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Indy DC Download: The House impeached Trump for a second time, but timing of Senate trial is unclear

Humberto Sanchez
Humberto Sanchez
CongressGovernment
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Dark clouds over the U.S. Capitol building

After President Donald Trump’s supporters rushed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to subvert the 2020 presidential election, the House last week voted to impeach Trump for inciting insurrection, although the Senate may not try Trump until after he leaves office Jan. 20.

The 232 to 197 House vote on Wednesday impeaching Trump makes him the first president in U.S history to be impeached twice. All of Nevada’s House Democrats voted for impeachment and Rep. Mark Amodei, the delegation’s only Republican, voted against it. Amodei argued that there was not a sufficient investigation with the impeachment process taking only a week. He did reiterate that he believed that Trump bears some responsibility for the Jan. 6 riot. Only 10 House Republicans voted with all Democrats to impeach.

The impeachment vote followed House approval of a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, which allows the vice president to remove the president with the support of a majority of the cabinet. But Pence refused. That vote also split the delegation on party lines. 

The House first impeached Trump in late December of 2019 over a phone call with the Ukrainian president in which he indicated that he would withhold military aid unless the Ukrainians investigated then-candidate Joe Biden’s son. Like Wednesday’s vote, all of Nevada's House Democrats voted in favor, and Amodei voted against the articles citing a lack of evidence of a crime. 

The Senate acquitted Trump on Feb. 5, 2019, with both Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen voting to impeach. The two have not yet stated their positions on the second impeachment. Cortez Masto said she would listen to the evidence presented. However, after the breach of the building by Trump supporters while Congress was meeting to certify the electoral college votes, she tweeted that the Senate certified the 2020 election despite "Trump's dangerous rhetoric that inspired violence at the US Capitol..." 

Impeachment redux

Under congressional rules, a Senate trial begins once the House approves impeachment articles and sends them to the Senate. Last year House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed the Senate by holding onto the impeachment articles for about four weeks in order to influence the Senate trial rules.

The timing of this year’s Senate trial is also unknown. Pelosi did not show her cards at her weekly press conference on Friday. “You’ll be the first to know,” Pelosi said when asked about the timing.

Waiting to send the article would allow Congress to work on other legislative priorities such as passing Biden’s recently unveiled $1.9 trillion COVID-relief measure, which would include a $1,400 one-time direct payment to taxpayers. Starting the trial now could sour the Senate GOP, and make it more difficult to work on legislation and other business that might otherwise receive Republican cooperation.

Holding the article also could allow the Senate to more quickly confirm the Biden cabinet nominees needed to run the government, including Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and overseeing distribution of the COVID vaccine. 

Keeping the article in the House for a time also may allow ongoing investigations to reveal more about the Jan. 6 riot and possibly make a stronger case against the president in the Senate. 

Pelosi must weigh those factors against a desire among her Democratic colleagues and some Republicans to keep the momentum going to hold Trump accountable as soon as possible and help prevent some other disaster in the final days of his presidency. There has been some debate among House Democratic leaders about sending the article immediately, but Pelosi will make the final call with input from Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

All of Nevada's House Democrats voiced a desire to hold the president accountable.

“On January 6th, a violent mob of domestic terrorists breached the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power,” Rep. Dina Titus said in a release. “These criminals proudly declared that they were following the orders of President Donald Trump.”

The impeachment vote came a week after Trump urged a crowd of supporters at a rally near the White House to march to the Capitol and “cheer” Republicans who had announced that they would object to certifying the 2020 election results in up to seven states, including Nevada. The crowd made its way to the Capitol where some forced their way in and ransacked the historic building, forcing lawmakers to suspend proceedings and take cover. Five people died.

Titus, who taught U.S. government classes at UNLV for 34 years until retiring in 2011, added that there “has never been a president who is so unfit to serve. I voted to impeach President Trump because he is a clear and present danger to this country.”

Rep. Susie Lee said in a release that Trump is responsible for the riot because of the “constant barrage of lies, conspiracy theories, and calls to his supporters to literally fight back against unfounded claims of election fraud.” 

Lee also wants the country to come together but said that unity “is not possible without holding those responsible for inciting direct, violent attacks on fellow Americans and on our democracy.”

Rep. Steven Horsford was the first member of the delegation to support impeachment. He spoke on the House floor urging his colleagues to support Trump’s removal from office. 

“We must send a clear message that committing sedition disqualifies a president from serving another day in office,” Horsford said.

Amodei deployed the due process argument against impeachment, also enlisted by most of his Republican colleagues, though he reiterated that Trump has some responsibility for the riot. 

