President Donald Trump has been impeached by the US House of Representatives for a historic second time, charged with “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly mob siege of the US Capitol in a swift and stunning collapse of his final days in office.
With the Capitol secured by armed National Guard troops inside and out, the House voted 232-197 on Wednesday to impeach Mr Trump.
The proceedings moved at lightning speed, with representatives voting just one week after violent pro-Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol, egged on by the president’s calls for them to “fight like hell” against the election results.
Ten Republicans joined Democrats who said Mr Trump needed to be held accountable and warned ominously of a “clear and present danger” if Congress should leave him unchecked before Democrat Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
Mr Trump is the only US president to be twice impeached. It was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in modern times, more so than against Bill Clinton in 1998.
The Capitol insurrection stunned and angered politicians, who were sent scrambling for safety as the mob descended, and it revealed the fragility of the nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power.
The riot also forced a reckoning among some Republicans, who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invoked Abraham Lincoln and the Bible, imploring colleagues to uphold their oath to defend the constitution from all enemies, foreign “and domestic”.
She said of Mr Trump: “He must go, he is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
Holed up at the White House, watching the proceedings on TV, Mr Trump later released a video statement in which he made no mention at all of the impeachment but appealed to his supporters to refrain from any further violence or disruption of Mr Biden’s inauguration.
He said: “Like all of you, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the calamity at the Capitol last week.”
The president appealed for unity “to move forward” and said: “Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for. No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement.”
Mr Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 to acquit.
He is the first president to be impeached twice. None has been convicted by the Senate, but Republicans said on Wednesday that could change in the rapidly shifting political environment as officeholders, donors, big business and others peeled away from the defeated president.
Mr Biden said in a statement after the vote that it was his hope the Senate leadership “will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation”.
The soonest Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell would start an impeachment trial is next Tuesday, the day before Mr Trump is already set to leave the White House, Mr McConnell’s office said.
The legislation is also intended to prevent Mr Trump from ever running again.
Mr McConnell believes Mr Trump committed impeachable offences and considers the Democrats’ impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic president’s hold on the GOP, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Mr McConnell told major donors over the weekend that he was through with Mr Trump, the strategist said.
In a note to colleagues on Wednesday, Mr McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote” in a Senate impeachment trial.
Unlike his first time, Mr Trump faces this impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own re-election as well as the Senate Republican majority.
Even Mr Trump’s ally Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, shifted his position and said on Wednesday that the president bears responsibility for the horrifying day at the Capitol.
In making a case for the “high crimes and misdemeanours” demanded in the constitution, the four-page impeachment resolution relies on Mr Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Mr Biden’s election victory, including at a rally near the White House on the day of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. The riot delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalising Mr Biden’s victory.
Ten Republican representatives, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney, voted to impeach Mr Trump, cleaving the Republican leadership, and the party itself.
Conviction and removal of Mr Trump would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which will be evenly divided between the parties.
Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down his first days in office, Mr Biden is encouraging senators to divide their time between taking taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving Covid-19 relief while also conducting the trial.