Donald Trump on Wednesday became the first president in US history to be impeached twice, as 10 of his fellow Republicans joined Democrats in the House of Representatives to charge him with inciting an insurrection in last week's violent rampage in the Capitol.
The vote in the Democratic-controlled House was 232-197 following the deadly assault on American democracy, although it appeared unlikely the swift impeachment would lead to Trump's ouster before his 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 a quick impeachment trial, saying there was no way to conclude it before Trump leaves office. But even if he has left the White House, a Senate conviction of Trump could lead to a vote on banning him from running for office again.
The House passed a single article of impeachment - a formal charge - 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 Nov. 3 election, sent lawmakers into hiding and left five people dead, including a police officer.
During his speech, Trump repeated false claims that the election was fraudulent and exhorted supporters to march on the Capitol.
In a video statement released after the vote, Trump did not mention the impeachment vote and took no responsibility for his remarks to supporters last week, but condemned the violence.
Also read- US Presidents who have been impeached
"Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for. No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence. No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law and order," Trump said.
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 Jan. 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."
At a later ceremony, she signed the article of impeachment before it is sent to the Senate, saying she did it "sadly, with a heart broken over what this means to our country."
No US president has ever 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.
1. What happens next?
The single article of impeachment approved by the House, charging Trump with incitement of insurrection, is sent to the Senate. There, in one of the more unusual spectacles in American politics, the 100 members are sworn in as the jury in a trial, with "impeachment managers" functioning as prosecutors. Witnesses can be called, evidence can be submitted, and impeachment managers and counsel for the accused give opening and closing statements before the senators vote whether to acquit or convict.
2. When will such a trial begin?
That's not clear. It almost certainly won't be before Trump's term ends and President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. The Senate is not scheduled to reconvene until the previous day, Jan. 19. In a Jan. 8 memo to Senate Republicans, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- in his final days as the Senate's agenda-setter before Democrats assume the slimmest-possible majority in the chamber -- said a trial couldn't start until shortly after the Jan. 20 inauguration. He also said all 100 senators would have to agree in order for the chamber to consider any other business -- including votes on Biden's cabinet nominees or early legislative efforts -- during the duration of the trial. Trump's 2020 Senate impeachment trial lasted almost three weeks.
3. Does it matter that Trump would already be out of office?
Sure. The most obvious reason to impeach a president is to remove him from office, which would be a moot point. The legality of a Senate impeachment trial after a president has left office is an open question, never tested in the courts. That's because no president impeached by the House has ever been convicted by the Senate, much less after leaving office.
4. What would be the point of a Senate trial, then?
Trump has made noises about running for the presidency again in 2024, a prospect that alarms many Democrats and complicates the ambitions of other Republicans who envision themselves in the Oval Office. Should he be convicted (this time) by the required two-thirds supermajority in the Senate, senators could also vote to disqualify him from serving in future federal office, which would take only a simple majority. (Article 1 of the Constitution says impeachment judgments can include "disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.") If convicted, Trump also could lose many of the benefits afforded to former presidents, which, under the Former Presidents Act of 1958, include a lifetime pension, an annual travel budget and funding for an office and staff. Lifetime protection by the Secret Service is one benefit that would not be affected.
5. Is a two-thirds majority for conviction possible this time?
That's hard to tell at this point. Once Georgia's two new senators are sworn in, the Senate will have 48 Democrats plus two independents who vote with them. Assuming all 50 of them vote to convict, they will need the support of 17 Republicans. McConnell will be key. He is said to have told associates he believes that Trump engaged in impeachable offenses, but he hasn't gone so far as to say he would vote to convict. In a note to Republicans Jan. 13, McConnell said he would decide how to vote based on the "legal arguments when they are presented." If he were to support conviction, that could have enormous sway among Republicans in the chamber. At the moment, only a few have signaled they might vote to convict.
From the archive - Trump's first impeachment