The U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump on Wednesday afternoon just days before his presidency ends, with some Republicans backing the effort, including the party’s highest-ranking woman in the chamber.
Trump is the only U.S. president to be impeached twice. The vote was 232 to 197, with 10 Republicans joining Democrats to support impeachment over Trump’s “incitement of insurrection” ahead of and during a riot at the U.S. Capitol last week.
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — the highest-ranking GOP woman in the House, the only woman in her party’s leadership and the only member of Republican leadership to back impeachment so far — was one of them.
“The president summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president,” she said in a statement Tuesday.
Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, hold the House by a 222-211 majority, and the impeachment resolution could have passed without support from Republicans, some of whom nevertheless joined the effort to publicly denounce the president’s role in the January 6 insurrection, which has been tied to six deaths.
There is a growing divide in Washington between Republican lawmakers who remain stalwart backers of Trump — including some who have criticized his response to the riot — and those such as Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler who said ahead of the vote that the party will be “best served when those among us choose truth.”
The discord highlights a fracture in the Republican Party that does not come without political risk for the lawmakers who rebuke the president. After Cheney’s announced she would impeach, some members of her conference called for her to step down from her leadership post.
The Republican defectors were not altogether surprising. Cheney, who was at the State Department during the Bush administration in which her father was vice president, has frequently disapproved of Trump’s foreign policy decisions. Herrera Beutler is from a state that backs Democratic presidents and represents a moderate district.
To help ease those concerns, anti-Trump Republicans formed the Republican Accountability Project this week and committed to spending $50 million to defend lawmakers such as Cheney and Herrera Beutler who support impeachment. The project, part of the political advocacy group Defending Democracy Together, is helmed by Olivia Troye and Elizabeth Neumann, former staffers to Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s Department of Homeland Security. It will both defend pro-impeachment Republicans in the near-certain primary challenges to come and recruit candidates who have rejected Trump’s brand of Republicanism.
The House on Tuesday night easily passed a measure calling on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allows for a president’s removal if they are “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” But Pence said in a letter to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he wanted to “avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions at this moment.”
The first time Trump was impeached by the House was in December 2019 over allegations he obstructed an investigation that he requested foreign help in winning the 2020 election. He was acquitted in the Senate and therefore not removed from office.
Republicans held a majority in the last Senate, which they will lose with the upcoming swearings-in of Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president, and of Georgia Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who won runoff elections last week.
A conviction to remove Trump from office would need two-thirds support from the Senate’s 100 members. So far, only a handful of Republicans have expressed an openness to impeaching Trump and none have specifically committed to it. The schedule for when a trial would be held in the Senate is still unclear.