You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

House Set to Impeach Trump Again, With GOP Support

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 3 days ago Natalie Andrews, Kristina Peterson, Rebecca Ballhaus
a person in a suit standing in front of a crowd © brendan smialowski/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

WASHINGTON—House Democrats laid out their case to impeach President Trump for an unprecedented second time ahead of an expected vote Wednesday, alleging he encouraged a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol as part of an effort to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s election win.

In another development, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) reiterated that any vote in his chamber on removing Mr. Trump from office would happen after Mr. Biden becomes president. Mr. McConnell called the office of Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York to say that he wouldn’t reconvene the Senate early to accept an article of impeachment, an aide to Mr. McConnell said. The Senate is scheduled to reconvene Jan. 19, which Mr. McConnell has said leaves no time for a vote before Mr. Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

At least six Republicans are expected to join all Democrats in approving an article of impeachment against Mr. Trump with less than a week to go in his term, as law-enforcement officials nationwide are bracing for more potential violence in Washington and in state capitals. After the vote, expected in the afternoon, the matter would go to the Senate, where the date of a trial, and the level of Republican support, is uncertain.

The House began its debate on impeachment at 9 a.m., followed by procedural votes, more debate and an expected final vote in the late afternoon.

Hundreds of troops guarded the Capitol, a week after a violent mob stormed the building. Armored trucks cut off traffic in the blocks surrounding the complex and National Guard troops were stationed inside the Capitol, including in the Rotunda and in the hallways between the House and Senate wings. The number of National Guardsmen securing Washington ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration is expected to reach at least 20,000, two military officials said.

As the debate ahead of the final vote kicked off Wednesday afternoon, Democrats said Mr. Trump’s actions demanded his removal and said that backing impeachment was fulfilling their oath of office.

“We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion, against our country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said. “He must go—he is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) said Mr. Trump “bears responsibility” for the Capitol riot but said he opposed impeachment, calling for censure instead. “A vote to impeach would further divide this nation, a vote to impeach will further fan the flames, the partisan division,” he said.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) said Democrats were trying to relitigate the 2016 election by doing a last-minute impeachment and said they “want to cancel the president.”

Earlier, in the morning debate, lawmakers sparred over whether impeachment was the proper approach. “Some of my colleagues on the other side suggested we just move on. But to gloss over it would be an abdication of our duty,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D., Mass). Rep. Tom Cole (R., Okla.) called the president’s actions “inappropriate and reckless” but suggested censure as an alternative.

Mr. Trump on Wednesday called for Americans to engage in “NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind.” In a statement released by the White House, Mr. Trump called for Americans to “help ease tensions and calm tempers,” and said violence and vandalism was “not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for.”

A day earlier, Mr. Trump also urged his supporters not to engage in violence but accepted no responsibility for the Capitol riot. He called the efforts to remove him from office over his comments a continuation of what he has termed a Democrat witch hunt.

House Democrats’ article of impeachment alleges that Mr. Trump “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged—and foreseeably resulted in—lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘If you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.’”

The vote on the article marks the fastest impeachment vote assembled in the nation’s history and will make Mr. Trump the first American president to be impeached in two separate proceedings. Unlike past impeachments, there were no depositions or investigations by Congressional committees. Instead, many lawmakers cited firsthand accounts of the attack, as well as public statements by the president.

Mr. Trump was impeached in 2019 after encouraging Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden. Two other presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were impeached as well, in 1868 and 1998 respectively. All were acquitted in Senate trials, where a two-thirds supermajority is required to convict.

House GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) said Tuesday she would vote to impeach Mr. Trump, the first member of GOP leadership to take that stance. Mr. Trump “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Ms. Cheney said. “Everything that followed was his doing.”

Ms. Cheney faced backlash from some GOP colleagues, who called for her to step down from her leadership post. Mr. Jordan, an influential conservative, said he was looking to see whether lawmakers could trigger a second vote on her leadership position. “I think she’s totally wrong,” he said.

