The House of Representatives has voted to impeach Donald Trump on a count of incitement of insurrection, accusing him of whipping up a crowd of supporters to invade and wreak havoc upon the U.S. Capitol last week as lawmakers were counting Electoral College votes certifying Joe Biden's win in the Nov. 3 election.
By a 232-197 vote, the divided House voted after two hours of intense debate to impeach Trump for the second time in his term of office. This, even though his term is due to end with the Jan. 20 inauguration of Biden.
The vote was mostly according to party lines, and indeed all 222 Democrats in the House voted to impeach. But some 10 of the House's 211 Republicans joined the Democrats to affirm the impeachment, including the party's No. 3 in the chamber, Rep. Liz Cheney.
Holed up in the White House, Trump had no immediate reaction but he earlier issued a brief statement insisting that he opposed violence among his supporters.
"In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be no violence, no lawbreaking and no vandalism of any kind. That is not what I stand for," he said.
"I call on all Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers. Thank You."
Reflecting the fear of upheaval, armed National Guards deployed across the capital and central streets were blocked to traffic.
In the Capitol building itself, guards in full camouflage and carrying assault rifles assembled, some of them grabbing naps early Wednesday under the ornate statues and historical paintings.
The case now goes to the Senate for a trial. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated in a letter that he's personally undecided about how to vote, but he did say Wednesday he would not call a special emergency session to try to resolve the case while Trump remains in office. That means that although impeachment advocates' goal had been to try getting the president out of office before his term ran out, the trial won't accommodate that and is not expected to occur until Biden takes the reins of government.
Still, The New York Times reported Tuesday that McConnell is signaling privately that he believes Trump did commit impeachable offenses.
Trump has maintained for weeks that the election was stolen from him through elaborate voter fraud. Advocates of impeachment contended that on Jan. 6, at a rally near the Capitol where he reiterated his claims of voter fraud and exhorted followers to "fight like hell," he incited them to march to the Capitol and disrupt the electoral certification session as a show of strength and patriotism.
Several deaths have been linked to the siege, including that of a Capitol Police officer struck on the head with a fire extinguisher and a demonstrator who was fatally shot. Some 170 criminal investigations have been initiated so far as law enforcement agencies identify and charge parties involved in the siege. The breach also disrupted the electoral count session, normally a speedy ceremonial obligation of the House and Senate, for several hours, sending lawmakers into lockdown in secure and secret locations while the iconic government building was vandalized, windows broken and items stolen from offices.
This is Trump's second impeachment. The first unfolded a year ago, linked to claims of collaboration with Russia to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, and alleged campaign efforts to convince Ukraine to provide evidence damaging to Biden's 2020 campaign. The GOP-controlled Senate acquitted and Trump remained in office, defiant and insistent that the whole of the allegations had been a deep-state hoax.
This time around, Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the chamber at the start of Wednesday's hearing on the measure that Trump "must go." "He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love," she said.
Dem Rep. Ilhan Omar branded Trump a "tyrant," saying that "for us to able to survive as a functioning democracy there has to be accountability."
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."
The report that McConnell might be convinced Trump committed impeachable offenses may present a potentially fatal shift in the ground under Trump's feet, because it could lead other Republican senators to join in convicting Trump with the goal of turning the page in the turbulent relationship between the party and former reality TV host and real estate magnate.
Meanwhile, Trump's social media woes deepened late Tuesday when video-sharing giant YouTube said it was suspending his official account for at least a week, out of concern his videos could incite violence.
He is also being cut out by the business world, threatening his financial future once he leaves the White House.
The latest blow to the Trump empire was when the mayor of his native New York City, Bill de Blasio, announced Wednesday a termination of contracts to run a golf course, two ice-skating rinks and a carousel in Central Park.
"New York City doesn't do business with insurrectionists," de Blasio, a Democrat, tweeted.
AFP contributed to this report.
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