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Updated at 17.20 ET
The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to charge President Trump with “high crimes and misdemeanors” – specifically to incite a revolt against the federal government at the US Capitol.
Just a week before leaving office, Trump has now become the first U.S. president to be charged twice.
Wednesday’s vote came a week after Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in a chaotic scene that left several people dead.
Ten Republicans broke the party’s ranks to vote for the indictment, including the rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, chair of the Republican Conference Chamber.
“None of this would have happened without the president,” Cheney said in a statement Tuesday explaining his vote. “The president could have immediately and by force intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a major betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the constitution.”
Parliament voted 232-197 to accuse Trump by four abstentions, after a few hours of debate, evenly distributed between the parties. Due to the tight schedule, many legislators were only given a minute or less to state their position.
The Democratic-led House approved the new reprimand in the same chamber, where congressmen a week ago fled a counter-current of rebels encouraged by the president and his false claims that a false election process caused his defeat of President-elect Joe Biden.
Calling Jan. 6 “a day of fire that we all experienced,” House President Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said it followed Trump’s persistent attempts to spread untruths about the 2020 vote and to influence state election officials to overturn the results.
Accusation, Pelosi said, is “a constitutional means that will ensure that the republic will be safe from this man who is so determined to break down the things that we care about and that keep us together.”
Many Republicans who voted against the measure criticized the persecution process as hasty and counterproductive. But prosecutors said Trump’s attempt to derail Congress from certifying the election results spurred an act of domestic terrorism, making the president unfit for office.
In his remarks, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, tried to find a balance – between blaming Trump for his role in blowing the spread of the protest into a revolt and speaking out against accusations.
“The president is responsible for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mobsters,” McCarthy said. “He should have immediately condemned the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”
But McCarthy, who himself protested against the certification of the Electoral College results, said that instead of accusing Trump, Congress should form a commission of inquiry and consider a formal no-confidence motion against the president.
As lawmakers discussed persecution, the White House issued a statement urging Trump to remain calm. He did not refer to the House procedure, but to new pro-Trump demonstrations scheduled to take place in the coming week.
“Based on reports of multiple demonstrations, I urge that there should be NO violence, NO crime and NO vandalism of any kind,” Trump said. “That’s not what I stand for, and that’s not what America stands for. I urge ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm temper. Thank you.”
The Democratic-led House first accused Trump in December 2019 of his role in the Ukraine affair. On Tuesday, the president called the incitement to charge him again “ridiculous.”
If the Senate votes to convict Trump – a result that is far from certain – he would likely be prevented from holding a federal office again. An indictment does not begin until Biden is sworn in on January 20. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office said Wednesday that the chamber that Republicans currently hold will not reconvene until the transfer of power is complete.
The indictment, described in House Resolution 24, states:
- “Before the January 6, 2021 joint congressional meeting to count the votes of the Electoral College, President Trump repeatedly issued false statements claiming that the results of the presidential election were false and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by state or federal officials;
- “Shortly before the joint session began, President Trump reiterated false allegations to a crowd near the White House and deliberately made statements to the crowd that encouraged and predictably resulted in lawless action at the Capitol;
- “members of the crowd, encouraged by President Trump, illegally violated and vandalized the Capitol and were involved in other violent, destructive and soluble acts, including the killing of a police officer;
- “President Trump’s behavior on January 6, 2021, followed his previous efforts to undermine and prevent the certification of the presidential election, which included a threatening phone call to Georgia’s Secretary of State on January 2, 2021;
- “President Trump seriously threatened the security of the United States and its government institutions, threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered in the peaceful transfer of power and penetrated an equal branch of government.
- “by such conduct, President Trump guarantees indictment and trial, removal from office and incapacity to occupy US office.”