How Donald Trump’s second impeachment will unfold

The outgoing US president will be the first to be subjected to the procedure twice.

Members of the National Guard stand inside anti-scaling fencing that surrounds the Capitol (Alan Fram/AP)
Members of the National Guard stand inside anti-scaling fencing that surrounds the Capitol (Alan Fram/AP)

President Donald Trump is on the verge of becoming the first president to be impeached twice, as politicians move quickly to punish him over last week’s deadly US Capitol attack.

Mr Trump’s fiery speech at a rally just before the January 6 riot is at the centre of the impeachment charge against him, even as the falsehoods he spread for months about election fraud are still being championed by some Republicans.

A Capitol police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege.

Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.

What to watch as the Democratic-controlled House moves to impeach Mr Trump for the second time in 13 months, now with just days left in the defeated president’s term.

– Were there any alternatives to impeachment?

Before proceeding with impeachment, the House pressed Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to remove Mr Trump more quickly and surely, warning that he is a threat to democracy in the few remaining days of his presidency.

The House approved a resolution late on Tuesday calling on Mr Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to declare the president unable to serve.

Vice President Mike Pence rejected calls to enact provisions under the 25th Amendment to remove the president (AP)
Vice President Mike Pence rejected calls to enact provisions under the 25th Amendment to remove the president (AP)

Mr Pence, who was among those forced to take shelter inside the Capitol complex during the attack, said before the vote that he would take no such action, leaving politicians with impeachment as their only option to remove Mr Trump from office before January 20, when President-elect Joe Biden is set to be sworn in as president.

– What is the Democrats’ case for impeachment?

Mr Trump faces a single charge, “incitement of insurrection”, after the deadly Capitol riot in an impeachment resolution that the House will begin debating on Wednesday.

It is a stunning end for Mr Trump’s presidency as Democrats and a growing number of Republicans declare he is unfit for office and could do more damage after inciting a mob that ransacked the Capitol.

“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government,” reads part of the four-page impeachment bill.

President Donald Trump speaks near a section of the US-Mexico border wall, in Alamo, Texas. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor/AP)
President Donald Trump speaks near a section of the US-Mexico border wall, in Alamo, Texas (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor/AP)

“He will remain a threat to national security, democracy and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said impeachment is needed despite the limited number of days left in Mr Trump’s term.

“The president’s threat to America is urgent, and so too will be our action,” she said.

Mr Trump’s actions were personal for Ms Pelosi and many other politicians.

She was among those forced to huddle in a bunker during the Capitol riots, and armed rioters menaced staffers with taunts of “Where’s Nancy?”

– How many Republicans will support the move?

Unlike the last time Mr Trump was impeached, when no House Republicans supported charges against Mr Trump over a call he made to Ukraine’s new president, the current impeachment effort has drawn support from some Republicans.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and his deputy, Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise, are again expected to oppose impeachment, but Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, the third-ranked House Republican, said Tuesday she will support it.

Ms Cheney, whose father, Dick Cheney, served as vice president under George W. Bush, has been more critical of Mr Trump than other Republican leaders.

She said in a statement on Tuesday that Mr Trump “summoned” the mob that attacked the Capitol, “assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack”.

She added: “Everything that followed was his doing” and noted that Mr Trump could have immediately intervened to stop his supporters from rioting but did not.

Representatives John Katko and Adam Kinzinger also said they would back impeachment, and some other Republicans seem likely to follow.

Mr McCarthy, one of Mr Trump’s closest allies in Congress, echoed Mr Trump in declaring that “impeachment at this time would have the opposite effect of bringing our country together”.

– Will the house censure Mr Trump?

In a move short of impeachment, Mr McCarthy and other Republicans have floated the idea of a House censure of Mr Trump.

Although it was not clear how much support the proposal has, Mr McCarthy said censure or some other mechanism — such as a bipartisan commission to investigate the attack — would “ensure that the events of January 6 are rightfully denounced and prevented from occurring in the future”.

A police officer’s riot shield leans up against a statue in the Rotunda (Andrew Harnik/AP)
A police officer’s riot shield leans up against a statue in the Rotunda (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Democrats, with the votes to impeach in hand, are not minded to support the move.

– How will Mr Trump respond?

So far, Mr Trump has taken no responsibility for his part in fomenting the violent insurrection, despite his comments encouraging supporters to march on the Capitol and praising them while they were still carrying out the assault.

“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” he said on Tuesday.

In the days leading up to the January 6 certification vote, Mr Trump encouraged his supporters to descend on Washington, DC, promising a “wild” rally in support of his baseless claims of election fraud, despite his own administration’s findings to the contrary.

President Donald Trump salutes as he steps off Air Force One (Miguel Roberts/AP)
President Donald Trump salutes as he steps off Air Force One (Miguel Roberts/AP)

Speaking for more than an hour to a crowd assembled near the White House, Mr Trump encouraged supporters to “fight like hell” and suggested they march down to the Capitol to encourage Republican politicians to “step up” and overturn the will of voters to grant him another term in office.

He also said he would join them in marching on the Capitol, although he returned to the White House immediately after the speech and watched the riot on TV.

One significant difference from Mr Trump’s first impeachment: He no longer has a Twitter feed to respond in real time.

– Has security been increased at the Capitol?

In a sign of the increase tensions in the wake of the attack, House politicians will for the first time be required to go through a metal detector before being allowed to enter the chamber.

This new security measure will stay in effect every day the House is in session for the foreseeable future, according to a directive by Timothy Blodgett, the acting House sergeant-at-arms.

Mr Blodgett replaced the longtime sergeant-at-arms who resigned after widespread criticism about poor security planning for the January 6 certification vote.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, an ally of President Donald Trump, passes through a metal detector before entering the House chamber, a new security measure put into place after a mob stormed the Capitol (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Marjorie Taylor Greene, an ally of President Donald Trump, passes through a metal detector before entering the House chamber, a new security measure put into place after a mob stormed the Capitol (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Members of Congress have previously enjoyed nearly free roam at the Capitol, able to bypass security screening stations at most entrances to the building.

In the House chamber, there have been Capitol Police officers and civilian door monitors but no screening stations.

Mr Blodgett also told politicians they must wear masks during the Covid-19 crisis and that they face removal from the chamber if they fail to do so.

– Will politicians rein in emotions on the floor?

While debate on the House is often impassioned, emotions are expected to run unusually high as lawmakers debate impeachment.

Not only is it the second time they have voted on such a measure, the debate comes exactly one week after a majority of House Republicans objected to the certification of Mr Biden’s victory, setting the stage for the hours-long siege that rocked the Capitol and the nation.

President-elect Joe Biden (Susan Walsh/AP)
President-elect Joe Biden (Susan Walsh/AP)

In the end, 121 House Republicans voted against Arizona’s certification of Mr Biden’s victory — and 138 Republican politicians opposed Pennsylvania’s certification — even after the assault on the Capitol, an unprecedented break with tradition that has Democrats seething.

A recent breakout of Covid-19 among politicians who were held in lockdown with others who refused to wear masks has only heightened tensions.

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