In the last impeachment effort, officials from the White House counsel’s and legislative affairs offices worked to rally votes against impeachment and formed a “war room” on the Hill with several lawmakers. But White House officials have been notably absent ahead of Wednesday’s vote. White House counsel Pat Cipollone considered resigning in the wake of the riot, according to people familiar with the matter, and he and other top Trump advisers are not expected to serve on the president’s defense team for impeachment, one of the people said.

Some Democrats said Republicans were afraid of physical danger if they voted to impeach.

“I had a lot of conversations with my Republican colleagues, and a couple of them broke down in tears saying that they are afraid for their lives if they vote for this impeachment,” said Rep. Jason Crow (D., Colo.) on NBC.

Since the riot last Wednesday, federal officials have said they were examining more than 160 cases and weighing sedition charges in some of them and are treating the breach like an international counterterrorism or counterintelligence operation. A police officer and a rioter were killed in the rampage and three others died of medical emergencies.

Dozens of big U.S. companies have suspended political donations to Republicans who objected to the Electoral College results, including AT&T Inc. and Walmart Inc. The conservative Koch network’s Americans for Prosperity, and the affiliated super PAC, will evaluate future support of politicians based on their actions last week, its chief executive said.

Passing an article of impeachment sets up a trial in the Senate. Impeachment has never removed a sitting president and Mr. Trump is likely to leave office before the trial can get under way, as Mr. Biden is set to be inaugurated Jan. 20. Asked if Democrats planned to wait to send the article to the Senate, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said no.

“This is an emergency situation and we agreed we need to move it as quickly as possible,” Mr. Hoyer said, though he said it was ultimately the decision of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.). “My expectation is we will send it as quickly as it’s ready to go.”

While Mr. McConnell made clear he doesn’t plan to start a trial immediately, it isn’t clear when it would start. The Constitution dictates that it begin the day after the House sends an impeachment article to the Senate, but the House could wait to give Mr. Biden time to assemble his cabinet and work on his agenda.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Mr. McConnell has told associates that he believes Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him. Spokespeople for Mr. McConnell didn’t return multiple requests for comment.

Mr. McConnell hasn’t spoken to Mr. Trump since Dec. 15, the day after the Electoral College met, when the Senate Republican leader congratulated Mr. Biden on the Senate floor. After the storming of the Capitol, Mr. McConnell is finished with Mr. Trump, said Scott Reed, a longtime GOP consultant.

“McConnell now knows this is about Trump, not his supporters, and now is the time for a full purge,” Mr. Reed said.

Mrs. Pelosi named nine impeachment managers on Tuesday night who would be in charge of taking the case to the Senate for an impeachment trial. The lead impeachment manager is Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a former professor of constitutional law at American University’s Washington College of Law.

The rest of the managers will be Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette of Colorado, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Joaquin Castro of Texas, Eric Swalwell of California, Ted Lieu of California, Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Joe Neguse of Colorado, and Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania.

No Senate Republicans have said yet that they would back the article of impeachment passed by the House, though some have said the president committed impeachable offenses.

All House Republicans voted against impeachment when Democrats impeached Mr. Trump in 2019 over his efforts to press Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden. Mr. Trump was later acquitted by the Senate, and only one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, voted to convict.

This week, Republicans opposed to impeachment have called the proceedings divisive and called for unity after the Capitol attack and ahead of Mr. Biden’s inauguration next week. A handful of Republicans introduced a censure resolution on Tuesday against Mr. Trump “for attempting to unlawfully overturn the 2020 presidential election and for violating his oath of office.” It isn’t expected to receive a vote.

Democrats say that the nation is already divided, and the president should be held accountable.

“We should do it for justice,” said Rep. Charlie Crist (D., Fla.). “Justice matters and accountability is important. To say we should let him off the hook because he only has a few days left—last Wednesday was one day. How many more days are we going to give this madman?”

Write to Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com, Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com and Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

More from The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal.
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon