WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House for a historic second time Wednesday, charged with “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly mob siege of the 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 to impeach Trump.
The proceedings moved at lightning speed, with lawmakers voting just one week after 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 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, D-Calif., 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.”
Watching the proceedings on TV at the White House, Trump later released a video statement in which he made no mention 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. 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 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.”
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 after 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. For several hours, 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.
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.
Nine other House Republicans also supported impeachment: Reps. John Katko of New York; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio; Fred Upton and Peter Meijer of Michigan; Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington state; Tom Rice of South Carolina; and David Valadao of California.
Trump was said to be livid with perceived disloyalty.
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 Trump’s claims 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 sham and complained about a double standard applied to his supporters but not to the liberal left. Some appealed for the nation to move on.
Rep. Tom McClintock of California said, “Every movement has a lunatic fringe.”
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.”
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 also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes.
WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pointedly did not rule out Wednesday that he might eventually vote to convict the now twice-impeached President Donald Trump, but he also blocked a quick Senate impeachment trial.
Minutes after the House voted to impeach Trump, McConnell said in a letter to his GOP colleagues that he’s not determined whether Trump should be convicted in the Senate’s upcoming proceedings.
“I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” McConnell wrote.
McConnell’s openness was a stark contrast to the support, or at times silence, he’s shown during much of Trump’s presidency, and to the opposition he expressed rapidly when the House impeached Trump 13 months ago.
McConnell will be Washington’s most powerful Republican once Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, and McConnell’s increasingly chilly view of Trump could make it easier for other GOP lawmakers to turn against him.
McConnell’s burgeoning alienation from Trump, plus the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him, underscored how the GOP’s support and condoning of Trump’s actions was eroding.
McConnell also issued a statement saying Congress and the government should spend the next week “completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power” to Biden. He suggested Trump’s Senate trial would begin no earlier than Jan. 19 – in effect rejecting a drive by the chamber’s Democrats to begin the proceedings immediately.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that unless McConnell reverses himself and agrees to quickly start the trial, it would begin after Jan. 19. That’s a day before Biden is inaugurated as president and about the time Democrats take over majority control of the Senate. The timetable essentially means McConnell is dropping the trial into Democrats’ laps.
“Make no mistake, there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate,” Schumer said. “If the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again.”
The Constitution requires a two-thirds majority to convict a president, meaning at least 17 Republicans would need to join all 50 Democrats to oust Trump. If Trump were convicted, it would take only a simple majority of the Senate to prohibit Trump, who’s mentioned running again in 2024, from holding federal office again.
Earlier Wednesday, a GOP strategist said McConnell has told people he thinks Trump perpetrated impeachable offenses.
McConnell also saw House Democrats’ drive to impeach Trump as an opportune moment to distance the GOP from the tumultuous, divisive outgoing president, according to the strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.
McConnell spoke to major Republican donors last weekend to assess their thinking about Trump and was told that they believed Trump had clearly crossed a line, the strategist said. McConnell told them he was finished with Trump, according to the consultant.
The Democratic-led House approved an impeachment article accusing Trump of inciting insurrection, an unprecedented second impeachment of his presidency. Trump exhorted a throng of his followers to march on the Capitol on Jan. 6, where they disrupted Congress’ formal certification of Biden’s win in a deadly riot that produced widespread damage.
McConnell is looking out for his party’s long-term future, but moving toward a political divorce from Trump could mean that congressional Republicans will face challenges in GOP primaries.
It is unclear how many Republicans would vote to convict Trump in a Senate trial, but it appears plausible that several would.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on Wednesday told Alaska’s News Source, an Anchorage news outlet, that Trump “has committed an impeachable offense.” She stopped short of saying if she’d vote to convict him.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., has said he would “definitely consider” House impeachment articles.
Complicating GOP thinking about Trump’s second impeachment is that Republicans will be defending 20 of the 34 Senate seats up for election in 2022. Thanks to Democratic victories this month in two Georgia runoffs, Democrats are about to take control of the chamber by 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes.
Speaking out against impeachment Wednesday was Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
A once-bitter Trump foe, Graham became one of his closest allies during his presidency, then lambasted him over last week’s Capitol invasion but has since spent time with Trump.
Impeaching Trump now would “do great damage to the institutions of government and could invite further violence,” Graham said in a statement.
He said Trump’s millions of backers “should not be demonized because of the despicable actions of a seditious mob,” but he did not specifically defend Trump’s actions last week.
“If there was a time for America’s political leaders to bend a knee and ask for God’s counsel and guidance, it is now. The most important thing for leaders to do in times of crisis is to make things better, not worse,” Graham said.
