A week after President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, the House of Representatives began an emotional debate on Wednesday (January 13) on impeaching him for his role in an assault on American democracy that stunned the world and left five dead.
At least five Republicans have said they would join Democrats in voting for an article of impeachment – a formal charge – of inciting an insurrection, although just seven days remain for a Senate trial to expel Trump from office. If the Democratic-led House approves it, Trump would become the first president impeached twice.
“The president of the United States instigated an attempted coup in this country,” Democratic Representative Jim McGovern said on the House floor before a procedural vote on moving forward with impeachment.
Some Republicans made speeches urging the House not to impeach Trump in the interest in promoting national healing. Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is due to take office on Jan. 20.
“Instead of moving forward as a unifying force, the majority in the House is choosing to divide us further,” Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole said on the House floor. “… Let us look forward, not backward. Let us come together, not apart. Let us celebrate the peaceful transition of power to a new president rather than impeaching an old president,” Cole added.
Cole was one of 139 House Republicans who voted against certifying the Nov. 3 presidential election results on Jan. 6, hours after the violence, after the Republican president repeated his false claims of widespread voting fraud.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat, said Democrats intended to send the impeachment charge, once approved, to the Senate “as soon as possible,” and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named nine impeachment managers who would present the House’s case during a Senate trial.
The extraordinary swiftness with which Democrats were moving reflects the ongoing danger that Trump poses to national security, according to top Democrats. It also increases pressure on Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, to consider holding an immediate trial.
The House convened just after 9 a.m. (1400 GMT) in the same chamber where lawmakers hid under chairs last Wednesday as rioters clashed with police in the halls of the Capitol, after a incendiary speech in which Trump urged supporters to march on the building.
House Republicans who opposed the impeachment drive argued Democrats were going too far, as Trump was on the verge of leaving office, and argued for the creation of a commission to study the events surrounding the siege.
Republican Representative Jason Smith accused Democrats of acting recklessly and urged the House not to impeach Trump in order to help “heal the nation.”
(Production: Mana Rabiee)