Donald Trump has been charged with impeachment for the second time, and party friends are breaking with him. It is a historical disgrace – and yet he will remain in office to the end.
Donald Trump has always tried to sell his achievements as historical. Now, his presidency has actually made something in the history books. He is the only US president to have been impeached twice.
The House of Representatives used this sword only four times in US history – and twice it went against Trump.
The vote came a week before the end of his term in office – and a week after the uprising at the Capitol, in which a mob on behalf of Trump tried to violently prevent the election results from being confirmed. The president had incited his supporters and remained silent for hours during the violence. Five people were killed. The safety of numerous politicians was also seriously endangered.
The impeachment charge was debated on Wednesday in a congress building that was secured with thousands of police officers and national guards out of fear of renewed violence.
Ten Republicans break with Trump
232 MPs voted in favor of the charges accusing Trump of “inciting riot”, including all Democrats. 197 voted against it. It is passed on to the US Senate, which then condemns or acquits Trump.
The biggest question before the vote was how many Republicans would vote against Trump. In the end there were ten party friends. The highest ranking was Liz Cheney, the daughter of former US Vice President Dick Cheney. She said there had never been “greater betrayal by a President of the United States”. Cheney is number three in her party in the House of Representatives.
There were fewer deviants than the White House feared and hoped for Trump’s opponents. Nevertheless, this vote on the impeachment indictment was fundamentally different from the one in December 2019. At that time – after Trump urged Ukraine to harm his opponent Joe Biden – judgments were strictly based on party lines.
Criticism, but also fear of Trump
The January 6 uprising shifted Trump’s position within the Republican Party. There is now clear criticism of his behavior, including from those who did not want to support the impeachment lawsuit of the Democrats.
Kevin McCarthy, the head of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, took a typical stance: Trump “is responsible for the attack on Congress,” he said, but he preferred to leave it at a symbolic reprimand from the president and a parliamentary investigation. McCarthy was one of many Republicans who fueled Trump’s lie about a stolen election.
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One reason for the reluctance: the term of office of the representatives is only two years – and Trump continues to enjoy great approval among the party base. Those who break with Trump fear revolt and internal party challengers in the upcoming election.
Will Trump get the lifelong ban?
Despite the now resolved indictment, Trump is likely to remain in office until the regular end of the term – January 20. The Senate will not return to emergency sessions in Washington from its session until January 19, said the incumbent majority leader, Mitch McConnell.
The powerful Republican broke with Trump on January 6th. So far, he has left open what judgment he will make about Trump himself. Two thirds of the votes in the hundred-member Senate are needed for a conviction. Republicans and Democrats will each have 50 votes.
After the first break on the Republican front in the House of Representatives, however, it is possible that enough Republican senators will be found to convict them. 17 votes are required.
There are many legal issues raised when this process takes place after Trump leaves office. Another goal of the Democrats is to ban Trump from running for president again in 2024. That could also be decided with a conviction.
Trump lacks his Twitter account
Trump presumably followed the spectacle in the House of Representatives on TV. But since he was banned from social networks, he can no longer comment on the event via tweet, as he used to like to do. So he only had one message sent during the debate. It was worded like a tweet, but was traditionally sent as a press release. He said he wanted, “NO violence.”
Had this message been really important to him – and more than just trying to calm things down at the last second – he could have spread it in the past few days, especially on January 6th.
Late that evening, he posted a five-minute video message from the Oval Office on one of the few remaining channels, the White House’s YouTube account. Above all, he wanted to create distance from the mob. “No real supporter of mine could ever advocate political violence,” said the president suddenly.
The thrust highlighted two concerns on the historic day in Washington: Washington fears that there may be further violence in the wake of the change in power. And Trump can’t be sure that the Senate will let him get away this time.