“Last Wednesday was as awful a day as there is,” Amodei continued. “Yes, the Capitol is sacred ground, yes, there is blame and responsibility for the President, and yes, we need to know who the perpetrators are and when their actions began. That’s called due process.”

He argued that he doesn't believe that Trump incited insurrection, as charged in the impeachment article, because the riot appears to have been planned well in advance of Trump's speech. Trump did, however, begin to sow doubt in the integrity of the election months before it occurred.

After the House vote on Wednesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not bring the Senate into an early session to hold the trial. The Senate is not scheduled to be back in session until Jan. 19. Biden will be inaugurated the next day, and Senate Democrats will be in the majority. In a memo to his GOP colleagues, McConnell said that to return earlier would require all 100 senators' consent. According to McConnell, even if the Senate did come back earlier, the trial could not be concluded before Biden's inauguration. 

“The Senate has held three presidential impeachment trials,” McConnell said in a release. “They have lasted 83 days, 37 days, and 21 days respectively.”

It's unclear whether there are 17 Senate Republicans who will vote with all Democrats to convict Trump. A two-thirds majority vote in the Senate is needed to oust the president. McConnell, while displeased with Trump, said he has not decided how he will vote. Other possible GOP defections include Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah. 

Miscellany 

Horsford took part Wednesday in a hearing held by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which explored the Jan. 6 riot's white supremacist elements.

“Last week’s deadly insurrection put a spotlight on the damage caused by four years under a racist and dangerous president,” said Horsford, who is the CBC’s first vice chair. “This moment in history calls on us to act.”

Both Cortez Masto and Rosen called on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate Nye County Republican Central Committee Chairman Chris Zimmerman. He wrote an open letter last week that reiterated Trump's debunked arguments of election fraud, and the senators believe it could spark violence. 

“The letter describes being in a ‘battle for our republic’ and ends by saying that ‘It’s 1776 all over again!’” the senators wrote. “In light of the events of January 6, 2021 that have resulted in the death of six people, including two U.S. Capitol Police officers, we are urging that the threats described in this letter be taken seriously.”

In a subsequent post, Zimmerman wrote that he was surprised by the reaction and that "there was nothing in the letter that included, implied or supported anything seditious."  

For a full rundown of the measures the delegates supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada Independent’s congressional vote tracker and other information below.

REP. DINA TITUS

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 321 – H.R.321 - To authorize the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to approve State, local, and Indian tribal government plans to partner with small and mid-size restaurants and nonprofit organizations to provide nutritious meals to individuals in need, to waive certain matching fund requirements, and for other purposes.

H.Res. 24 – Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

H.Res. 21 – Calling on Vice President Michael R. Pence to convene and mobilize the principal officers of the executive departments of the Cabinet to activate section 4 of the 25th Amendment to declare President Donald J. Trump incapable of executing the duties of his office and to immediately exercise powers as acting President.

REP. MARK AMODEI

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.Res. 39 – Honoring the bravery and self-sacrifice by officers of the United States Capitol Police and other Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies during the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol.

REP. SUSIE LEE

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.Res. 45Supporting the goals and ideals of Korean American Day.

H.Res. 24 – Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

H.Res. 21 – Calling on Vice President Michael R. Pence to convene and mobilize the principal officers of the executive departments of the Cabinet to activate section 4 of the 25th Amendment to declare President Donald J. Trump incapable of executing the duties of his office and to immediately exercise powers as acting President.

REP. STEVEN HORSFORD

Legislation co-sponsored:

H.R. 301 – To amend title 36, United States Code, to establish the composition known as "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as the national hymn of the United States.

H.R. 276 – To establish a national commission to investigate the seditious attack on the United States Capitol and Congress on January 6, 2021, address the systemic failures in the United States Capitol security and intelligence apparatus to accurately assess outside threats, and study and propose recommendations to realign the mission of the United States Capitol Police, and for other purposes.

H.Res. 46 – Removing Representative Mo Brooks from the House of Representatives.

H.Res. 42 – Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to fine Members, Delegates, and the Resident Commissioner who do not wear masks in the Capitol complex.

H.Res. 39 – Honoring the bravery and self-sacrifice by officers of the United States Capitol Police and other Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies during the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol.

H.Res. 32 – Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

H.Res. 26 – Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

H.Res. 25 – Directing the Committee on Ethics to investigate, and issue a report on, whether any and all actions taken by Members of the 117th Congress who sought to overturn the 2020 Presidential election violated their oath of office to uphold the Constitution or the Rules of the House of Representatives, and should face sanction, including removal from the House of Representatives.

H.Res. 24 – Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

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