Donald Trump leaves Washington for Texas at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. File/Reuters
Gulf Today Report
The US House impeached President Donald Trump for a historic second time on Wednesday to charge him with inciting last week’s mob attack on Congress.
With the Capitol secured by armed National Guard troops inside and out, the House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump.
“Today, in a bipartisan way, the House demonstrated that no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States,” Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after the vote.
President Donald Trump gestures during a meeting. File photo
The proceedings moved at lightning speed, with lawmakers voting just one week after violent pro-Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol, egged on by the president’s calls for them to "fight like hell” against the election results.
The Senate will not hold a trial before Jan.20, when Democrat Joe Biden assumes the presidency, meaning the real estate tycoon will escape the ignominy of being forced to leave early.
Ten Republicans fled Trump, joining Democrats who said he needed to be held accountable and warned ominously of a "clear and present danger” if Congress should leave him unchecked before Democrat Joe Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20.
It was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in modern times, more so than against Bill Clinton in 1998.
He is set, however, to face a Senate trial later and if convicted he might be barred in a follow-up vote from seeking the presidency again in 2024.
“Donald Trump has deservedly become the first president in American history to bear the stain of impeachment twice over,” said Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who in a week’s time will become Senate leader.
“The Senate is required to act and will proceed with his trial.”
In the House of Representatives, the only question was how many Republicans would join the lockstep Democratic majority in the 232-197 vote. At final count, 10 Republicans broke ranks, including the party’s number three in the House, Representative Liz Cheney.
“I am in total peace today that my vote was the right thing and I actually think history will judge it that way,” said Adam Kinzinger, a vocal Trump critic and one of the Republicans who crossed the aisle.
Holed up in the White House, Trump issued a videotaped address in which he made no mention of impeachment or his ferocious attempts to persuade half the country into believing that Biden’s victory was fraudulent.
Instead, the comments focused on an appeal for Americans to be “united,” avoid violence and “overcome the passions of the moment.”
“There is never a justification for violence. No excuses, no exceptions: America is a nation of laws,” Trump said.
Biden called Wednesday’s decision by lawmakers “a bipartisan vote cast by members who followed the Constitution and their conscience.”
Biden, who inherits the pandemic and an ailing economy amid many other woes, urged the Senate to address his priorities such as approving cabinet nominations while also dealing with Trump’s trial.
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“I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation,” Biden said in a statement.
Despite Trump’s denunciation of violence following the mayhem inflicted by his followers when they invaded Congress, fears of unrest are high.
Armed National Guards deployed across the capital, and downtown Washington streets were blocked to traffic.
In the Capitol building itself, guards in full camouflage and carrying assault rifles assembled, some of them grabbing naps early on Wednesday under the ornate statues and historical paintings.
Speech to mob
Trump survived a first impeachment almost exactly a year ago when the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted him of abusing his office to try and get dirt on Biden’s family before the election.
This time, his downfall was triggered by a speech he delivered to a crowd on the National Mall on Jan.6, telling them that Biden had stolen the presidential election and that they needed to march on Congress and show “strength.”
Members of the National Guard rest in the Capitol Visitors Centre on Capitol Hill in Washington. AFP
Amped up on weeks of election conspiracy theories pushed by Trump, the mob then stormed into the Capitol, fatally wounded one police officer, wrecked furniture and forced terrified lawmakers to hide, interrupting a ceremony to put the legal stamp on Biden’s victory.
One protester was shot dead, and three other people died of “medical emergencies,” bringing the toll to five.
Pelosi told the chamber before the vote that Trump “must go.” “He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love,” she said.
Democratic lawmaker Ilhan Omar branded Trump a “tyrant,” saying that “for us to able to survive as a functioning democracy there has to be accountability.”
But Nancy Mace, a newly-elected Republican congresswoman said that while lawmakers “need to hold the president accountable,” the speed of the impeachment “poses great questions about the constitutionality.”
The top Republican in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, said that while Trump deserves censure, hurriedly impeaching will “further divide this nation.”
“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 released by his office as the House prepared to vote on a non-binding resolution calling on him to utilize the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution.
And the inauguration will look different from other presidential inaugurations because of last week’s riot, with extremely tight security around the entire capital region.
Four people died during the chaos — one from gunshot wounds and three from medical emergencies — after hundreds of Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to overturn his election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.
The Coromandel Express, which runs from Kolkata to Chennai, derailed and fell on the opposite track, with many people still trapped, the reports said.
Sheikh Mohammed added in a tweet on Twitter: "We found its executive director at the service counters, receiving customers, speeding up procedures, and contributing to clearing transactions. The secret shopper assured us that providing the service did not exceed five minutes."
The first lady arrived in Cairo from Amman, where she attended the wedding of Crown Prince Hussein. She is travelling to Morocco on Saturday before heading to Portugal, the final stop of her tour, on Monday.