harass their fellow Americans,” the outgoing President said.

No time for a trial: Dershowitz

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) rejected calls to begin an early start for Trump’s trial in the Senate: “Given the rules, procedures, and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachment trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week. The Senate has held three presidential impeachment trials. They have lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days respectively,” said McConnell in a statement.  

In this screenshot taken from a Senate Television webcast, legal counsel for President Donald Trump, Alan Dershowitz answers a question from a senator during impeachment proceedings in the Senate chamber at the U.S. Capitol on January 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. Senators have 16 hours to submit written questions to the House managers and the President's defense team.
In this screenshot taken from a Senate Television webcast, legal counsel for President Donald Trump Alan Dershowitz answers a question from a senator during impeachment proceedings in the Senate chamber at the U.S. Capitol on January 29, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Image: by Senate Television via Getty Images)

Harvard Law emeritus Alan Dershowitz, who defended Trump in his previous impeachment, pointed out the futility of House Democrats attempting to proceed with a second set of charges against the 45th president: “The case cannot come to trial in the Senate. Because the Senate has rules, and the rules would not allow the case to come to trial until, according to the majority leader, until 1 p.m. on January 20th, an hour after President Trump leaves office.”

“And the Constitution specifically says: ‘The President shall be removed from office upon impeachment.’ It doesn’t say the former president. Congress has no power to impeach or try a private citizen, whether it be a private citizen named Donald Trump or named Barack Obama or anyone else,” said Dershowitz in an interview with Fox Business on Sunday.

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  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.