Impeachment: Capitol Riot Aftermath
Updated: Jan 13
On January 6, 2021, thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, causing members of Congress to flee and hide as protesters took over the building. The event was plotted out and advertised on far-right social media and pro-Trump forums, but both the public and political spheres have decided that President Donald Trump himself was one of the driving forces behind the violent protest.
“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” the President tweeted last month. “Be there, will be wild!” His supporters saw this tweet as a call to action.
Many officials, Democrat and Republican alike, have expressed their disappointment and frustration in President Trump’s instigation of the protest, which has since resulted in five deaths. Days after the event, options to remove the President from office were already being taken into serious consideration.
“There’s strong support in the Congress for impeaching the President a second time,” Nancy Pelosi said in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday evening.
On January 13, President Trump was impeached. He is the only president to be impeached twice.
The 25th Amendment
Section IV of the 25th Amendment of the Constitution states, “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide… written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”
In short, if the current vice president, a majority of the president’s Cabinet, and two-thirds of Congress vote to remove the president on the basis of the president being incapacitated, the vice president will take over the presidency. The amendment was initially created for the purpose of transferring power in the case of a president being physically incapable of leading, but in President Trump’s case, it would be invoked on the basis of mental incapacitation. This further speaks for the uniqueness of the country’s current situation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed their support for the invocation of the 25th Amendment early on. However, Vice President Mike Pence has shown little interest in the amendment. He has reason to be hesitant. Enforcing the 25th Amendment would require convincing a majority of Trump’s cabinet officials to agree with the removal, and even then, Trump could dispute the action with a letter to Congress. The sheer number of votes required to put the motion in action, as well as the stress that would be inflicted upon him, makes the prospect of invoking the 25th Amendment intimidating.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi previously stated the House would move to impeach President Trump if the 25th Amendment was not invoked. “In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this president represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said. One of the motivations Congress has for impeachment is that it will help to prevent Donald Trump from holding office again. If Trump were to be found guilty of the charges being made against him, the Senate would be able to penalize him, which could range from simply removing him from office or banning him from entering office in the future.
Democrat House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has called for President Trump's removal since the events of Wednesday. (Gage Skidmore/Unsplash)
On Monday, January 11, after Republicans blocked a measure calling for Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th, House Democrats formally introduced an article of impeachment against the president, charging him with “incitement to insurrection” (as shown in a tweet by Representative Ted Lieu) for his role in the Capitol riot. The article of impeachment has 213 House co-sponsors, with Representative David Cicilline tweeting that they had the votes to impeach. Nancy Pelosi confirmed that the next step will be bringing impeachment legislation to the floor for a full vote.
Many House Republicans have responded to the impeachment article with the warning that an impeachment vote will only further divide the country, but in the wake of the events at the Capitol, many Democrats agree that Donald Trump cannot remain in power.
On January 13, one week after the storming of the Capitol, the House of Representatives voted 232–197 to impeach President Trump for inciting the Capitol riot. 10 House Republicans broke partisan lines, voting to impeach. It falls to the Senate to convict or acquit the President, so the most likely timeline places the impeachment trial after the January 20 Inauguration.
How Will This Affect Biden’s Presidency?
House Majority Whip James Clyburn said earlier on Sunday, January 10, that the House Democrats may wait until after 100 days of Biden’s presidency to send any articles of impeachment to the Senate. The 100 day period is meant to allow Joe Biden time to get administration appointments approved, his coronavirus plans on track, and his overall agenda underway. However, it has not turned out that way.
Regarding the matter, West Virginia Democrat Joe Mahcin said that this “basically stops us from putting a government together.”
However, Joe Biden has repeatedly assured the public that it’s up to Congress to decide what measures to take against President Trump. Moreover, Biden’s aides are reportedly working behind the scenes with Pelosi to ensure that Congress runs smoothly during the incoming President’s early days in office. Biden himself has been active in asking the Senate whether the impeachment trial will prevent urgently needed bills from being passed.
“I had a discussion today with some of the folks in the House and Senate,” Biden told reporters on Monday as he received his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine. “And the question is whether or not, for example, if the House moves forward — which they obviously are — with the impeachment and sends it over to the Senate, whether or not we can bifurcate this (schedule).” Biden proposed using a half-day method, with a portion of a day being dedicated to the impeachment trial, and the other portion to getting Senate confirmation of his Cabinet nominees.
Despite the complications that an impeachment trial will bring to his first days as president, Biden has allowed Nancy Pelosi to handle the impeachment as she sees fit.
With these new developments, the beginning of 2021 is off to an eventful start. As shown in America’s recent events, the effects of the impeachment of President Trump will critically alter the political sphere.