13 January 2021

Trump impeachment vote under way after Capitol siege

President Donald Trump is on the verge of being impeached for a second time just a week after a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol.

Voting on an article of impeachment for “incitement of insurrection” is under way.

During a debate in the House of Representatives, speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Republicans and Democrats to “search their souls” ahead of the historic vote. Mr Trump would be the first American president to be impeached twice.

Ms Pelosi called Mr Trump a “clear and present danger to the nation we all love”.

Actual removal seems unlikely before the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

A spokesman for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said the Republican leader would not agree to bring the chamber back immediately, all but ensuring a Senate trial could not begin at least until January 19.

But Mr McConnell did not rule out voting to convict Mr 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.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (AP)

“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,” Mr McConnell wrote.

While Mr Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 brought no Republican votes in the House, several Republican leaders are breaking with the party to join Democrats this time, saying Mr Trump violated his oath to protect and defend US democracy.

However, most Republicans planned to vote “no” and representative Tom McClintock of California said during debate that impeaching Mr Trump a week before he leaves office is a “petty, vindictive and gratuitous act”.

As for threats of more trouble from intruders, security was exceptionally tight at the Capitol with shocking images of massed National Guard troops, secure perimeters around the complex and metal detector screenings required for representatives entering the House chamber.

Troops stand in formation inside the Capitol (AP)

Though Mr McConnell is declining to hasten an impeachment trial, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press that he believes Mr Trump committed impeachable offences and considers the Democrats’ impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic president’s hold on his party.

Mr McConnell called major Republican donors last weekend to gauge their thinking about Mr Trump and was told that the president had clearly crossed a line. Mr McConnell told them he was finished with Mr Trump, said the strategist.

The New York Times first reported Mr McConnell’s views on impeachment on Tuesday.

The stunning collapse of Mr Trump’s final days in office, along with warnings of more violence ahead, leaves the nation at an uneasy and unfamiliar juncture before Mr Biden takes office.

Mr Trump faces a single charge of “incitement of insurrection”.

The four-page impeachment resolution relies on Mr Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Mr Biden’s election victory, including at a White House rally on the day of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, in making its case for “high crimes and misdemeanours” as demanded in the Constitution.

Mr Trump took no responsibility for the riot, suggesting it was the drive to oust him rather than his actions around the bloody riot 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,” Mr Trump said on Tuesday, in his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence.

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.

The outgoing president offered no condolences for those dead or injured, only saying: “I want no violence.”

At least five Republican representatives, including third-ranking House Republican leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, were unswayed by the president’s logic. These Republicans announced they would vote to impeach Mr Trump.

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