House impeaches Trump — again
On Wednesday, January 13, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump for the incitement of insurrection. The House voted 232-197 for impeachment; this is the second time Trump has been impeached, making him the first president to be twice impeached. Next, there will be a trial in the Senate to determine whether Trump will be convicted. The date is unknown, and the Senate will not reconvene until January 19, just a day before President-elect Joseph Biden, Jr will be sworn in.
After several hours of debate, the House determined that Trump’s behavior—which provoked and exacerbated a deadly insurrection at the Capitol on January 6—is worthy of impeachment. According to a report by the House Judiciary Committee, “President Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors when he urged his supporters to storm the United States Capitol Building and then failed to stop the ensuing violence.” Specific actions the report points to include Trump’s continuous attempts to reverse election results by pushing unfounded allegations of a rigged election, the incitement of violence by telling his supporters in a speech on January 6 to “fight like hell,” and his failure to stop the violence that ensued.
Ten House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to convict Trump last week. Alaska’s sole Representative, Republican Don Young, was not among those in favor of impeachment. Young did not attend and voted by proxy. In a statement, he said that politicians must work to “lower the temperature of our political climate, “and directed both sides—Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi—to “tone down the rhetoric and help foster a political climate worthy of this great country.”
“I do not believe that impeaching a president in the last week of his term is the best way forward,” Young said.
The nearly 80-page House Judiciary Committee report details the events that led up to the siege of the Capitol building on January 6. Trump’s comments at a rally on January 6 “directly incited a violent attack on the Capitol,” the report alleges. But this speech—and Trump’s actions in early January—is just the tip of the iceberg, the report found. “His actions [on January 6] marked the culmination of an extensive and unprecedented effort to overturn the results of the election,” the report states. Trump refused to concede the race and instead pushed baseless claims of a rigged election, using every possible tactic to overturn the election results, undermining the election system itself, according to the report. A specific instance the report refers to was a call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump urged Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to reverse election results in the state. Trump’s allegations of a stolen election created a toxic environment, in which thousands of his angry supporters felt wronged, the report explains.
The political pressure cooker Trump created finally exploded when his supporters attacked the Capitol on January 6, as Congress attempted to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. The mob of supporters, in executing the violence, was simply following Trump’s lead, the report claims. By organizing a rally on the day Congress was set to tally electoral votes and indirectly leading his supporters to the Capitol, Trump “willfully incited violence” against Congress, a co-equal branch of the government, and Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump’s actions were—and led to—a threat to national security, the report finds. In addition to endangering members of Congress and Vice President Pence, after breaking into the Capitol Trump supporters stole items, including a laptop belonging to Nancy Pelosi. These actions have likely “done incalculable damage” to the country’s reputation and therefore undermines the U.S.’s authority.
Another area of concern the report noted was Trump’s behavior during and after the attack. It includes accounts from inside the White House that, while watching the attack on the Capitol, Trump was pleased that the insurrection was delaying election certification. Trump did nothing to stop his supporters and waited hours to release a statement telling the mob to go home. In more recent days, Trump has failed to show any remorse for the events or his role in the violence and he failed to take responsibility for inciting the insurrection.
Like Young, some Republicans have spoken against impeachment because Trump has so little time left in office. However, the report claims that Trump should leave as soon as possible. “Impeachment is not a punishment of prior wrongs, but a protection against future evils,” it explains. Trump’s attitude has raised concerns that he poses a threat to the country. According to the article of impeachment, Trump has demonstrated that “he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.” The report explains that even though the House vote took place just a week before Trump is set to leave office, it is important that he does not commit further harm to the country, either during his remaining time or through a future term in office.
The House impeached Trump for the first time in late 2019 over pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son. Trump was not convicted by the Republican-controlled Senate. Now, the Senate is evenly split with 50 Democrats and and 50 Republicans, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker, is giving Democrats control. Georgia’s senate seats, which were previously held by Republicans, both flipped in the January 5 runoff elections there. Democrats Jon Ossof and Rev. Raphael Warnock are expected to be sworn in on January 20.
Alaska’s two senators, both Republicans, released statements saying that they will hear both sides before determining how they will vote.
In her statement, Murkowski said that she believed impeachment was appropriate, but did not go as far as to say she would vote to convict Trump. “On the day of the riots, President Trump’s words incited violence, which led to injury and deaths of Americans —including a Capitol Police officer —the desecration of the Capitol, and briefly interfered with government’s ability to ensure a peaceful transfer of power,” Murkowski wrote. She continued to state that, “Such unlawful actions cannot go without consequences and the House has responded swiftly, and I believe appropriately, with impeachment.”
Murkowski became the first Republican to call for Trump to leave office, telling the Anchorage Daily News “I want him out.”
Sen. Sullivan has not revealed how he will vote. In an interview with Anchorage Daily News last week, Sullivan referred to impeachment as an “extreme measure.” He released a statement in which he said the “charges being brought against President Trump are serious and will be given serious consideration.”
A two-thirds majority in the Senate is needed to convict Trump of charges of insurrection. This would require all 50 Democrats plus 17 Republicans to vote to convict. Under the U.S. Constitution, there are two ways to punish an impeached official. One is removal from office and the other is to disqualify the individual from holding public office in the future. To disqualify Trump from holding public office requires only a simple majority in the Senate. The disqualification vote typically occurs after a conviction. Another route for disqualification is Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Under this provision, no person shall hold office if they have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the United States.
Of pressing concern is the threat of future violence around the time of Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. Security in and around D.C. and the Capitol has been exponentially heightened in preparation for January 20. Among those protecting the Capitol this week will be airmen and soldiers from the Alaska National Guard. About 70 Alaska Guardsmen volunteered to assist the District of Columbia National Guard and federal civilian authorities during Biden’s inauguration. “Volunteer Guard members will be part of an event that supports the peaceful transition of power and ensures the safety and well-being of their fellow Americans,” reads a National Guard press release.
According to a National Guard update on Tuesday, about 20 Alaska Guard Airmen arrived at Joint Base Andrews Sunday, and the other 50 arrived there on Tuesday around 3 p.m. The KC-135 Stratotanker from the Alaska Air Guard’s 168th Wing that transported the group had a maintenance issue, delayed the original flight on Sunday. They were rescheduled to depart Monday morning, but were delayed a full 24 hours due to inclement winter weather conditions. The Guard men and women were airbound on Tuesday despite wind, rain and snow over an icy runway that required additional plowing just before takeoff to ensure a safe departure.