Democrats in the House of Representatives, joined by 10 Republicans, voted to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time, in a 232–197 vote on Jan. 13. The single article of impeachment alleges that the president incited an insurrection that resulted in the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
The impeachment, accomplished in a single seven-hour session, was the fastest in U.S. history. It is also the first time in the nation's history that a president has been impeached twice.
Republicans criticized the rush, arguing that it offered no due process to the president and no confidence in the proceedings to the American people. Democrats justified the truncated process by alleging that Trump poses a danger to the nation every day he is in office.
"We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion, against our common country," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) alleged. "He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love."
Every Democrat voted in favor of impeachment.
Republicans who voted to impeach the president were Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Tom Rice (R-S.C.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.)
Some Republicans argued that moving forward with impeachment would further divide the nation.
“Instead of moving forward as a unifying force, the majority in the House is choosing to divide us further,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said. “I can think of no action the House could take that’s more likely to further divide the American people than the action we are contemplating today.”
Some of the Republicans who opposed impeachment didn't explicitly defend the president. Others opposed the charge and argued that the president's actions didn't amount to incitement.
"At his rally, President Trump urged attendees to 'peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.' There was no mention of violence, let alone calls to action," said Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), a former Navy prosecutor. "President Donald Trump's words would not even meet the definition of incitement under criminal statutes."
"That's impeachable? That's called freedom of speech," Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said, noting that the president also threatened to oppose Republicans in future elections, including McClintock, who didn't support objections to slates of electors. "Well, so what? That's called politics. If we impeached every politician who gave a fiery speech to a crowd of partisans, this Capitol would be deserted."
House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that Trump holds responsibility for the attack on Congress, but opposed a rushed impeachment.
"He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding," McCarthy said.
Cole pointed out that every impeachment in modern history was preceded by a committee investigation that included testimony from witnesses and experts. He argued that a truncated process affords no due process to the president and does little to offer confidence in the process to the American people. Reschenthaler cautioned that charging Trump would "lower an already low bar for impeachment."
Republicans proposed forming a bipartisan commission to investigate the breach as an alternative to impeachment. A pair of Republicans who spoke in favor of the commission characterized the Capitol breach as a domestic terror attack. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) cautioned that foreign adversaries witnessed how easy it is to take out a branch of the U.S. government. The commission, if formed, would prepare a report for the president advising how to prevent a future breach, Davis said.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) noted that rioting was not isolated to the breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6, but has gone on for months, with politicians on both sides to blame. Mace appeared to refer to the nationwide riots fomented and executed by the Antifa extremist group and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The riots, arson, and looting caused up to $2 billion in damage across the nation and resulted in the deaths of two dozen people. McClintock suggested that if Antifa and BLM rioters had been diligently prosecuted, the events at the Capitol might not have occurred at all.
Democrats repeatedly cited the remarks by Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House. Cheney had earlier said that she would vote to impeach Trump and alleged that Trump’s actions amounted to “the biggest betrayal of any president of the United States in our history.”
Not a single Republican in the House joined the Democrats when they impeached Trump for the first time in 2019. The House investigation and the Senate trial at that time turned up no firsthand witnesses to the allegation that the president abused his power by withholding foreign aid from Ukraine in a bid to force the nation's president to start an investigation into the Ukrainian business dealings of Hunter Biden, son of President-elect Joe Biden.
Hunter Biden held a paid position on the board of a Ukrainian gas firm Burisma when Joe Biden served as the vice president. Joe Biden has bragged that he forced the firing of Ukraine's top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees. Shokin has alleged in a sworn statement that he was fired because he refused to drop an investigation into Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma.
The breach of the Capitol took place while the two chambers debated whether an objection to the counting of presidential electors from Arizona should be affirmed. After the building was secured, both chambers voted to overrule the objection. More than one hundred Republicans voted to uphold the objection.
Democrats criticized the Republicans who voted in favor of the objection. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who coordinated the floor speeches prior to the impeachment debate, had, himself, objected in 2017 to the counting of the electors from Alabama. The lead manager of the impeachment proceedings, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), had objected in 2017 to the counting of the Florida electors.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said: “Americans are tired of the double standard. They are so tired of it. Democrats objected to more states in 2017 than Republicans did last week, but somehow we’re wrong.”
Democrats, including Pelosi, selectively quoted from Trump's speech on Jan. 6, in which the president said "we fight like hell" in regards to his team's legal battle to challenge the legitimacy of the election in several states.
"I think one of our great achievements will be election security, because nobody, until I came along, had any idea how corrupt our elections were," the president said, before noting that others would not have taken a stand. "We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore."
The impeachment follows an unprecedented wave of censorship against the president by U.S. social media giants. Facebook, Twitter, and Google had all banned Trump from their platforms as of Jan. 13.
Jordan said: "It's not about impeachment anymore. It's about canceling the president and anyone that disagrees with them."