The president of the United States, Donald Trump, was indicted on Wednesday in Congress in a historic second impeachment proceeding, a week before the end of his term, which ends in a climate of extreme tension.
The House of Representatives, controlled by the Democrats, voted in favor of the “impeachment” of the Republican president by 232 votes to 197.
Trump, who will cede power to Democrat Joe Biden on January 20, was indicted by the lower house of “inciting insurrection” in the seizure of the Capitol by his supporters last week, which left five dead and shocked the country and the world.
“Today in a bipartisan way the House demonstrated that no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States,” said Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, at the ceremony in which she signed the impeachment article.
Earlier, he had accused Trump of encouraging an “armed rebellion,” calling it a “clear and present danger against the nation we all love.”
Seven days into his new life as a former president, Trump appears extremely isolated.
Ten Republican congressmen voted in favor of the impeachment, unlike in December 2019, when no member of the president’s party supported the first impeachment against him.
He was then accused of asking Ukraine to investigate alleged corruption linked to rival Biden, in exchange for unlocking crucial military aid for the country at war. The Senate, with a Republican majority, acquitted him in February 2020.
– The ball in the Senate –
The vote on the new impeachment against Trump on Wednesday marks the formal opening of the impeachment proceedings, and now it is up to the Senate to try him again.
The process raises many questions.
“Given the rules … there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial will conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week,” Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a statement.
He recalled that the previous three impeachments, of Andrew Johnson in 1868, of Bill Clinton in 1999 and of Trump last year, lasted 83 days, 37 days and 21 days, respectively.
McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Congress, has said he will not reconvene the Senate, currently in recess, before Jan. 19 as scheduled.
The impeachment timing is therefore uncertain, and for Democrats there is a risk that impeachment will monopolize legislative action in the early days of Biden’s term.
“I hope the Senate finds a way to deal with its constitutional impeachment responsibilities while also working on the nation’s other pressing issues,” the president-elect said in a statement.
– Trump calls for unity –
Hours earlier, in a videotaped speech from the Oval Office, Trump called on Americans to be “united,” not to mention “impeachment.”
“Let us choose to move forward together for the sake of our families,” he said, calling “all Americans to overcome the passions of the moment.”
Repudiating his supporters who stormed Congress, he stressed that “there is never a justification for violence.” “Those who participated in the attacks last week will be brought to justice,” he said.
Washington, under strict security measures, looked unrecognizable. Traffic on the main avenues was blocked, there were metal fences protecting public buildings, including the White House, and thousands of armed National Guard personnel patrolled.
Shocking footage showed dozens of military reservists spending the night on Capitol Hill, still sleeping even when lawmakers arrived.
– Intense debate –
The debate was intense in Congress. Democrat Ilhan Omar called Trump a “tyrant.” “We cannot turn the page and do nothing,” he said.
Among the Republicans, the positions were more contrasted.
Fervent supporters of the Republican billionaire defended him tooth and nail, like Jim Jordan who denounced “an obsession” of the Democrats. Or Matt Gaetz, who pointed out that “millions of people love” the incumbent president.
But others clearly distanced themselves.
“The president is responsible for the attack” on Congress “by the rioters”, which “he should have denounced immediately,” admitted the Republican leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, asking for an “investigative commission” on what happened the vote of a “motion of censure”.
However, he said that an indictment so close to the end of his term would be “a mistake.”
Trump tried Tuesday to downplay the proceeding against him, describing it as a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics.”
But he also refused to assume any responsibility for the robbery on the Capitol, assuring that his speech, in a massive ceremony with his followers prior to the assault, was “totally appropriate.”
– Will there be a sentence? –
McConnell did not rule out voting to convict the president.
“I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to hear the legal arguments when they come up in the Senate,” McConnell said in a note to his Republican colleagues.
A crucial Trump ally for four years, McConnell helped secure the president’s acquittal after his first impeachment trial.
But the Republican Senate leader publicly disagreed with Trump’s attempts to overturn the election results. Last week, he passionately argued that the move would mark a “death spiral” for American democracy.
Trump, however, remains very popular with millions of Americans, which could hold back some lawmakers from convicting him.
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