Why Remove Trump Now? A Guide to the Second Impeachment of a President

WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday was poised to impeach President Trump for a second time, a first in American history, charging him with “incitement of insurrection” one week after he egged on a mob of supporters that stormed the Capitol while Congress met to formalize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.

Democrats have moved swiftly to impeach Mr. Trump in the wake of the assault, which unfolded after he told supporters at a rally near the National Mall to march on the Capitol in an effort to get Republicans to overturn his defeat. At least five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died during the siege and in the immediate aftermath.

The process is taking place with extraordinary speed and will test the bounds of the impeachment process, raising questions never contemplated before. Here’s what we know.

Impeachment is one of the Constitution’s gravest penalties.

Impeachment is one of the weightiest tools the Constitution gives Congress to hold government officials, including the president, accountable for misconduct and abuse of power.

Members of the House consider whether to impeach the president — the equivalent of an indictment in a criminal case — and members of the Senate consider whether to remove him, holding a trial in which senators act as the jury. The test, as set by the Constitution, is whether the president has committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The House vote requires only a simple majority of lawmakers to agree that the president has, in fact, committed high crimes and misdemeanors; the Senate vote requires a two-thirds majority.

The charge against Trump is ‘incitement of insurrection.’

The article, drafted by Representatives David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Jerrold Nadler of New York, charges Mr. Trump with “incitement of insurrection,” saying he is guilty of “inciting violence against the government of the United States.”

The article cites Mr. Trump’s weekslong campaign to falsely discredit the results of the November election, and it quotes directly from the speech he gave on the day of the siege in which he told his supporters to go to the Capitol. “If you don’t fight like hell,” he said, “you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Proponents say impeachment is worthwhile even though Trump has only days left in office.

While the House moved with remarkable speed to impeach Mr. Trump, the Senate trial to determine whether to remove him cannot begin until Jan. 19, his final full day in office. That means any conviction would almost certainly not be completed until after he leaves the White House.

Democrats have argued that Mr. Trump’s offense — using his power as the nation’s leader and commander in chief to incite an insurrection against the legislative branch — is so grave that it must be addressed, even with just a few days remaining in his term. To let it go unpunished, Democrats argued, would set a dangerous precedent of impunity for future presidents.

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“Is there little time left?” Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, said during the debate. “Yes. But it is never too late to do the right thing.”

Republicans, many of whom voted to overturn the election results, have claimed that going through the impeachment process so late in Mr. Trump’s term will foster unnecessary division and that the country should move on from last week’s siege.

The biggest consequence for Trump could be disqualifying him from holding office again.

Conviction in an impeachment trial would not automatically disqualify Mr. Trump from future public office. But if the Senate were to convict him, the Constitution allows a subsequent vote to bar an official from holding “any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.”

The Trump Impeachment ›

From Riot to Impeachment

The riot inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, followed a rally at which President Trump made an inflammatory speech to his supporters, questioning the results of the election. Here’s a look at what happened and at the ongoing fallout: