House impeaches Trump with GOP Reps. Meijer, Upton voting yes

Washington — The U.S. House impeached President Donald Trump for a historic second time Wednesday afternoon with 10 Republicans, including two west Michigan congressmen, voting yes. 

The 232-197 vote came one week after a violent pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, forcing lawmakers and staff into hiding. It also spurred a reckoning among Republicans who backed the president during two months he worked to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election.

The single article of impeachment charged Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for his part in encouraging the rioters.

The president — the first in U.S. history to be impeached twice — now faces a trial in the Senate, which could be delayed until after President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Jan. 20. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told Democrats Wednesday he would not back efforts to call senators into emergency session.

Ahead of the vote, 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.”

The California Democrat said of the president: “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.

The soonest 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 also intended to prevent Trump from ever running again.

In a note to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote.”

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 up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID-19 relief while also conducting the trial.

Shortly before the House vote on Wednesday, GOP Rep. Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids Township issued a statement saying that "with the facts at hand, I believe the article of impeachment to be accurate."

"The president betrayed his oath of office by seeking to undermine our constitutional process, and he bears responsibility for inciting the violent acts of insurrection last week. With a heavy heart, I will vote to impeach President Donald J. Trump," Meijer said in a statement. 

In voting yes, Meijer joined Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, the state's most senior Republican in Congress, who announced late Tuesday that he, too, would support the article of impeachment. 

"I’m going to do the right thing," Upton told The Detroit News. "The Constitution has to come first, I’m sorry. The president’s failure to take any blame for what happened last week is inexcusable." 

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One upon arrival at Valley International Airport, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Harlingen, Texas.

Upton said he made his decision as he flew back to Washington and watched reports of Trump characterizing his inflammatory rhetoric at last Wednesday’s rally as "totally appropriate" and expressing no regrets for the rioters attacking the Capitol. 

"Calling these people 'patriots' as they were looting the Capitol? They're almost worse than the British when they burned it down," Upton said with anger in his voice. 

"I talked to members, Republicans and Democrats who were on the floor, and they're scared out of their minds.

"They had gallows constructed on the East Lawn. They were absolutely going to try to kidnap the vice president, the speaker and other members of Congress and execute them. That was their plan. I'm absolutely convinced. He tried to undermine the election."

The 10 Republicans voting for impeachment Wednesday marked the most lawmakers to vote to impeach a president of the same party. Among them was the third-ranking GOP House lawmaker, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who has said there had “never been a greater betrayal” by a president.

No House Republicans voted to impeach Trump in 2019, though former GOP Rep. Justin Amash of Cascade Township, then an independent, voted yes. 

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.

Wednesday's voting got shortly before 4 p.m. in a Capitol that looked much different than a week ago, with hundreds of armed National Guard troops roaming the corridors and lined up along a 7-foot fence around the perimeter of the grounds. 

Members also had to pass through newly installed metal detectors to enter the House floor — frustrating many who complained about waiting in line to vote.

The new security measures were installed in the wake of last week's attack, when intruders ransacked offices and forced lawmakers to evacuate until law enforcement regained control hours later. 

A Capitol police officer died after engaging with rioters and law enforcement fatally shot a woman as she and other intruders attempted to break into the House chamber. Three others died from medical emergencies during the chaos.

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington.

"The one man who could have restored order, prevented the deaths of five Americans including a Capitol Police officer, and avoided the desecration of our Capitol shrank from leadership when our country needed it most," Meijer said. 

He added Trump had "betrayed and misled millions" with his unproven claims of a “stolen election” and quoted the president encouraging loyalists that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country any more.”

"This vote is not a victory. It isn’t a victory for my party, and it isn’t the victory the Democrats might think it is. I'm not sure it is a victory for our country," Meijer said. "But it is a call to action for us to reflect on these events and seek ways to correct them." 

The Iraq veteran, who was just sworn into office 10 days ago, noted that he holds the seat once occupied by former President Gerald Ford, who pardoned Richard Nixon, but only after Nixon's resignation and acceptance of responsibility.  

"Since last week, the president has accepted no responsibility for the violence his rhetoric and actions inspired," Meijer said. 

Asked by reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday whether he was worried about political backlash or a primary challenge, Meijer replied: "Time will tell." 

House Republicans criticized Democrats for pushing to remove Trump without impeachment hearings or even an investigation, especially with a narrowly divided Senate that's expected to ultimately acquit the president. 

Republican Rep. Jack Bergman, who represents the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan, said he would continue to "unequivocally denounce these actions and all who participated in these riots."

"Today’s vote to impeach the President, without even a single hearing, is unprecedented and simply more of the same divisiveness — making no effort to heal our wounds," Bergman said. 

Ahead of more armed protests expected next week, Trump in a Wednesday statement urged that "there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind."

"That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers," the president said. 

Most GOP members in Michigan's delegation came out firmly against impeachment, including Reps. Bill Huizenga of Holland, Tim Walberg of Tipton, John Moolenaar of Midland and Lisa McClain of Bruce Township. Several said the effort would further divide the nation.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Detroit Democrat, countered that what's truly divisive is her colleagues' denial that the president is "dangerous." 

"It's their denial that he launched an attack on the Capitol. It could have been so much worse. They erected a noose. Colleagues live-tweeted the whereabouts of the Speaker of the House. They left human feces in the halls of the Capitol," Tlaib said. "That's how much he has given rein to launch this kind of viral attack."

Tlaib did praise her Republican colleagues who were "finally speaking up," despite threats from some angry Trump supporters.

“I know some are sincerely fearful — have been in tears because they feel very much that their life is in danger. I believe that,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot of courage, but they have to be honest and put the truth at the center of the decision of whether or not he needs to be impeached.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., displays the signed article of impeachment against President Donald Trump in an engrossment ceremony before transmission to the Senate for trial on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021.

Huizenga of Holland said Trump should take some responsibility for what happened on Jan. 6, wishing the president had put out a more forceful call to his supporters to stand down. But he noted that Trump didn't explicitly tell the crowd to use violence.

"This resolution is pretty thin gruel when it comes to high crimes and misdemeanors. This seems more about political theater than anything. Having something much more in line of a censure would make far more sense, but that’s not going to happen," Huizenga said in an interview. 

"If the speaker is really serious about healing the country, this is not the path towards that."

Michigan's seven House Democrats have co-sponsored the article of impeachment. 

As debate got underway Wednesday, Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, argued Trump had used his megaphone  "to organize a campaign of outright lies to overturn a free and fair election.

"He summoned and incited a mob of domestic terrorists to fight like hell and sent them to ransack this Capitol in order to prevent us from formalizing his election loss. It was a grotesque orgy of deadly white supremacism, anti-Semitism and strong-man rule," Levin said on the House floor.

Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, noted that leaders had called on Trump for help, "but he did not listen."

"Some may say impeachment is political. Some may cry it is divisive. But madam speaker, our obligation to our constitution is anything but," Stevens said on the floor.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, said during a Congressional Black Caucus hearing Wednesday that she was one of those being told to shelter on the House floor, given a gas mask and hurriedly evacuated. 

"This is serious. People have died, and just God’s grace kept us all alive," she said.

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, said the president encouraged his supporters to stage last week's "deadly attack" and noted his oath is to uphold the Constitution against "all enemies foreign and domestic." 

"If inciting an insurrection does not warrant impeachment, nothing does," he said.

Associated Press contributed.