House Dems Move To Impeach Trump Over Capitol Attack

Law360 (January 11, 2021, 2:40 PM EST) -- House Democrats on Monday introduced an article of impeachment charging President Donald Trump with inciting an insurrection by encouraging his supporters' deadly attack on the Capitol last week, with more than 200 co-sponsors ready to make Trump the first American president impeached twice.

The resolution's single article of impeachment charges that Trump "threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power and imperiled a coequal branch of government" by directing followers to the Capitol after a baseless campaign claiming massive election fraud. With nearly universal backing among Democrats, Trump's second impeachment could come as soon as this week.

The House is expected to vote first on a resolution urging Vice President Mike Pence to remove Trump from power using the 25th Amendment, a move endorsed by Democrats and some law firms, including DLA Piper, but few Republican officials. Pence and Cabinet officials have shown no sign that they plan to take that unprecedented step. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., planned a Tuesday vote on the measure.

"Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the floor," Pelosi said in a letter to her caucus Sunday. "In protecting our Constitution and our democracy, we will act with urgency, because this president represents an imminent threat to both. As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this president is intensified and so is the immediate need for action."

Although impeachment normally follows a long process in committees with public hearings and arguments defending the president, Democrats are moving quickly. Trump's term ends Jan. 20, and it's not clear whether former presidents can face impeachment, with no historical precedent or court ruling on the issue.

House Democrats appear ready to vote, with 214 of 222 signing onto the resolution with the article of impeachment. Approval requires only a simple majority of about 217 representatives.

"I can report that we now have the votes to impeach," Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., tweeted Monday. He wrote the proposal along with Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

The effort has been endorsed by only one Republican, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger. Most Republican lawmakers have either defended Trump or said another impeachment would be counterproductive.

"Partisans of all stripes first must unite as Americans and show our country that a peaceful transition of power has occurred," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement Friday. "Impeaching the president with just 12 days left in his term will only divide our country more."

A House impeachment vote would tee up a Senate trial, but Democratic leaders might wait several months to send over the article of impeachment, to allow work on President-elect Joe Biden's nominees and legislative goals.

"Let's give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running," House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said Sunday on CNN. "And maybe we will send the articles some time after that."

A two-thirds majority in the Senate could convict Trump and disqualify him from any future federal office. Unanimous Democrats would need support from nearly 20 Republicans in the upper chamber.

While many GOP senators have denounced Trump's actions last week — and two, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, have called for Trump to resign — few have shown interest in an impeachment process that would block him from seeking the presidency again in 2024, as he has vowed. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said Friday on CBS that he "will definitely consider whatever articles they might move."

Impeachment would come less than a year after Trump's first Senate trial, which focused on his push for Ukraine to investigate Biden's family. In February 2020, the Senate acquitted Trump on a 48-52 vote, with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, voting with Democrats for one article of impeachment.

Democrats are also pushing to punish or even expel Republican legislators who they say contributed to the Capitol attack by endorsing baseless charges of significant election fraud. There does not appear to be widespread Democratic support for such moves, and expulsion requires a two-thirds majority vote in the members' chamber.

Progressives including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have floated blocking lawmakers under a provision of the 14th Amendment that disqualifies any official who has "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the [Constitution], or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof." Pelosi acknowledged the discussion in her letter Sunday but said only that she valued her members' views.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, a senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called Monday for congressional ethics investigations that "must consider the expulsion, or censure and punishment" of Republicans including Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas. In the interim, Whitehouse said they should be suspended from panels investigating the attack, including the Judiciary Committee, which considers judicial nominations.

--Editing by Gemma Horowitz.

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