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What happens now Donald Trump has been impeached for second time?

Anthony France and Sean Morrison
·7 min read
Donald Trump (AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump (AFP via Getty Images)

Donald Trump has become the first US president to be impeached twice, a week after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol building.

Three previous impeachments - of Presidents Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Trump - took months before a final vote, including investigations and hearings.

This time it only took a week.

Mr Trump is accused of inciting last Wednesday’s riot that left five dead, including a Capitol police officer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "We must take action".

She was among those forced to huddle in a bunker during the Capitol riots, and armed rioters menaced staffers with taunts of “Where’s Nancy?”

Here’s what we can expect after Mr Trump was impeached for a second time…

What are the basics of impeachment?

In normal circumstances, there would have been an impeachment investigation. Evidence would be sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which would hold hearings, draft articles and send them to the full House.

AP
AP

That's what happened in 2019 when the House impeached Trump over his dealings with the president of Ukraine. It took three months.

But these are unprecedented times. With so few days to act before Trump leaves office, Democrats felt there was little need to investigate what happened. Most members of Congress heard Trump speak to his supporters and were in the Capitol when the mob broke in.

Impeachment went straight to the House floor for a vote.

What will happen next?

Getty Images
Getty Images

Now the House has voted to impeach, the articles and evidence will be sent to the Senate, where a trial will be held and there would be final votes to convict or acquit. It's what the Senate did in early February of last year after Trump was impeached the first time.

What articles does Trump faces?

The House voted for a single impeachment charge alleging “incitement of insurrection”.

Democrats David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland’s four-page impeachment article reads: “President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government.

“He will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.”

EPA
EPA

The article says Trump’s behaviour is consistent with prior efforts to “subvert and obstruct” the results of the election with baseless claims of widespread fraud.

They also reference 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.

Trump’s false claims of fraud have been repeatedly echoed by congressional Republicans and the insurgents who descended on the Capitol. Just before the riots, Trump spoke to the supporters near the White House and encouraged them to “fight like hell”.

As the protesters broke in, both chambers were debating Republican challenges to the electoral vote count in Arizona as part of the process for certifying Biden's election win.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US CapitolAFP via Getty Images
Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US CapitolAFP via Getty Images

What support does Trump have from fellow Republicans?

On Tuesday, five Republicans said they would support impeachment. No Republicans supported Trump's first impeachment in 2019.

Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No3 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”, “assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack”.

New York Republican John Katko was the first in his party to say he'd vote to impeach. A former federal prosecutor, he said he did not make the decision lightly.

REUTERS
REUTERS

"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."

Also saying they would vote for impeachment were Republicans Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Fred Upton of Michigan and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

What happens next?

Pelosi can decide when she sends them to the Senate.

Under the current schedule, the Senate is not set to resume full sessions until January 19, which is the day before Biden's inauguration.

Some Democrats suggested Pelosi might wait to send the articles and allow Biden to begin his term without impeachment hanging over him. But others have urged Pelosi to move immediately.

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-19 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.

Biden has said it’s important to ensure that the “folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage - that they be held accountable.”

How many Republicans voted to impeach Trump?

“I am not choosing a side, I’m choosing truth,” Republican Jamie Herrera Beutler said in announcing her support for impeachment, drawing applause from Democrats. “It’s the only way to defeat fear.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” the three-term congresswoman proclaimed to reporters after some back-bench Republicans angrily demanded on Wednesday that she be fired from her position as the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives.

She was one of ten Republicans - and the highest ranking - to vote to impeach Trump a second time in the chamber that lawmakers fled last week when a mob of Trump supporters angry about his false claims of election fraud ransacked the Capitol.

REUTERS
REUTERS

Only one Republican voted to convict Trump last year, Utah’s Mitt Romney.

What does impeachment mean for Trump?

Democrats say they have to move forward, even if the Senate doesn't convict.

Vermont’s 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.”

Were there any alternatives to impeachment?

Before proceeding with impeachment, the House pressed Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to remove Trump more quickly and surely, warning that he is a threat to democracy in the few remaining days of his presidency.

The House approved a resolution late on Tuesday calling on Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to declare the president unable to serve.

Pence, who was among those forced to take shelter inside the Capitol complex during the attack, said before the vote that he would take no such action, leaving politicians with impeachment as their only option to remove Trump from office before January 20, when President-elect Biden is set to be sworn in as president.

REUTERS
REUTERS

How did Trump respond?

Mr Trump avoided making reference to his historic second impeachment last night as he shared a video message following the vote.

In his address, Mr Trump condemned the Capitol riot saying it has violence has “absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement”.

So far, Trump has taken no responsibility for his part in fomenting the violent insurrection, despite his comments encouraging supporters to march on the Capitol and praising them while they were still carrying out the assault.

“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” he said on Tuesday.

Has security been increased at the Capitol?

In a sign of the increase tensions in the wake of the attack, House politicians were for the first time be required to go through a metal detector before being allowed to enter the chamber.

This new security measure will stay in effect every day the House is in session for the foreseeable future, according to a directive by Timothy Blodgett, the acting House sergeant-at-arms.

Mr Blodgett replaced the long-time sergeant-at-arms who resigned after widespread criticism about poor security planning.

REUTERS
REUTERS

Members of Congress have previously enjoyed nearly free roam at the Capitol, able to bypass security screening stations at most entrances to the building.

A recent breakout of Covid-19 among politicians who were held in lockdown with others who refused to wear masks has only heightened tensions.

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