Donald Trump loves to note various metrics by which he has allegedly surpassed the accomplishments of his predecessors. Today he achieved a new superlative, becoming the first president to be impeached twice. The House vote on a single article of impeachment charging him with “incitement of insurrection,” principally via his speech to the mob that later attacked the Capitol on January 6, was 232-197, with ten Republicans voting “aye” and no Democrats voting “nay” (four Republicans did not vote). In the vote on Trump’s first impeachment in December 2019, no Republicans were in support while two Democrats voted against the one article and three voted against the other.
The forward trajectory of the impeachment effort now is a bit of a mystery. Normally enacted articles of impeachment trigger an immediate Senate trial when they are presented by House impeachment managers, which House Democrats have indicated will happen with great dispatch. But the Senate is not planning to be in session until January 19, and today Mitch McConnell (who will remain majority leader until new Georgia senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are sworn in, probably at around the same time or soon after the Senate reconvenes) made it clear he would not accelerate that timetable to facilitate an impeachment trial. Minutes after the House voted to impeach, McConnell reiterated that the Senate trial will take place during the Biden administration, perhaps even beginning on the same day as the inauguration.
“Given the rules, procedures, and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachment trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week,” McConnell said in a statement. “Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office. This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact.”
The big media narrative going into today’s vote was an impending Republican revolt against (or abandonment of) Trump in both Houses. Only one House Republican (Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington) spoke on behalf of impeachment in the two-hour floor debate (or the preliminary procedural debates), though another, House GOP Conference chair Liz Cheney, was quoted repeatedly by Democrats as condemning Trump’s “betrayal” of his oath. In the end, no Democrats opposed impeachment and 10 Republicans (in addition to Beutler and Cheney, they were David Valadao of California, John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Peter Meijer and Fred Upton of Michigan, Tom Rice of South Carolina, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, and Dan Newhouse of Washington) supported it. And while the top two House Republicans, Kevin McCarthy and Steven Scalise, emphasized the haste of impeachment proceedings and the imminence of Trump’s departure, the bulk of Republican speakers called to the well by House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan defended Trump’s January 6 remarks as innocent and attacked Democrats as defenders of left-wing violence.
Presumably all of today’s speeches will echo in Washington until the Senate convenes and we will learn how far Democrats want to pursue an effort to bar Trump from future office (the only impeachment sanction that will remain after he leaves the White House) and whether Republicans will continue to justify his horrific presidency.