Democrats in the House of Representatives made good on their vows to impeach Donald Trump for a historic second time on Wednesday in the wake of last week's attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
The chamber voted for impeachment by 232 to 197 and the process now moves to the Senate, where it’s unclear whether any Republicans will join Democrats in voting to convict Trump in a trial for his incendiary remarks before the attack.
Here are five key takeaways from a day of high drama:
There are signs of a deep split within the Republican party
Some of the most high-profile members of Republican leadership aren't denouncing the Democratic effort. Quite the contrary. Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, announced on Tuesday that she would join Democrats and a handful of House Republicans in voting to impeach Trump.
On Wednesday, senator Mitch McConnell, the highest-ranking Republican in his chamber, indicated to his colleagues that he is undecided on which way he would vote. Privately, McConnell has left associates with the impression that he’s glad Democrats are moving to impeach Trump a second time.
Elsewhere, freshman lawmakers are feuding with each other. Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina and congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has supported the QAnon terrorist movement, got into a heated exchange, according to Axios. Mace blamed Greene and other QAnon supporters for the attack on the Capitol.
An ongoing question among members of Congress is if any of the 10 House Republicans who split with their party and voted to impeach Trump will face any kind of blowback. Some lawmakers privately supported impeachment but worried voting for impeachment could physically endanger them or their families from outraged Trump supporters.
The most bipartisan impeachment in American history
Unlike the last time Democrats impeached Trump, there’s a higher level of bipartisan support for the move. Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader and top-ranking Republican in that chamber, said during a speech on Wednesday that Trump was partially to blame for the mob assault on the Capitol last week.
Ten House Republicans also joined Democrats in voting in favor of impeaching Trump. It’s unclear how many Republicans are willing to convict Trump in the Senate. A two-thirds majority of the Senate is needed. McConnell’s potential openness to convict suggests there may be more than one or two senators willing to vote to convict him.
That’s all a far cry from the last time Trump was impeached where it was almost completely a party line vote. Trump was not convicted then.
The vast majority of Republicans refused to concede any fault
Throughout the debate on Wednesday two patterns emerged among the arguments Republicans made: deflect and denounce. Republicans repeatedly denounced the mob attack last week.
"Violence has no place in our politics. Period. I wholly condemned last week's senseless acts of violence, and I strongly reiterate the calls to remain peaceful in the weeks ahead," the Republican National Committee chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, said in a statement.
Trump himself also released a statement saying that he wanted to see a peaceful transition and inauguration for Joe Biden, the president-elect.
Republicans also cried hypocrisy against Democrats for, in their words, ignoring the damage inflicted during Black Lives Matter protests last summer.
“Democrats are on record supporting violence when it supports their cause,” Greene said during a floor speech. “Democrats will take away everyone’s guns just as long as they have guards with guns.”
The Senate is a mystery
How things will shake out in the Senate is a mystery. McConnell wrote in a letter to colleagues that he has not “made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate”.
When Trump was impeached the first time, only Senator Mitt Romney of Utah joined Democrats in voting to convict. This time it's conceivable a few more Republicans could join Democrats, though they need 17 to convict.
McConnell himself said in another statement after the House vote that the earliest a trial could begin would be after Biden is sworn in on January 20th. That's at odds with a statement from McConnell's Democratic counterpart, Chuck Schumer.
"A Senate trial can begin immediately, with agreement from the current Senate majority leader to reconvene the Senate for an emergency session, or it will begin after January 19th. But make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate; there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors; and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again," Schumer said in a statement.
Democrats’ security concerns seem well-founded
Reporters and lawmakers noted the increased security presence around the Capitol. Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts noted in his floor speech that there were more US soldiers patrolling the Capitol than were stationed in Afghanistan.
In general there is a high sense of concern of another attack. Biden was briefed by officials from the Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation on security concerns for his inauguration. In a report from the Boston Globe, congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts found during the mob attack that the panic buttons were ripped out of her office. – Guardian