Donald Trump is set to be the first president in US history to be impeached for a second time, as the House of Representatives prepares to vote on charging the outgoing president with inciting last week’s violent siege on the US Capitol.
The House, which is controlled by Democrats, is expected to hold a vote on Wednesday afternoon on one article of impeachment, charging the president with “incitement of insurrection”.
“The president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion, against our common country,” Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, said at the start of a two-hour debate ahead of Wednesday’s vote. “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
More than 200 Democratic House members have already signed on to the legislation, and at least six House Republicans, including Liz Cheney, have said they will also vote to impeach Mr Trump, just one week before Joe Biden is set to be sworn in as the 46th US president.
Ms Cheney’s statement on Tuesday evening, in which she said Mr Trump had “summoned the mob” that stormed the Capitol and resulted in at least five deaths, sent shockwaves through Washington. Ms Cheney is the third-most senior House Republican, and daughter of Dick Cheney, the former vice-president.
Kevin McCarthy, the House’s top Republican, said in Wednesday’s debate that Mr Trump “bears responsibility” for last week’s “attack on Congress by mob rioters”, adding: “He should have immediately denounced the[m] when he saw what was unfolding.”
But Mr McCarthy opposed impeachment, criticising the “short timeframe” and warning that the process would “further divide the nation”.
Members of the National Guard were deployed to the US Capitol on Wednesday ahead of the impeachment vote and are expected to support police until Mr Biden’s inauguration.
In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Trump responded to reports of further demonstrations by urging “that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind”.
“That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers,” Mr Trump added.
After Mr Trump is impeached, Ms Pelosi will send the article of impeachment to the Senate for a trial.
While Ms Pelosi has not said when she will send the article, she appointed a slate of impeachment managers late on Tuesday, in a move that would allow her to proceed swiftly. The managers will prosecute the case against Mr Trump during a trial in the upper chamber. Chief among them is Jamie Raskin, the Democratic congressman from Maryland who also drafted the article of impeachment.
Steny Hoyer, Ms Pelosi’s second-in-command, said on Wednesday morning that the article could be sent as soon as this week.
“I think we’re going to send it as soon as we have the ability to do so,” he told MSNBC. “I don’t think we’re going to wait.”
However, a spokesperson for Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, confirmed that he did not intend to reconvene the Senate before January 19, one day before Mr Biden’s inauguration. That would set the stage for an impeachment trial in the early days of the Biden administration.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Mr McConnell was happy that Democrats were pushing to impeach Mr Trump because he believed it would help the Republican party purge the president from its ranks. Mr McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, is one of three members of the president’s cabinet to have resigned in recent days over his handling of the Capitol riots.
In a letter to Republican senators on Wednesday afternoon, Mr McConnell said he had not yet made up his mind on whether to vote to convict Mr Trump. “While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” he wrote.
Just three presidents, Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Mr Trump, have been impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanours”. Mr Trump stands to be the first to be impeached twice, and the only one to be impeached so close to the end of his term.
Mr Trump, who last week was banned from Twitter, has been relatively quiet in recent days, in sharp contrast to the barrage of social media commentary that punctuated his four years in the White House. On Tuesday, he told reporters the impeachment proceedings were “causing tremendous anger” and posing “tremendous danger to our country”.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll published on Wednesday showed Mr Trump’s approval rating had dived to an all-time low, with just 34 per cent of voters approving of the job he was doing.
Mr Trump’s approval also slipped among Republican voters, according to the poll, although he remained their top choice for the GOP presidential candidate in 2024. Forty-two per cent of Republican voters said they would vote for Mr Trump in the next GOP primary, compared with 54 per cent when asked the same question in November.