WASHINGTON — The House is expected to impeach President Donald Trump today for his encouragement of supporters who violently stormed the U.S. Capitol, a vote that would make him the first American president to be impeached twice.
While the previous three impeachments — those of Presidents Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Trump — took months before a final vote, including investigations and hearings, this time it will have only taken a week. After the rioting at the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “we must take action,” and Democrats — and some Republicans — share her view.
For now, the Republican-led Senate is not expected to hold a trial and vote on whether to convict Trump before Democrat Joe Biden is sworn in Jan. 20.
In normal order, there would be an impeachment investigation and the evidence would be sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which would hold hearings, draft articles and send them to the full House. That’s what happened in 2019, when the House impeached Trump over his dealings with the president of Ukraine. It took three months.
This time, with so few days to act — and a feeling among Democrats that there is little need to investigate what happened, since most members of Congress heard Trump speak to his supporters and were in the Capitol when the mob broke in — impeachment is going straight to the House floor for a vote, which would come as soon as this evening.
Democrats will begin debate on a single impeachment charge: “incitement of insurrection.”
“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government,” reads the four-page impeachment article, which was introduced by Democratic Reps. David Cicilline, of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu, of California, and Jamie Raskin, of Maryland.
“He will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,” it reads.
The article says the behavior is consistent with Trump’s prior efforts to “subvert and obstruct” the results of the election and references his recent call with the Georgia secretary of state, in which he said he wanted him to find him more votes after losing the state to Biden.
Late Tuesday, three key Republicans said they would support impeachment. No Republicans supported Trump’s first impeachment in 2019.
Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican in the House and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said she would vote to impeach Trump because “there has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Cheney said Trump “summoned” the mob that attacked the Capitol last week, “assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.”
New York Rep. John Katko was the first Republican to say he’d vote to impeach. A former federal prosecutor, he said he did not make the decision lightly.
“To allow the president of the United States to incite this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy,” Katko said. “I cannot sit by without taking action.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, of Illinois, a frequent Trump critic, also said he would vote to impeach.
Once the House passes the articles, Pelosi can decide when she sends them to the Senate. Under the current schedule, the Senate is not set to resume full sessions until Jan. 19, which is the day before Biden’s inauguration.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who will be in charge once Biden is sworn in, suggested in a letter to colleagues Tuesday the chamber might divide its time between confirming Biden’s nominees, approving COVID relief and conducting the trial.
If the trial isn’t held until Trump is already out of office, it could still have the effect of preventing him from running for president again.
It’s unlikely, for now, that enough Republicans would vote to convict, since two thirds of the Senate is needed. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, said impeachment “will do far more harm than good.”
Only one Republican voted to convict Trump last year — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted on Friday that some people might ask why they would try to impeach a president with only a few days left in office.
“The answer: Precedent,” he said. “It must be made clear that no president, now or in the future, can lead an insurrection against the U.S. government.”