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'Clear and present danger': Trump impeached

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The last days of US President Donald Trump’s tumultuous term in the Oval Office have been marked by violent riots, a worsening pandemic and now his impeachment by Congress for being what one leader said was a “clear and present danger” to his country.

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The US House of Representatives made Trump the first US president ever to be impeached twice, formally charging him with inciting an insurrection just a week after a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol.

The vote on Wednesday in the Democratic-controlled House was 232-197 following a deadly assault on American democracy, with 10 Republicans joining the Democrats in backing impeachment of the President in his waning days in power.

But it appears unlikely that the extraordinarily swift impeachment will lead to Trump’s ouster before the Republican president’s four-year term ends and Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20.

The Senate’s Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, rejected Democratic calls for an immediate impeachment trial, saying there was no time to conclude a trial before Trump leaves office.

The House passed a single article of impeachment accusing Trump of “incitement of insurrection”, focused on an incendiary speech he delivered to thousands of supporters shortly before the pro-Trump mob rampaged through the Capitol.

The mob disrupted the formal certification of Biden’s victory over Trump in the November 3 election, sent lawmakers into hiding and left five people dead, including a police officer.

During his speech, Trump repeated false claims the election was fraudulent and exhorted supporters to march on the Capitol.

With thousands of rifle-carrying National Guard troops inside and outside the Capitol, an emotional debate unfolded in the same House chamber where lawmakers had crouched under chairs and donned gas masks on January 6 as rioters clashed with police officers outside the doors.

“The president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said on the House floor before the vote.

“He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

No US president has been removed from office through impeachment. Three – Trump in 2019, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 – previously were impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.

Ten Republicans have broke ranks and vote to impeach, with the decision by top House GOP member Liz Cheney sparking an immediate party backlash.

The votes were in sharp contrast with the unanimous support for Trump among House Republicans when he was impeached by Democrats in December 2019.

Cheney was the only member of her party’s leadership to support impeachment, which was opposed by 197 Republicans.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” said Cheney, whose father, Dick Cheney, served as vice-president under George W Bush.

In a break from standard procedure, Republican House leaders refrained from urging their members to vote against impeachment, calling the vote a matter of individual conscience.

Under the US Constitution, impeachment in the House triggers a trial in the Senate. A two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove Trump, meaning at least 17 Republicans in the 100-member chamber would have to join the Democrats.

McConnell has said no trial could begin until the Senate was scheduled to be back in regular session on January 19, one day before Biden’s inauguration.

McConnell said in a memo to his fellow Republicans that he had not made a final decision on how he would vote on impeachment.

Trump on Wednesday urged his followers to remain peaceful, saying in a statement: “I urge 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.”

The House impeached Trump after he ignored calls for his resignation and Pence rebuffed Democratic demands to invoke a constitutional provision to remove the president.

The House previously voted to impeach Trump in December 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stemming from his request that Ukraine investigate Biden and his son Hunter ahead of the election, as Democrats accused him of soliciting foreign interference to smear a domestic political rival. The Senate in February 2020 voted to keep Trump in office.

The FBI has warned of armed protests planned for Washington and all 50 US state capitals before Biden’s inauguration.

-Reuters

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