The House moved closer Monday to impeaching President Donald Trump an unprecedented second time, this time for inciting his supporters who invaded the U.S. Capitol during Congress’ electoral vote count last week.
Democrats introduced an article of impeachment Monday that charges Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors for whipping up an insurrection and disrupting the peaceful transfer of power.
The three lawmakers leading the effort — Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Ted Lieu, D-Calif. — say at least 210 House members have co-sponsored the measure. It is unclear whether their article is the one the chamber would ultimately consider.
It puts them just shy of the 218-vote majority needed to impeach Trump in the House, though the number could end up lower due to vacancies and absences. Democrats hold 222 seats.
Although there are only eight days left for the Trump administration, impeaching him could bar him from public office in the future.
During a brief pro forma House session Monday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., also tried to unanimously pass Raskin’s resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Rep Alex Mooney, R-W.V., objected. Democrats are expected to pass the resolution in a full vote as soon as Tuesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. has said the 25th Amendment would be the most effective way to remove Trump. She has said the House will pursue impeachment if the executive branch does not act.
“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” she wrote. “As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this President is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.”
The House will likely vote to impeach Trump by later this week, only a few days before President-elect Joe Biden will take office one week from Wednesday. Democrats say taking no action against Trump before then raises the threat of more violence and lets the president off unscathed for spurring a mob that stormed the Capitol, resulting in the deaths of a police officer and four other people, and threatened the lives of Pence and lawmakers. A second police officer who had been at the Capitol died off-duty this weekend, and the cause of death has not been disclosed.
Trump exhorted his supporters outside the White House to march on the Capitol shortly before the Capitol siege and repeated lies that widespread fraud cost him the November election. On the day of the vote tally, he falsely claimed Pence had the power to stop the vote count himself and send the process back to states.
The impeachment article drafted by Raskin, Cicilline and Lieu, titled “Incitement to Insurrection,” charges that Trump “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” It cites his repeated false claims that widespread fraud led to Biden’s win, and his comments to his supporters Wednesday, including an assertion that “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
The article also points to Trump’s pressure on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s win in the state.
The Senate likely will not have time to convict Trump and remove him before the president leaves office. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a memo that the chamber would not receive impeachment articles earlier than Jan. 19, according to NBC News. The Senate must promptly start a trial once it receives articles of impeachment from the House.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., told CNN on Sunday that the House may delay sending articles to the Senate until after Biden’s first 100 days in office. He worries the Senate spending time on a trial in the early days of the administration would hamper Biden’s early agenda, which would include confirmation of Cabinet members and coronavirus relief legislation.
The White House and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., have argued impeachment would divide the country. McCarthy, who objected to counting Biden’s valid and certified electoral wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania even after the mob stormed the Capitol, said he reached out to Biden about uniting the country.
Supporters of impeachment have said moving on without holding Trump accountable for the attack on the democratic process will make further insurrection more likely.
By the time the Senate votes on impeachment, the chamber could be split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. While the chamber could not remove Trump from office at that point, it could prevent him from becoming president again if he tried to run in 2024.
If all Democrats vote to convict Trump, 17 Republicans would have to join them to meet the needed two-thirds threshold. It is unclear now if Democrats can muster that much GOP support.
Two Senate Republicans, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, have called on Trump to resign. Another, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, said he would “consider” any impeachment articles the House sent to the Senate.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was the only GOP senator to vote to remove Trump from office last year.