WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House for a historic second time Wednesday, charged with “incitement of insurrection” in response to the deadly mob siege of the Capitol building 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 to impeach Trump. Vermont Congressman Peter Welch, a Democrat, voted in favor of the resolution. The proceedings moved at lightning speed, with lawmakers voting just one week after violent pro-Trump loyalists stormed the U.S. Capitol, egged on by the president’s calls for them to “fight like hell” against the election results.
Ten Republicans fled Trump, joining Democrats who said he 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 Jan. 20.
Trump is the only U.S. 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 lawmakers, who were sent scrambling for safety as the mob occupied the Capitol building, and it revealed the fragility of the nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power. The riot 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 lawmakers to uphold their oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign “and domestic.”
She said of 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, 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 Biden’s inauguration.
“Like all of you, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the calamity at the Capitol last week,” he said, his first condemnation of the attack. He 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.”
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 Wednesday that could change in the rapidly shifting political environment as officeholders, donors, big business and others peel away from the defeated president.
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 Trump is already set to leave the White House, McConnell’s office said. The legislation is intended to prevent Trump from ever running for public office again.
McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses 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.
McConnell told major donors over the weekend that he was through with Trump, said the strategist, who demanded anonymity to describe McConnell’s conversations.
In a note to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote.”
Unlike his first time, Trump faces this impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own reelection as well as the Senate Republican majority.
Even Trump ally Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, shifted his position and said Wednesday the president bears responsibility for the horrifying day at the Capitol.
In making a case for the “high crimes and misdemeanors” demanded in the Constitution, the four-page impeachment resolution approved Wednesday relies on Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a rally near the White House on the day of the Jan. 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 finalizing Biden’s victory.
Ten Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, voted to impeach Trump, cleaving the Republican leadership, and the party itself.
Cheney, whose father is the former Republican vice president, said of Trump’s actions summoning the mob that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president” of his office.
Trump was said to be livid with perceived disloyalty from McConnell and Cheney.
With the team around Trump hollowed out and his Twitter account silenced by the social media company, the president was deeply frustrated that he could not hit back, according to White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
From the White House, Trump leaned on Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to push Republican senators to resist, while chief of staff Mark Meadows called some of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill.
The president’s sturdy popularity with the GOP lawmakers’ constituents still had some sway, and most House Republicans voted not to impeach.
Security was exceptionally tight at the Capitol, with tall fences around the complex. Metal-detector screenings were required for lawmakers entering the House chamber, where a week earlier lawmakers huddled inside as police, guns drawn, barricaded the door from rioters.
“We are debating this historic measure at a crime scene,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.
During the debate, some Republicans repeated the falsehoods spread by Trump about the election and argued that the president has been treated unfairly by Democrats from the day he took office.
Other Republicans argued the impeachment was a rushed sham and complained about a double standard applied to his supporters but not to the liberal left. Some simply appealed for the nation to move on.
Rep. Tom McClintock of California said, “Every movement has a lunatic fringe.”
Yet Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo. and others recounted the harrowing day as rioters pounded on the chamber door trying to break in. Some called it a “coup” attempt.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., contended that Trump was “capable of starting a civil war.”
Conviction and removal of Trump would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which will be evenly divided. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling for Trump to “go away as soon as possible.”
Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down his first days in office, 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.
The impeachment bill draws from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden. Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.
The House had first tried to persuade Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke their authority under the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Pence declined to do so, but the House passed the resolution anyway.
The impeachment bill details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes.
While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.
BROC-Community Action in Southwestern Vermont has some advice for Rutland County: Bundle up in this cold weather, and let BROC help you if you need it.
Tom Donahue, CEO of the nonprofit which has its Rutland office on Union Street, said the latest program, “Warming Others: Winter Clothing Drive,” fits in with BROC’s mission of helping people in need and making it easy for them to access what can help. That’s one of the reasons the winter clothing, coats, sweaters, gloves, hats, boots and children’s snow-pants, will be available all winter long and not just on a specific date.
“We wanted to make sure that basically, if people needed winter clothing, that they had the opportunity to get them throughout the entire winter,” he said.
Warming Others is expected to be an annual program.
The beginning of Warming Others, which joins assistance programs at BROC for food and fuel, goes back about three years, Donahue said. ,
“We realized there was a community need for winter clothing,” he said.
A program called “Coats for Kids” had collected donated coats for children, which Donahue called a “tremendous effort,” and distributed the coats, boots and gloves on a specific day. But there hadn’t been a Rutland County distribution in a few years, so BROC staff decided they would “take up the charge.”
“We decided to do it a little differently in that we would do a distribution throughout the winter instead of a one-day event,” Donahue said.
Donahue praised the previous winter clothing giveaway, which was staffed mostly by volunteers, but said BROC staff was concerned that some family in need may not be able to get to their offices on a specific date and could potentially go without the winter wear they needed all season.
Caprice Hover, executive director of United Way of Rutland County, said her organization gives away winter items like hats and gloves but said they were grateful another local nonprofit is hoping to meet the need as well.
“It’s great that an organization can open the opportunity up so people can not only get winter coats but warm clothing. It’s essential,” she said.
