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WASHINGTON, Jan 13 — A week after President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol, the US House of Representatives will vote today to impeach the president for his role in an assault on American democracy that stunned the nation and left five dead.
At least five Republicans have said they would join Democrats to impeach Trump for the second time, just seven days before he is due to leave office and President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20.
A vote of the House majority to impeach would trigger a trial in the still Republican-controlled Senate, although it was unclear whether such a trial would take place in time to expel Trump from the White House.
Democrats moved forward on an impeachment vote after Vice President Mike Pence rejected an effort to persuade him to invoke the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution to remove Trump.
“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution,” Pence said in a letter yesterday evening to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Despite the letter, the House passed a resolution late yesterday formally calling on Pence to act. The final vote was 223-205 in favour.
As the House prepared for the impeachment vote today, there were signs that Trump’s once-dominant hold on the Republican Party was beginning to ebb.
At least five House Republicans, including Liz Cheney, a member of her party’s leadership team, said they would vote for his second impeachment — a prospect no president before Trump has faced.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said in a statement.
Trump “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack” on the Capitol, she said.
Four other Republican House members, Jaime Herrera Beutler, John Katko, Adam Kinzinger and Fred Upton, also said they supported impeachment.
In a break from standard procedure, Republican leaders in the House have refrained from urging their members to vote against impeaching Trump, saying it was a matter of individual conscience.
The New York Times reported that the Republican majority leader of the US Senate, Mitch McConnell, was said to be pleased about the impeachment push, another sign that Trump’s party is looking to move on from him after the attack on Congress.
In his first public appearance since last Wednesday’s riot, Trump showed no contrition yesterday for his speech last week in which he called on his supporters to protest Biden’s victory by marching on the Capitol.
“What I said was totally appropriate,” Trump told reporters.
At a meeting to set the rules for today’s impeachment vote, Democratic Representative David Cicilline told the House Rules Committee that the impeachment drive had the support of 217 lawmakers — enough to impeach Trump.
Cicilline, who helped craft the impeachment measure, said Trump “has had almost a week to do the right thing. He has refused to resign, he has failed to take responsibility, he has demonstrated no remorse.”
House Republicans who opposed the impeachment drive argued Democrats were going too far, as Trump was on the verge of leaving office.
“This is scary where this goes, because this is about more than about impeaching the president of the United States. This is about cancelling the president and cancelling all the people you guys disagree with,” said Republican Representative Jim Jordan, a leading Trump ally when the president was impeached in 2019 after encouraging the government of Ukraine to dig up political dirt on Biden.
Pelosi yesterday named nine impeachment managers, who would present the House’s case for impeachment during a Senate trial. It remained unclear how swiftly such a trial would take place.
McConnell has said no trial could begin until the chamber returns from its recess on January 19.
But Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is set to become the majority leader after two Democrats from Georgia are seated and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is sworn in, told reporters the Senate could be recalled to handle the matter.
If Trump is impeached by the House, he would have a trial in the Senate to determine his guilt. A two-thirds majority of the Senate is needed to convict him, meaning at least 17 Republicans in the 100-member chamber would have to vote for conviction.
Democrats could also use an impeachment trial to push through a vote blocking Trump from running for office again.
Rather than a two-thirds vote, a simple Senate majority is needed to disqualify Trump from future office. There is disagreement among legal experts as to whether a conviction on an impeachment charge would be needed before a disqualification vote. A different part of the Constitution, the 14th Amendment, also provides a procedure for disqualifying Trump from future office with a simple majority of both chambers. — Reuters
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