WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump on Wednesday and sent its impeachment resolution to the Senate to convict him.
The resolution holds Mr Trump responsible for the Jan 6 mob attack on the Capitol building that led to the death of at least five people and desecrated the temple of American democracy. The move also makes him the first US president to be impeached twice.
“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government,” the impeachment resolution said.
“He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
Resolution now goes to Senate; Vice President Pence refuses to remove the president immediately
“We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi while opening the debate.
“Since the presidential election in November, an election that the president lost, he has repeatedly lied about the outcome. Sowed self-serving doubts about democracy, and unconstitutionally sought to influence state officials to repeal reality,” she added.
Remembering the Jan 6 mob attack, Speaker Pelosi said: “And then came that day of fire we all experienced. The president must be impeached, and I believe the president must be convicted by the Senate.”
Impeaching and convicting the president, she said, would be 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.”
Congressman Dan Newhouse from the state of Washington was the first Republican to say he would vote for impeachment. “Last week, there was a domestic threat at the door of the Capitol, and he did nothing to stop it. That’s why with a heavy heart and clear resolve, I will vote ‘yes’ on these articles of impeachment,” he said.
The announcement earned a thunderous applause from the Democrats.
Another Republican from the same state, Jaime Beutler, said she too would vote for impeachment even though she feared she would be targeted by Trump supporters for doing so.
“My vote to impeach a sitting president is not a fear-based decision. I am not choosing a side. I am choosing truth. It’s the only way to defeat fear,” she said.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who leads the Republicans in the House, acknowledged that President Trump was “not free of fault” as “he failed to take action” when needed. He noted that Mr Trump’s “rhetoric that Joe Biden is not the elected president” was not helpful either.
But he said he was voting against impeachment because it would further divide the nation and the trial would not even begin before Mr Biden takes oath on Jan 20.
As the debate began, the US media reported that more than a dozen Republicans in the House and Senate might support the impeachment article.
The impeachment article blames President Trump for “engaging in high crimes and misdemeanours by inciting violence against the Government of the United States”. To support the argument, the article cites Trump’s false claims of election fraud in the months leading up to the Jan 6 attack and a phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, urging him to “find” votes to overturn the results there.
The impeachment article notes that during an address to supporters on Wednesday, Trump “willfully made statements [that] 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 county anymore’.”
On Tuesday night, the House voted 223 to 205, asking Vice President Pence to invoke section four of the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump. Pence, however, has refused to do so.
Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the chairperson of the House Republican Conference, joined those demanding impeachment. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the constitution,” she said.
Ms Cheney holds the third-highest position in the House Republican leadership and as the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney she is admired by the conservatives as well.
Also on Tuesday, six House Republicans introduced a resolution to censure President Trump over his role in stoking last week’s violent riots, arguing that this was the best move as the impeachment would never get enough votes in the Senate to pass.
But after Mr Pence’s announcement that he was not going to remove Mr Trump, political observers in Washington say that it would be difficult to oust the president before Jan 20. They point out that the Senate is scheduled to meet on Jan 19 and Democrats do not have enough votes in the Senate to call an early session.
President-elect Biden too has said that his first preference was to ensure a peaceful transition on Jan 20, but he would not interfere in congressional proceedings.
Observers see these as preventive measures, aimed at stopping Trump from making another irrational move like the crowd attack on Congress.
In a letter to House Speaker Pelosi on Tuesday, Mr Pence wrote: “I do not believe that such a course of action (removing the president) is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution.”
He said the 25th amendment was “not a means of punishment or usurpation”, and that invoking it would “set a terrible precedent”.
Pence, who has been praised by both Republicans and Democrats for refusing to follow his boss’s advice to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, assured the nation that the Trump administration was committed to ensuring a smooth transition in its final days and that “now is the time to heal”.
Pence has promised to attend Mr Biden’s inauguration on Jan 20 as well, unlike Trump who has opted out.
Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2021