The United States House of Representatives is moving forward to impeach President Donald Trump as an increasing number of Republicans break with their president following last week’s attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.
Beginning at 9am EST (14:00 GMT) on Wednesday, the House will take up debate on one article of impeachment against President Trump for insurrection. If approved, likely late on Wednesday, it would make Trump the first president in US history to be impeached twice.
An increasing number of Republicans say they will join Democrats in impeaching Trump, which would make the House vote a resounding rebuke of Trump with just seven days left in his turbulent presidency.
Representative Liz Cheney, the number-three Republican in House leadership, issued a stinging statement on Tuesday announcing she would vote for impeachment.
“Much more will become clear in coming days and weeks, but what we know now is enough,” Cheney said.
“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled this mob and lit the flame of this attack,” she said.
“Everything that followed was his doing.”
Trump had addressed a crowd of thousands of his supporters on January 6 on the Ellipse, a park just south of the White House in Washington, claiming the presidential election was being stolen from him and exhorting them to march on the Capitol where lawmakers were voting to certify Joe Biden’s election. Hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building, and six people including two police officers lost their lives.
Cheney is chair of the House Republican Conference and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. According to media reports, she told Republicans in a conference call on Tuesday that they were free to vote their conscience on impeachment.
Representative John Katko, a former federal prosecutor, said the facts surrounding the mob attack on the Congress make clear Trump incited the violence and should be removed from office.
“The president’s role in this is undeniable,” Katko said in remarks on the House floor on Tuesday night.
“Both on social media and on January 6th in his speech, he deliberately promoted baseless theories creating a combustible environment of misinformation and division,” Katko said.
Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger, a former Air Force pilot who has been a critic of Trump’s false claims about election fraud, said he would vote in favour of impeachment.
If a president’s actions “inciting a deadly insurrection against” the Congress “are not worthy of impeachment, then what is an impeachable offense?” Kinzinger asked in a statement.
Trump “used his position” as president “to attack” the legislative branch of government, said Kinzinger, who was the first Republican to publicly call for Trump’s removal from office after the January 6 attack.
Kinzinger was the sole Republican to join Democrats in voting 223 to 205 on Tuesday night to approve a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to replace Trump immediately under the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution.
Michigan Republican Fred Upton said he would vote for Trump’s impeachment after Trump claimed on Tuesday that his rally remarks to supporters were “totally appropriate” and refused to express regret for the insurrection at the Capitol.
“The Congress must hold President Trump to account and send a clear message that our country cannot and will not tolerate any effort by any president to impede the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next,” said Upton.
In office since 1987, Upton is one of the longest-serving Republican members of the House.
In the US Senate, Republican leader Mitch McConnell has so far remained silent on impeachment even as some other Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham have called it unnecessary and divisive.
McConnell is said to be furious about the attack on the Capitol and to believe Trump committed an impeachable offence by inciting the crowd, according to media reports citing unnamed Republican sources.
Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife, resigned her position as Trump’s secretary of transportation after the Capitol attack. Three Republican senators have already called for Trump to resign including Lisa Murkowski, Pat Toomey and Ben Sasse.
At the same time, McConnell has not answered a call by Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to bring the Senate back into emergency session to consider removing Trump from office before his term ends.
The Senate is presently in recess until January 20, when Joe Biden is to be inaugurated president.
“We could come back ASAP and vote to convict Donald Trump, and get him out of office now before any further damage is done,” Schumer said at a news conference in New York on Tuesday.
President-elect Biden has asked Senate leaders not to allow the impeachment issue to slow his agenda, which includes passage of new COVID-19 relief legislation and confirmation of key officials in his new administration.
The Senate trial in Trump’s first impeachment by the House on charges of abuse of power for withholding US military aid to Ukraine lasted two weeks, from January 21 to February 5, 2020.