House Impeaches Trump With 10 GOP Reps. Joining Dems

Law360 (January 13, 2021, 5:11 PM EST) -- The U.S. House on Wednesday made President Donald Trump the only chief executive impeached twice, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats to charge Trump with "incitement of insurrection" following his supporters' attack on the Capitol exactly one week earlier.

The chamber voted 232-197 to approve a single article of impeachment asserting that Trump "threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power and imperiled a coequal branch of government." The riot interrupted the certification of Trump's electoral loss and left at least five people dead, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

"The president of the United States incited this insurrection," Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on the House floor. "He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love. ... The president must be impeached, and, I believe, the president must be convicted by the Senate, 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."

It's not clear when this second Senate trial might begin. Some Democrats have urged quick action, while others suggested the House wait several months after the inauguration to let the Senate start work on the Biden administration's nominees and legislative agenda. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday the upper chamber would not reconvene before Jan. 19, making it likely the trial will start after Trump leaves office.

The top House Republican opposed Wednesday's quick impeachment, but said Trump bears some blame and should be censured instead as a measure of "durable, bipartisan justice."

"A vote to impeach would further fan the flames of partisan division," Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said in a floor speech. "That doesn't mean the president is free from fault. The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding."

While most GOP representatives criticized the impeachment effort as divisive, hasty and unnecessary, there was little defense of Trump's actions leading up to and inaction during the Capitol riot.

The 10 Republicans who broke with their party and supported Trump's impeachment were Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Tom Rice of South Carolina, David Valadao of California, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington, and Peter Meijer and Fred Upton of Michigan.

The highest-ranking among them was conference chair Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican.

"The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack," she said in a statement Tuesday. "There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution."

Cheney's position drew attacks from Trump's most loyal supporters. Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican whom Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week, told reporters Wednesday that the GOP should vote to remove Cheney from leadership. Jordan used his floor speech to praise Trump's record and call him a victim of "cancel culture."

"It's always been about getting the president no matter what. It's an obsession," Jordan said on the House floor. "One week before he leaves office ... they want to cancel the president who cut taxes, the president who reduced regulations, the president who, prior to COVID, had the greatest economy."

Although less than 5% of House Republicans supported this impeachment, their votes give a bipartisan imprimatur absent from Trump's first impeachment in 2019 over his campaign to have Ukraine investigate the Biden family. No Republicans supported that effort, which three Democrats opposed. The Senate then acquitted Trump, with Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney joining Democrats on one article of impeachment.

Regarding possible Senate action, prominent constitutional scholars say it would be permissible to hold a trial after the president leaves office, but some argue that would violate the Constitution.

Most Senate Democrats appear ready to vote to convict Trump and disqualify him from future federal office, though the caucus may not be unanimous.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a moderate Democrat whose state Trump won twice, called a second impeachment "ill-advised." He told Fox News on Monday that a Senate trial would extend partisan rancor and impede the Biden administration's early work.

The Senate's Democratic caucus, soon to number 50 after two wins in Georgia runoff elections, would need support from nearly 20 GOP senators to reach the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump. Only if he were convicted could the Senate disqualify him from future public office in what is customarily a separate vote requiring only a simple majority.

That level of Republican support appears unlikely, though some GOP senators have condemned Trump's actions last week. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania have called for his resignation. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said he would "definitely consider" any articles of impeachment. However, their strident criticism is the exception, and they did not commit to a vote.

While the House has impeached three presidents — Trump, Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson — none has been convicted in the Senate. Congressional records show the only officials the upper chamber has disqualified from future federal office were three former federal judges.

--Editing by Breda Lund.

Update: This article has been updated with McConnell's statement.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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