US election: Donald Trump impeachment underway in House of Representatives

Key points:

• The US House of Representatives is now voting to impeach President Donald Trump.
• National Guard troops have gathered to defend the US Capitol throughout the process.
• A number of Republican leaders and lawmakers support the impeachment.
• Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has sent a note to Republican colleagues informing them that he remains undecided on whether to convict the President.
• Trump has issued a statement urging “no violence, no lawbreaking” following the deadly insurrection last week.

President Donald Trump is on the verge of being impeached for a second time as the US House of Representatives begins voting on impeachment just a week after the President encouraged loyalists to “fight like hell” against election results, prompting a mob of his supporters to storm the US Capitol.

During debate on the articles of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Republicans and Democrats to “search their souls” ahead of the historic afternoon vote. Trump “must go,” Pelosi said. “He is a clear and present danger to the nation we all love.”

If Trump is impeached in the House, a two-thirds majority of the Republican-led Senate is needed to convict him, meaning at least 17 Republicans in the 100-member chamber would have to find him guilty. The Hill reports that Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has sent a note to his colleagues informing them that he remains undecided on whether to convict Trump.

Actual removal from office seems unlikely before the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. A spokesman for McConnell said the Republican leader would not agree to convene the Senate immediately, all but ensuring a trial will not begin until after Biden is sworn in as the new president.

Trump will likely become the first American president to be impeached twice in the House of Representatives.

‘THIS WAS AN ATTACK ON AMERICA – INCITED BY TRUMP – WE MUST REMOVE HIM’

Democrat Representative Pramila Jayapal has hit out at Donald Trump over the Capitol riots, saying on social media that the “serious attack on America” was “incited by Trump”.

She has asked on her colleagues to impeach the President.

“They had bombs. They killed several people. They had nooses, zip ties, and pipes. They came armed & with bulletproof vests. They chanted ‘Hang Mike Pence.’ They hunted the Speaker of the House.

“This was a serious attack on America—and it was incited by Trump. We must remove him.”

AT LEAST SEVEN HOUSE REPUBLICANS WILL VOTE TO IMPEACH TRUMP

At least seven Republicans in the House of Representatives have indicated they will vote to impeach US President Donald Trump.

Republican Representative Dan Newhouse of Washington, tweeted his statement where he indicated he we vote in favour of impeachment.

“Turning a blind eye to this brutal assault on our Republic is not an option,” Newhouse stated.

“There is no excuse for President Trump’s actions.

“Others, including myself, are responsible for not speaking out sooner — before the President misinformed and inflamed a violent mob,” Newhouse said.

“The President took an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Last week, there was a domestic threat at the door of the Capitol, and he did nothing to stop it. That is why with a heavy heart and clear resolve, I will vote yes on these articles of impeachment,” he said.

Newhouse now joins other Republicans who have said they will vote to impeach Trump. At least seven have said they will break ranks.

These are the Republicans who say they will vote for impeachment so far:

Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington
Rep. John Katko of New York
Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler of Washington
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois
Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming
Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan

TRUMP IS A ‘TRAITOR TO OUR COUNTRY’: DEMOCRAT ANNA ESHOO

Representative Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from California, called President Trump a “traitor to our country” during her speech on the House floor this afternoon.

Eshoo said: “future generations are not going to know the names of each member in the chamber today, in voting, but they will know what we did and why. We must impeach the President, because he incited a mob that attacked the Capitol of the United States. The tabernacle of our democracy.”

She added that Trump is “incapable of honouring his oath and our constitution, and he has proven to be dangerous.”

“I will vote to impeach this traitor to our country,” Eshoo said.

‘NO VIOLENCE’: TRUMP URGES AMERICANS, BIG TECH TO ENSURE PEACEFUL TRANSITION

Donald Trump has released a statement asking Americans to “ease tensions and calm tempers”, saying he does “not” stand for violence “of any kind”.

He has also asked Big Tech to join the effort.

“In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” the president said in a statement to Fox News. “That is not what I stand for and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers. Thank You.”

Security was exceptionally tight Wednesday (US time), with shocking images of National Guard troops massed at the iconic Capitol and secure perimetres around the complex. Lawmakers were required to go through metal-detector screenings to enter the House chamber.

While Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 brought no Republican votes in the House, a small but significant number of leaders and lawmakers are breaking with the party to join Democrats, saying Trump violated his oath to protect and defend US democracy.

Trump was impeached in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine but acquitted by the Senate in 2020.

REPUBLICANS WARN OF DIVISION

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a frequent Trump ally, said the impeachment effort being pushed by House Democrats could “do great damage to the institutions of government” and warned his GOP colleagues not to support it.

Last week, Graham condemned the violent mob of the President’s supporters who invaded the Capitol. After that siege and after Trump had pushed the unconstitutional argument that Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the election results, Graham said to count him out and that “enough is enough”.

Still, Graham has stayed in touch with the increasingly isolated president. And Graham’s message to fellow Republicans on impeachment is that those “who legitimise this process, you are doing great damage not only to the country, the future of the presidency, but also to the party”.

He said the millions of people who have supported Trump and his agenda “should not be demonised because of the despicable actions of a seditious mob”.

Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California, a top Trump ally, scrambled to suggest a lighter censure instead, but that option crumbled.

The House tried first to push Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to intervene, passing a resolution Tuesday night calling on them to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office.

Pence made it clear he would not do so, saying in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that it was “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden”.

Debate over the resolution was intense after lawmakers returned the Capitol for the first time since the siege.

Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio revived Trump’s false claims about the election results at the heart of the impeachment charge, drawing sharp rebukes from McGovern and others that “big lies” were fueling the nation’s divide.

Republican Missouri Representative Jason Smith called the swift proceeding a “reckless” impeachment. He said, “This will only bring up the hate and fire more than ever before.”

“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” Trump said Tuesday (US time), his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence.

One 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. Lawmakers had to scramble for safety and hide as rioters took control of the Capitol, delaying by hours the tally of Electoral College votes which was the last step in finalising Biden’s victory.

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

With just over a week remaining in Trump’s term, the FBI warned ominously of potential armed protests by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden’s inauguration. Capitol Police urged lawmakers to be on alert. Charges of sedition are being considered for rioters.

New security in place, lawmakers were required to pass through metal detectors to enter the House chamber, not far from where Capitol police, guns drawn, had barricaded the door against the rioters. Some Republican lawmakers complained about the screening.

Biden has said it’s important to ensure that the “folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage — that they be held accountable”.

Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down his first days in office, the President-elect is encouraging senators to divide their time between taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving Covid-19 relief while also conducting the trial.

The impeachment bill draws from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden. Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.

Like the resolution to invoke the 25th Amendment, the impeachment bill also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes and his White House rally rant to “fight like hell” by heading to the Capitol.

While some have questioned impeaching the President so close to the end of his term, there is precedent.

In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.

– additional reporting: AP

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