The Second Impeachment — What’s Different This Time?

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All eyes are on the U.S. government right now as it is one week after the far-right attack on the capitol—and one week before Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration. Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted on an article of impeachment to charge Donald Trump with “incitement of insurrection.” So, what’s different this time?

Why was he impeached for a second time with less than a week left in office?

On January 7, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump. Pence declined the effort, leaving impeachment as the only way to hold Donald Trump accountable for his actions. Democrats (and some Republicans) believed impeachment would send an important message to Americans.

What led to this?

Some might say the entirety of Donald Trump’s term led to this. However, this year specifically was extremely violent and divisive, from Trump expressing support of armed protesters on several occasions, to asking supporters to enlist in the “Trump Army,” to endorsing QAnon, to refusing to condemn violent white supremacists, and refusing a peaceful transfer of power. The list goes on, but here are a few examples of Trump’s rhetoric leading up to the insurrection: 

  • On January 1 via Twitter: “The BIG Protest Rally in Washington, D.C. will take place at 11:00 A.M. on January 6th. Locational details to follow. StopTheSteal!”
  • On January 4 at a pre-election rally in Georgia: “They’re not taking this White House. We’re going to fight like hell.”
  • On January 6 at a rally on the National Mall: “Something is wrong here, something is really wrong, can’t have happened and we fight, we fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
  • On January 6 (3 hours after the attack began) via Twitter: “You have to go home now, we have to have peace… We love you, you’re very special.”
  • On January 6 (5 hours after the attack began) via Twitter: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”

What happens next?

Impeachment looks a bit different this time around. Rather than holding a months-long investigation into the president, proceedings towards a trial began rather swiftly. The House voted 221 to 203 to advance Trump’s impeachment bill. And, as of January 13, the House has passed a resolution 232 to 197 charging Trump with a single article: “inciting an insurrection.” Ten Republican representatives voted for impeachment—the largest number of votes from a president’s own party to impeach a sitting president.

Although there are rumblings that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is in favor of impeachment, there’s no word that he’ll vote for it, and he has confirmed that he will not consent to an emergency reconvention of the Senate, so the earliest the trial could begin is January 19. However, a two-thirds vote is required for a conviction, and as of right now the Senate is run by Republicans, some of whom are still in support of Trump. At the very least, the trial could be dragged on until well after the end of the Trump administration on January 20. 

In the case that Trump is removed from office, the Constitution bars him from running again in 2024. President Trump is the only president in American history to be impeached twice.