WASHINGTON (AP) — Ten Republican House members — including the No. 3 House GOP leader — voted to impeach President Donald Trump over the deadly insurrection at the Capitol. The GOP votes were in sharp contrast to the unanimous support for Trump among House Republicans when he was impeached by Democrats in December 2019.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, led the GOP opposition to Trump, saying in a statement, “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Cheney, whose father, Dick Cheney, served as vice president under George W. Bush, has been more critical of Trump than other GOP leaders, but her announcement hours before Wednesday’s vote nonetheless shook Congress.
Trump “summoned” the mob that attacked the Capitol, “assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,’' Cheney said, adding: “Everything that followed was his doing.” Trump could have immediately intervened to stop his supporters from rioting but did not, she noted.
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.
Katko, a former federal prosecutor who represents the Syracuse area, was the first rank-and-file GOP lawmaker to support impeachment. Allowing Trump “to incite this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy,” he said Tuesday.
“By deliberately promoting baseless theories suggesting the election was somehow stolen, the president created a combustible environment of misinformation, disenfranchisement and division,’' Katko said. “When this manifested in violent acts on January 6th, he refused to promptly and forcefully call it off, putting countless lives in danger.’'
Upton, a former chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee who is in his 18th term representing the Kalamazoo area, said he would have preferred a bipartisan, formal censure rather than a drawn-out impeachment process. But he said Trump’s refusal to take responsibility for the riot left him no choice but to support impeachment.
Trump claimed Tuesday that his remarks at a rally just before the riot were “totally appropriate,” an assertion that Upton said “sends exactly the wrong signal to those of us who support the very core of our democratic principles and took a solemn oath to the Constitution.”
“The Congress must hold President Trump to account and send a clear message that our country cannot and will not tolerate any effort by any president to impede the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next,’' he said.
Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran who has emerged as a leading Trump critic, said lawmakers were “in uncharted waters here, and in a moment in history we have not experienced in modern times.’'
But Kinzinger, who is in his sixth term representing northern Illinois, said there was “no doubt in my mind that the president of the United States broke his oath of office and incited this insurrection.’' Trump “used his position in the executive” branch to attack the legislative branch, he said.
Herrera Beutler, in her sixth term representing southwestern Washington, said on the House floor that the enemy was fear, not Trump or President-elect Joe Biden. Fear incites anger and violence “and it haunts us into silence and inaction,’' she said.
While many GOP lawmakers are afraid of Trump, “truth sets us free from fear,’' Herrera Beutler said. “My vote to impeach a sitting president is not a fear-based decision,’' she said. “I am not choosing a side. I’m choosing truth; it’s the only way to defeat fear.’'
Newhouse said on the House floor that the Democratic-led articles of impeachment were flawed, but he would not use process as an excuse to vote no.
“There is no excuse for President Trump’s actions,” said Newhouse, in his fifth term representing central Washington.
Trump, like members of Congress, took an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, Newhouse said. “Last week, there was a domestic threat at the door of the Capitol and he did nothing to stop it,” Newhouse said. “That is why with a heavy heart and clear resolve, I will vote yes on these articles of impeachment.”
Meijer, a freshman who represents the Grand Rapids area, said Trump betrayed his oath of office and “bears responsibility for inciting the insurrection we suffered last week.’' He also said he supported impeachment with a heavy heart.
Trump’s fate is now up the Republican-controlled Senate, which acquitted him last year without hearing witnesses in a trial. This time, however, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is said to be angry at Trump, not only over the Capitol insurrection but also the twin defeats in Georgia the day before that cost the GOP its Senate majority, according to a Republican granted anonymity to discuss the situation.
McConnell said Wednesday he has not made a final decision on how he will vote and will listen to legal arguments presented in a Senate trial, which may not be concluded before Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
At least two GOP senators — Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — have said they support impeachment or have called on Trump to resign. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., has said he will consider impeachment.
Only one Republican senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, voted to convict Trump last year.