Donald Trump 'willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol.'
Donald Trump on Wednesday became the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, and now has the distinction of having been the subject of half of all of the presidential impeachments that have taken place since the birth of the republic.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump on one article, namely: "In his conduct while President of the United States—and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed—Donald John Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States."
Trump was charged based on his actions at a rally just prior to the violent and deadly attack by his supporters on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when a mob broke into and ransacked the building in response to the joint session of Congress being held there to certify the results of voting in the Electoral College and confirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election.
The impeachment charge says Trump "willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol, such as: 'if you don't fight like hell you're not going to have a country anymore.'"
"Donald John Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law," the impeachment charge concludes. "Donald John Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States."
In contrast to his first impeachment, which no Republican House members voted in favor of, at least 10 Republicans voted this time to impeach Trump. Among them was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), a member of House Republican leadership, who said in a statement announcing that she supported impeachment, "There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution."
The House voted to impeach Trump exactly one week after the violence at the Capitol, which resulted in the deaths of five people, including one Capitol Police officer.
The House proceeded with impeachment hearings after Mike Pence refused to remove Trump by invoking the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which sets forth the authority of "the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide" to deem a president "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."
It has not yet been determined when a trial in the Senate would take place.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would not be back in session until Jan. 20, meaning that a trial wouldn't take place until after Trump was out of office. However, sources tell the New York Times that McConnell is in favor of convicting Trump, with the idea that doing so would rid the GOP of the man who oversaw the party's loss of the House, the Senate, and the White House in just four years.
Trying Trump on the charge on which he was impeached will put a number of Senate Republicans up for reelection on the spot, forcing them to choose between voting to let Trump off the hook for inciting a deadly insurrection or enraging his still significant base by voting to punish him.
The first time Trump was impeached, almost exactly a year ago to the day, it was on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress connected with his attempts to coerce Ukraine into announcing that it was investigating Trump's likely Democratic opponent in the 2020 election, Joe Biden. During the trial that followed, just one Republican voted to convict him: Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.
Just two other U.S. presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.
Clinton was not convicted during his trial in the Senate. Some of the GOP senators who did vote to convict him are still serving: McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Mike Crapo, Chuck Grassley, Jim Inhofe, and Richard Shelby.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.