When the Senate voted against removing Trump in February after the House impeached him for pressuring Ukraine to provide political dirt on Biden, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was the only Republican who voted to oust him.
Trump has said that November’s presidential election was stolen from him by fraud. Those allegations have been rejected by state officials of both parties, state and federal courts and members of his own administration.
A Rockfield man accused of attempting to arrange a meeting with a juvenile for sex pleaded guilty to three criminal counts in federal court.
Mark Allen Johnson, 30, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to charges of distribution of child pornography, attempted enticement and attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor.
Johnson entered his guilty plea without having a plea agreement, according to federal court records
He faces a maximum possible penalty of life imprisonment when he is sentenced April 13.
Johnson underwent a psychiatric evaluation in preparation for a competency hearing that had been set to take place Monday, but federal prosecutors and Johnson’s attorney, federal public defender Pat Bouldin, agreed with the evaluator’s finding that Johnson was competent to stand trial.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court said Johnson initiated a conversation through an online dating app with an undercover FBI agent posing as a 15-year-old girl in 2019.
In a two-month period from Dec. 3, 2019, to Feb. 10, 2020, Johnson engaged in a series of chats online and over text message with the undercover agent in which he sent a number of sexually explicit messages to the agent, who maintained she was 15.
The terms and conditions of the app require users to state they are at least 18 years old, and the online profile of the agent, who went by “Becca,” claimed in her bio section that she was 19 but added a status that said “I’m really 15,” according to the complaint.
During a Feb. 9 exchange, Johnson and “Becca” agreed to meet the next day for sex, with Johnson saying he would pick her up from her house and take her to a hotel, according to the criminal complaint.
FBI agents set up surveillance Feb. 10 near the place where Johnson agreed to meet with “Becca,” but Johnson was not observed at the location, federal court records show.
The complaint said Johnson used a profile listed under the name “Jason Edwards,” but the FBI established Johnson as the person behind “Jason Edwards” by obtaining records from the company owning the app, the internet protocol address used by the suspect to access the app and cellphone subscriber records for phone numbers used during the text exchanges with “Becca.”
“It appears that the suspect is not using his real photos and may actually be using the photos of other unknown individuals,” FBI Special Agent Bradley Smith said in the criminal complaint.
FBI agents executed a search warrant at Johnson’s home in February and seized multiple cellphones and other devices.
On Feb. 14, the FBI was contacted by a detective from the Roswell, Ga., Police Department who reported going undercover as a 13-year-old on the same app and having online and text chats with a Rockfield man during which the man discussed traveling to Georgia for sex.
The text conversations were found on one of the phones seized from Johnson’s home, the criminal complaint said.
On Feb. 4, the suspect sent a video of child pornography to the Georgia detective, according to the complaint.
– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.
Longtime Corvette enthusiast and former National Corvette Museum board of directors member Jack Matukas will become the museum’s interim chief executive after the departure of Sean Preston, who served less than two years as the Bowling Green tourist attraction’s president and CEO.
Matukas was on the NCM board from 2002 to 2015 and board chairman in 2012 and 2013. He said Preston, who was hired as CEO in July 2019, is leaving to “pursue other opportunities.”
Preston was hired to replace Wendell Strode, a member of the Corvette Hall of Fame who served as the museum’s executive director for 23 years.
Preston’s background was primarily in education. He came to the museum from Portland, Ore., where he was president of a private school.
“We are grateful to Dr. Preston for the commitment and talent he brought to both the National Corvette Museum and the NCM Motorsports Park,” NCM board Chairman Glenn Johnson said in a news release. “Dr. Preston made a positive impact on our organization, and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors and thank him for his contributions.”
Johnson said the board will use a search firm to conduct a national search for a new chief executive. In the meantime, the museum has a staunch supporter of the Corvette and the NCM to fill the role temporarily.
A retired Bowling Green real estate executive, Matukas and his wife, Donna, are founding members of the museum.
“I’ve been involved with the museum prior to its inception,” Matukas said Wednesday in a phone interview. “It’s kind of a second home for me.”
Matukas, 75, said he is a longtime fan of the sports car that the museum honors. He believes his familiarity with the car and the museum will be assets as he fills in as CEO.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m pretty familiar with the inner workings of the museum. That place runs so well. They have a lot of good people there.”
Matukas said he plans to “help with the transition” when the board finds a new leader.
“I think the search has begun,” he said. “We’re pretty confident we’ll be able to fill the position in a reasonable amount of time.”
– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.