Former President Donald Trump faces impeachment charges for “inciting an insurrection”

First time in U.S. history that a president is impeached twice

As New Year’s rolled around after an eventful 2020, shouting ‘Jumanji!’ at 12:00 a.m. seemed like the perfect thing to do to reset 2021 into a year filled with possibilities. After all, a new year brings new ideals, right? However, the events that are currently unfolding in only the first month of 2021 are not just new, but so historical that they will be forever etched into the United States’ chronicle. 


The Capitol Building Raid

Former President Donald Trump released a series of tweets during the first week of January, encouraging his supporters to object to Congress formally recognizing Joe Biden as the next President-elect.

On Jan. 6, Trump encouraged his crowd to march to the U.S. Capitol Building and protest the results of the election. As a result, crowds of pro-Trump rioters unlawfully broke and entered into the Capitol Building during the final confirmation vote on Biden’s victory. This insurrection marked only the second time in U.S. history that the Capitol Building was breached — the first being in 1814, a little over two centuries ago.

Almost immediately after the riot, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota’s 5th District sent out a tweet stating her wish to draw up articles of impeachment against Trump for inciting violence and encouraging the attack on the Capitol, a sentiment shared by many politicians.


The House votes to proceed with impeachment

Exactly a week after Jan. 6, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi banged her gavel on the House floor to announce the bipartisan agreement to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection,” as the first of the House’s official Articles of Impeachment states. 

“We know that the President of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country,” Pelosi said on the floor. 

The House vote came down to 232 to 197 — see the full breakdown of the vote here.

“He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love,” Pelosi said. 

10 House Republicans also joined the Democrats in the final verdict, including the House’s third-ranked Republican Liz Cheney.

“[Trump] summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said to reporters. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” 


Pro-Trump supporters threaten representatives who voted for impeachment 

Those who voted to impeach Trump now fear for their lives, receiving calls for their resignations from their positions along with death threats toward themselves and their families from pro-Trump extremists.

Michigan’s Republican Representative Peter Meijer reported that the threats started coming in immediately after Wednesday’s impeachment vote. As a result, they filed for armed security to protect themselves. 

“Many of us are altering our routines, working to get body armor, which is a reimbursable purchase that we can make,” Meijer said. “Our expectation is that someone may try to kill us.”

As the highest ranking House Republican to vote for impeachment, Cheney in particular has been bombarded with contempt on her Facebook page. Though she insists that her vote was a “vote of conscience,” multiple pro-Trump members and her fellow lawmakers have also been working to shatter her political career.

Freedom Caucus Chair Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona voted to keep Trump in office.

“[Cheney] should not be serving this conference,” Biggs said. “That’s it.”

Ohio Representative Jim Jordan told reporters he thinks Cheney should be ousted from her leadership position.

“I think she’s totally wrong,” Jordan said. “I think there should be a conference and have a second vote [on her position].”


Impeachment Breakdown

The electoral victories of Georgian Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff resulted in the Senate being split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans after Inauguration Day — only the fourth time in U.S. history that the Senate has been evenly divided. 

Convicting Trump of impeachment requires a Senate vote of two-thirds of those present. Assuming all 100 senators are on the floor, and all Democrats vote for impeachment, a conviction will require that 67 senators vote ‘yea,’ including 17 Senate Republicans. 

Nevertheless, if Trump does end up being convicted for his impeachment charges, the Senate will be clear to take another vote barring him from holding any elected political office again, as stated by Schumer. Unlike the two-thirds majority needed to convict, the vote to block Trump from holding “any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States” only needs a simple majority of those present.

If the Senate fails to meet the two-thirds majority requirement, Trump will not be convicted or barred from entering public office, though he would still be considered impeached.

Trump has not taken any responsibility for the riot and has hired South Carolina attorney Butch Bowers to defend him. According to Jason Miller, a Trump advisor, Bowers is well-respected by both Democrats and Republicans and is known for representing multiple Republicans who faced potential sanctions from legislative bodies, also previously representing former South Carolina governors Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley. 

More details such as the inclusion of witnesses and subpoenaed documents in the impending trial have not yet been determined. Schumer and McConnell are expected to soon convene to determine and announce the parameters for the trial’s legal aspects and how much of the Senate’s time will be devoted to the proceedings each day.


Senate Republicans bring up and vote on the impeachment’s constitutionality

As impeachment is a two-part process, Trump will have to face a finalizing trial in the Senate. However, with President Biden inaugurated on Jan. 20, the Senate has to accommodate the pending impeachment trials of a former President while simultaneously preparing to hold confirmation hearings for Biden’s new cabinet as well as passing his legislative agenda. 

Biden has said the Senate should be able to split its time and do both — hold the trial and start working on his proceedings. However, as at least four of Biden’s cabinet hearings are scheduled for just the first week of his term, along with his imminent governing policies, the Senate is already largely occupied.

In response to House Democrats calling for the impeachment trial to begin as soon as possible, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that “even if the Senate process were to begin [the week of Jan. 14] and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office.”

On Jan. 25, the House sent the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate, setting in motion the first stages of Trump’s trial. According to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the start of arguments in the Senate will begin the week of Feb. 8, allowing for time to confirm President Joe Biden’s cabinet. 

On Jan. 26, senators were sworn in as jurors for the trial amid an immediate challenge from Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican ally of the former President. Paul called for a procedural vote regarding the constitutionality of the trial in what amounted to be the first test of how Senate Republicans view the upcoming proceedings. 

With a result of 55-45, the Senate voted to table Paul’s point of order, with only 5 Republicans joining Democrats against dismissing the trial. Paul told reporters that his procedural vote was to demonstrate that there already weren’t enough votes to convict Trump. 

“I think it showed that impeachment is dead on arrival,” Paul said after the vote. “If you voted it was unconstitutional, how in the world would you ever vote to convict somebody for this?”

Senate faces difficulty in determining the structure of the trial:

Bracing for the prospect of an acquittal after Tuesday’s procedural voting results, Senate Democrats are also considering a rapid-fire impeachment trial as short as one week, along with the possibility of issuing a censure to draw more support from Republicans. 

Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia said he was likely to file a censure resolution that would serve as an alternative to convicting Trump on the impeachment charge — see the meaning of a censure resolution here.

“I have been talking with a number of my colleagues … for a couple of weeks about the likelihood that we would fall short on impeachment,” Kaine told reporters. “Not only will we fall short, but we would use time for something that we could be using for Covid, which I think is just so dire right now.”

Even though, on Jan. 27, Schumer said that a trial is still going to happen on the chamber floor just after Kaine’s remarks, many democratic senators do not believe Trump will be convicted and are instead looking at other options

“A lot of us were witnesses to what took place,” Democratic Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse told reporters. “So I think there is the prospect, at least, of quite a rapid trial.”

Whitehouse’s words were supported by Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who also called for a quick proceeding. 

“I would hope that we deal with that as quickly as possible to start addressing the needs of working families,” Sanders said.

As it is now uncertain whether a trial will be held, the length of the Senate’s impeachment proceedings is unclear. Under an agreement reached by Schumer and McConnell, much of the trial’s preparations will take place the week of Jan. 25, with a break two weeks after to exchange the pre-trial briefs due on Feb. 9.