Donald Trump became the first US president in history to be impeached for a second time as the House of Representatives charged him with “incitement to insurrection” for his role in stirring up a mob of supporters that stormed the Capitol last week.
The House voted 232 to 197 on Wednesday in favour of impeaching the president after the riot that left five people dead, with 10 Republicans breaking ranks to join all Democrats in voting to charge Mr Trump.
The single article of impeachment will be sent to the Senate, where the outgoing president faces a trial that will cast a shadow over the start of Joe Biden’s presidency and potentially prevent Mr Trump from running for office in the future.
“Today, in a bipartisan way, the House demonstrated that no one is above the law, not even the president,” Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, said before signing the article of impeachment at a ceremony after the vote.
She added: “Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our country.”
In a statement on Wednesday night, Mr Biden described Mr Trump’s impeachment as “a bipartisan vote cast by members who followed the constitution and their conscience”.
The Republicans who voted to impeach Mr Trump were led by Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, who rocked Washington on Tuesday night by announcing her intention to move against the president.
“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Ms Cheney, the daughter of former vice-president Dick Cheney, said in a statement. “Everything that followed was his doing.”
Although Ms Cheney did not speak during Wednesday’s debate, her remarks were quoted repeatedly by Democrats arguing in favour of impeachment.
While the number of Republicans voting to charge the president was relatively small, it was a marked increase compared with Mr Trump’s last impeachment, when no one from his party backed impeachment.
Ms Pelosi has not said when she will send the article to the Senate, but she appointed a slate of impeachment managers late on Tuesday, in a move that would allow her to proceed swiftly. The managers will prosecute the case against Mr Trump during a trial in the upper chamber.
But Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s senior Republican, said he did not intend to reconvene the upper chamber of Congress before January 19, one day before Mr Biden’s inauguration, setting the stage for a trial in the opening weeks of the next administration.
“Given the rules, procedures, and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachment trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week,” Mr McConnell said.
He added that the three previous presidential impeachment trials had lasted between three weeks to nearly three months.
“Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office,” he added. “This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact.”
However, Mr McConnell held open the possibility that he might vote to convict the president at his trial. “I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” he wrote in a letter to Republican senators on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, is one of three members of the president’s cabinet to have resigned over his handling of the Capitol riots.
Kevin McCarthy, the House’s top Republican, said in Wednesday’s debate that Mr Trump “bears responsibility” for last week’s “attack on Congress by mob rioters”, adding: “He should have immediately denounced the[m] when he saw what was unfolding.”
But Mr McCarthy opposed impeachment, criticising the “short timeframe” and warning that the process would “further divide the nation”.
Members of the National Guard were deployed to the US Capitol on Wednesday ahead of the impeachment vote and are expected to support the police until Mr Biden’s inauguration.
After Wednesday’s vote, the White House released a five-minute, pre-recorded video on YouTube, in which Mr Trump spoke from the Oval Office. The president made no mention of impeachment, his election loss, Mr Biden, or the peaceful transfer power, but said that he “unequivocally condemned the violence that we saw last week”.
Just three presidents, Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Mr Trump, have been impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanours”. However, Mr Trump is the first to be impeached twice, and the only one to be charged so close to the end of his term.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll published on Wednesday showed Mr Trump’s approval rating had dived to an all-time low, with just 34 per cent of voters approving of the job he was doing.
Mr Trump’s approval also slipped among Republican voters, according to the poll, although he remained their top choice for the GOP presidential candidate in 2024. Forty-two per cent of Republican voters said they would vote for Mr Trump in the next GOP primary, compared with 54 per cent when asked the same question in November.