Donald J. Trump last week Wednesday became the first American President to be impeached twice, as 10 members of his party joined with Democrats in the House to charge him with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in instigating a violent mob that stormed the Capitol two weeks ago.
Reconvening in a building now heavily militarised against threats from pro-Trump activists and adorned with bunting for the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., lawmakers voted 232 to 197 to approve a single impeachment article. It accused Trump of “inciting violence against the government of the United States” in his quest to overturn the election results, and called for him to be removed and disqualified from ever holding public office again.
The vote left another indelible stain on Trump’s presidency just a week before he is slated to leave office and laid bare the cracks running through the Republican Party. More members of his party voted to charge the President than in any other impeachment.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, declaring the past week one of the darkest chapters in American history, implored colleagues to embrace “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.”
A little more than a year after she led a painstaking, three-month process to impeach Mr. Trump the first time for a pressure campaign on Ukraine to incriminate Mr. Biden — a case rejected by the president’s unfailingly loyal Republican supporters — Ms. Pelosi had moved this time with little fanfare to do the same job in only seven days.
The implication is that if convicted in the Senate, Trump would no longer be eligible to hold public office; he will lose his $200,000 pension for the rest of his life and forfeit a $1 million per year travel allowance. But he would still maintain eligibility for secret service protection.
The Democrats’ goal is to bar Trump from ever serving in public office again, which according to analysts, does not bode well for Trump’s political influence in future.
But the impeachment appears unlikely to lead to his ouster before his term ends since there are no plans to convene a vote in the Republican-led Senate, which alone has the power to remove him.
Meanwhile, in addition to the thousands who stormed the Capitol building, Trump also retains supporters among elected Republicans, seen most clearly in the 147 representatives who voted not to certify Biden’s electoral victory even after the insurrection took place.
What such events seem to reveal in the waning days of Trump’s term as president is that he and his many followers will move into the future undeterred by whatever opponents may throw at them.
But the reality is that presidents have on many occasions remained quite active, causing controversies, seeking power and, at the very least, trying to stay relevant well after their days in the Oval office came to an end.
“We are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” President Donald Trump exhorted his screaming supporters before they marched on the US Capitol last week, saying he’d go with them. He did not – and what unfolded was a deadly breach of the citadel of American democracy that has left Trump’s world crumbling in the final days of his presidency.
Trump had wanted to join the thousands of hardcore followers who assembled at Capitol Hill on January 6. He told aides in the days leading up to the rally that he planned to accompany them to demonstrate his ire at Congress as it moved to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s November election victory.
But the Secret Service kept warning him that agents could not guarantee his safety if he went ahead, according to two people familiar with the matter. Trump relented and instead hunkered down at the White House to watch television images of the mob rioting he is accused of triggering.
The storming of the US Capitol left five people dead, including a police officer, and threatened the lives of Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress, deeply wounding what remained of Trump’s presidency ahead of Biden’s swearing-in on January 20.
Even so, the House’s unprecedented rebuke capped a week that has been perilously unstable even for a presidency where chaos has long reigned.
However, just three Presidents have been impeached in American history: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Donald Trump last year. None of them were removed from office, having all been acquitted in Senate trials. But Trump became the first president to be impeached for the second time.
Trump was impeached just over a year ago, in December 2019, on two charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Those charges stemmed from his efforts to persuade the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on Biden and his son Hunter during an infamous phone call between the two world leaders.
Subsequently, Trump was acquitted in February following a Senate trial that saw lawmakers split along political party lines.