Exactly one week after the deadly insurgence at the U.S. Capitol, 10 Republican members of the House of Representatives joined Democrats in a 223-205 vote to impeach outgoing President Donald Trump for a second time.
Never before in the country’s history has a president been impeached twice.
Both impeachments were directly tied to the outcome of the 2020 election. The first instance came after it was discovered that Trump had, unsuccessfully, used the weight of his office in an attempt to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation into Hunter Biden, President-elect Joe Biden’s son. The goal then was to shape the narrative ahead of the election.
The second instance came after Trump relentlessly and baselessly propagated what’s been coined as “the big lie,” where he claims the election was fraudulent and stolen from him, that he instead won in a landslide. With provocation by the president and his allies, that lie resulted in thousands of his supporters violently storming the Capitol building where they ruthlessly assaulted officers and threatened to “hang” Vice President Mike Pence and other members of Congress.
Many rioters came equipped with tactical gear, weapons, chemical agents, zip ties and a functional gallows.
Despite Trump’s loss of 64 post-election court cases, according to Marc E. Elias of Democracy Docket, the president refused to accept that he’d legally lost by a margin of more than 7 million votes. In public appearances and on social media, he strongly encouraged his supporters and other elected officials to stand with him in the “fight” to overturn the election.
He’d invited supporters to join him in Washington D.C. for a “wild day” on Jan. 6, 2021, which coincided with the process of counting and certifying electoral votes in Congress, led by Pence as the Senate president.
In a rally that morning near the White House, Trump continued his assault on the election results and called on his MAGA base to never give up, to be strong, to fight and ultimately telling them the country would be destroyed if Pence allowed Biden to be certified as the winner. Constitutionally speaking, Pence never had the authority to upend the certification results. Trump that morning told his supporters to march to the Capitol.
During that same rally, Donald Trump Jr and Rudy Giuliani poured fuel on the fire with incendiary language. Giuliani notably told the crowd that it was time for “trial by combat.”
What happened after that rally is now etched into the history of our nation and will forever be recalled as one of its darkest days. As members of Congress huddled in locked spaces for safety, Capitol police attempted to hold back a raging mob. While some officers are under investigation for possibly aiding and abetting the insurrection effort, others valiantly faced down the violent crowd as best as they could with little support — they were overwhelmingly outnumbered and unprepared for what transpired.
Six people died as a result of the day’s events: four from the mob of Trump supporters and two Capitol officers, one who was beaten to death and another who committed suicide days after.
More than 70 people have since been arrested and more than another 170 have been identified as suspects, according to the FBI in a press briefing held Tuesday. There are ongoing investigations to identify suspects, ferret out who may have provided inside help and establish what procedural issues were intentionally altered or had failed that led to the crowd’s ability to overrun Capitol police.
It will take time to thoroughly investigate and understand how the event occurred and what parties share responsibility. But the House of Representatives moved swiftly to hold Trump accountable by way of impeachment for the charge of inciting an insurrection. The evidence against the president did not require lengthy investigation — what he is accused of has been documented in plain view and thematically dominated his Twitter account, which has since been permanently suspended.
Wednesday’s impeachment vote broke historical ground. In the course of one four-year term, Trump was impeached by the House twice — the only two prior presidents had been impeached prior to his administration. Ten GOP members of the House supported the impeachment, marking the most bipartisan effort thus far. It was reported by several news outlets Wednesday that additional Republican House members wanted to support the impeachment but were deterred by death threats.
The intimidation issue tracks with an editorial published Friday by SFBay, asserting that the mob was successful in instilling terror that obstructs the normal course of governance and public activity.
While no president has been convicted by the Senate, Trump may also make history in that territory. Short-lived Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not publicly said he would vote to convict Trump in a Senate trial, but he’s also avoided saying he would not vote for conviction. McConnell is widely seen as an intentional politician — his absence of confirmation one way or the other is notable.
With just seven days until Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the U.S., some have questioned what impact impeachment can possibly have. McConnell has so far refused to commence a Senate trial until after Trump is out of office. However, a substantial aim at this point is to ensure Trump is barred from again holding public office, preemptively dashing his hopes for any future run.
If the Senate does convict him, they will also be asked to vote on the secondary issue that could result in the “disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.”