Donald Trump is set to become the first US president to be impeached twice, after Democrats in the House of Representatives formally charged him with one count of “incitement of insurrection”, over the Capitol Hill riot.
Five people died in the attack last week, which Trump prompted when he told supporters to “fight like hell” in his attempt to overturn election defeat by Joe Biden.
On Monday, as security officials scrambled to ensure that the inauguration next week would not be marred by violence attached to protests planned for the day, Democrats in the House moved swiftly.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who in an interview on Sunday called Trump “a deranged, unhinged, dangerous president”, initiated a plan in two parts.
An initial resolution called on Vice-President Mike Pence to support removing Trump under the 25th amendment.
A clause in the amendment, never before invoked, describes how members of the cabinet can agree to remove a president under extreme circumstances. Pence, a staunch loyalist until the climax of Trump’s effort to overturn the election, has signaled no intention of joining such a move.
But it was followed by the introduction of an impeachment article citing “incitement of insurrection”. Trump was charged to have “engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by inciting violence against the government of the United States” and in so doing violated his oath of office.
The article cited 14th amendment prohibitions against any person “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the USA from “hold[ing] any office … under the United States”.
The House could bring the single article to the floor for a vote by midweek. With a simple majority vote by Democrats and sympathetic Republicans, Trump would be impeached a second time. But he would not be removed, which would require conviction in the Senate.
The Senate is in recess until after the inauguration, and Democratic leaders have said they will not take up impeachment until after the Biden administration has had time to try to have nominees confirmed and to pass key legislation, in its first 100 days.
A small number of Republicans in the Senate and House have joined Democrats’ effort to remove Trump, arguing that even with – or especially with – so little time remaining in his term, he represents a danger to the country.
But conviction in the Senate would be a long shot, as it was last time the president was impeached. Some Republicans have indicated support this time but about a dozen more will be needed for success.
Trump was charged with two articles of impeachment in December 2019 and acquitted in February 2020. Senators found him not guilty of abuse of power by a 52-48 tally and not guilty of obstruction of Congress by 53-47. Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Republican to vote to convict – on the charge of abuse of power.
If Trump were convicted after he had left office, he would be barred from seeking office again, as opponents fear is his plan.
After the attack on the US Capitol, the president retreated from the public eye, banned from Facebook and Twitter, condemned by former allies and vowing not to attend Biden’s inauguration on 20 January.
His silence was filled by full-throated calls from Democrats for his ejection from office – and meek pushback from some Republicans calling for national “unity” after their attempt to overturn the November election produced one of the most egregious acts of violence on Capitol Hill in two centuries.
There are now signs that die-hard Trump loyalists are planning to march on the Capitol yet again, on Inauguration Day, in an event branded online as “A Million Militia March”.
The FBI has arrested dozens of participants in last week’s rioting and continued to circulate wanted posters of suspects, potentially dampening participation in another rally.
But with nine days to go to the inauguration, officials were planning to secure the area. The mayor of Washington, Muriel Bowser, asked the Department of Homeland Security to put new restrictions in place. The Pentagon, FBI, Secret Service and other agencies were reportedly placed on alert.
The inauguration will be attended by Barack and Michelle Obama, George and Laura Bush and Bill and Hillary Clinton. Biden, incoming Vice-President Kamala Harris and their families will be joined by the former presidents and their families in a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, ABC reported.
Such plans were made as the nation struggled to come to terms with the violence last week in which five were killed and dozens injured.
On Monday, Melania Trump released a widely ridiculed statement in which she honored all of the dead, placing a Capitol police officer who died after confronting rioters next to a rioter who was shot while seeking to force entry to the inner sanctums of Congress.
The first lady also sought to portray herself as a victim, of what she called “salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks and false misleading accusations”.
News – Trump impeachment: Democrats formally charge president with inciting insurrection