Warming Others had the word “coats” in the title when BROC staff first developed it, but the name evolved as the organizers realized it “wasn’t just about coats.”
“There are people who need hats, gloves and scarves,” he said.
Snow pants are a popular item, which BROC is always struggling to have available for clients. Donahue said he thought that might be because “kids are rough on snow-pants,” but he said they’re probably less likely to turn up when people are going through a closet and finding coats and sweaters they can donate.
According to Donahue, the effort isn’t just passive, such as when a BROC staff member notices someone coming to their building because of the food shelf.
“We’ll see some of those people without a coat or hat and gloves. That gives us the opportunity to say to people every day, ‘What size are you? Would you like a warm coat?’ And they’re, of course, so incredibly happy and grateful,” he said.
Donahue said the program has worked well and the community has been generous with donations, but he wanted clients to know BROC staff look closely at the items they receive. He said anyone who needs a coat and gets one from BROC will not find it has, for instance, a broken zipper.
“As a community action organization, we feel we have to lead on those standards for people of low income or living in poverty in our area. We don’t want to pass along a coat with a broken zipper. They’re people, and they deserve a coat with a zipper that works like anybody else,” he said.
With several financial donations, BROC staff were able to arrange to buy coats from Carl Durfee’s Store in Fair Haven and members of Trinity Episcopal Church collected almost 1,000 pairs of warm socks for “Warming Others.”
“It’s having a positive snowball effect in the right direction. It’s growing and people are stepping up in new and creative way,” Donahue said.
Donahue said with the donations from the community, BROC is currently “replete” with winter items. Even snow-pants.
Now, BROC staff want to get the word out and get the clothing out to those who can use it.
The barriers are low to access the clothing. Donahue said the winter clothes are available during BROC’s open hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Staff member Natalie Kirk is at the front desk, taking calls at 775-0878, and Donahue said she can help people access the program.
No referral is needed, and Donahue said that while the Rutland office generally serves people from Rutland County, there is flexibility to help people from other locations who need warm clothing.
Also, he said the distribution of items is individualized. For instance, a mother who needs items for herself and three children will be able to get what they need.
What may be closest to a restriction is that BROC’s offices are still closed because of the pandemic so items will be brought out to those who need them and they will not be able to “shop” the collection in person.
A bill before the Vermont Legislature would add some new regulations on the sale of fireworks while repealing a particularly stringent one.
H.16, sponsored by Rep. Butch Shaw, R-Pittsford, would require fireworks dealers to notify customers of the restrictions on their use and limit the hours during which fireworks can be set off while removing an effective ban on consumers transporting fireworks.
“This is my second run on this bill,” Shaw said Wednesday. “It passed the House three years ago, got stuck in the Senate, made it to the floor of the Senate, was sent back to committee for revisions and never came out of committee.”
Shaw said he first introduced the bill because of complaints from his constituents about fireworks being set off at all hours. Fireworks became an issue in the city this spring, but Shaw said there were complaints about them elsewhere in the county long before that.
“This is nothing new,” he said. “This has been going on for a while. Then I noticed these pop-up places all over, and it seemed to be feeding the problem.”
While fireworks can be legally purchased in Vermont, they cannot be set off without a permit from local authorities. An earlier version of Shaw’s bill would have required sellers to see such a permit before making a sale. The Rutland Town Select Board recently placed a similar restriction on a local fireworks vendor on its own authority, amending the permit of C&C Fireworks to bar the Route 4 shop from selling to any city or town resident who did not display a permit.
A call to C&C was not immediately returned Wednesday.
In addition to having sellers notify buyers of the permitting and other requirements, the bill would restrict fireworks displays to between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., with exceptions for July 3, July 4, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
Also, the bill deregulates fireworks to an extent by striking down a portion of existing law saying that no one may transport fireworks in Vermont “except in interstate commerce.” Shaw said this meant that Vermonters have been able to buy fireworks but — permit or not — were breaking the law the moment they put them in their car and pulled out of the parking lot.
“That sounds a little incongruous to me,” he said.
Shaw said he worked with established businesses like C&C on the bill.
“I want to make sure that if we’re selling fireworks, and we are, we’re having responsible people making the sale,” he said. “Around the county people stop, unload their trailer, set up their tent and they’re selling fireworks. That’s why the legitimate guys are backing this bill. ... The bill actually legitimizes the sale of fireworks, to a point.”
While city officials have declared they have no intention of letting private citizens set off fireworks in the city limits, Rutland County Fire and Mutual Aid Coordinator Robert Schlachter said other parts of the county have been more permissive, meaning that there are legitimate sales for the businesses to make.
“Rutland Town has done permits,” Schlachter said. “I believe Clarendon has done permits, and I believe Castleton and also Killington.”
But there was also still significant illegal use. Rutland City Alderman Michael Talbott said he had a number of conversations with neighbors, explaining that the loud bangs were giving his dog crippling anxiety. Talbott said he was skeptical about what the bill could accomplish.
“Where I come from — they’re forbidden in California, and it’s 10 times worse there,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something that regulation is going to solve.”
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