WASHINGTON, (AFP) – Donald Trump became the first US president in history to be impeached twice when the US House of Representatives voted Wednesday to charge him with inciting last week’s mob attack on Congress.
“Today, in a bipartisan way, the House demonstrated that no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States,” Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after the vote.
The Senate will not hold a trial before January 20, when Democrat Joe Biden assumes the presidency, meaning the real estate tycoon will escape the ignominy of being forced to leave early.
He is set, however, to face a Senate trial later and if convicted he might be barred in a follow-up vote from seeking the presidency again in 2024.
In the House of Representatives, the only question was how many Republicans would join the lockstep Democratic majority in the 232-197 vote. At final count, 10 Republicans broke ranks, including the party’s number three in the House, Representative Liz Cheney.
“I am in total peace today that my vote was the right thing and I actually think history will judge it that way,” said Adam Kinzinger, a vocal Trump critic and one of the Republicans who crossed the aisle.
But Nancy Mace, a newly-elected Republican congresswoman said that while lawmakers “need to hold the president accountable,” the speed of the impeachment “poses great questions about the constitutionality.”
The top Republican in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, said that while Trump deserves censure, hurriedly impeaching will “further divide this nation”.
Holed up in the White House, Trump issued a videotaped address in which he made no mention of impeachment or his ferocious attempts to persuade half the country into believing that Biden’s victory was fraudulent.
Instead, the comments focused on an appeal for Americans to be “united”, avoid violence and “overcome the passions of the moment”.
“There is never a justification for violence. No excuses, no exceptions: America is a nation of laws,” Trump said.
Biden, who inherits the pandemic and an ailing economy amid many other woes, urged the Senate to address his priorities such as approving cabinet nominations while also dealing with Trump’s trial.
“I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation,” Biden said in a statement.
Trump survived a first impeachment almost exactly a year ago when the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted him of abusing his office to try and get dirt on Biden’s family before the election.
This time, his downfall was triggered by a speech he delivered to a crowd on the National Mall on January 6, telling them that Biden had stolen the presidential election and that they needed to march on Congress and show “strength”.