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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani listen as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Briefing Room of the White House on September 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump is preparing for the first presidential debate with former Vice President and Democratic Nominee Joe Biden on September 29th in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

Republicans betray Trump as president searches for impeachment lawyer

Donald Trump on Wednesday became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, as 10 of his fellow Republicans joined Democrats in the House of Representatives to charge him with inciting an insurrection in last week’s violent rampage in the Capitol.

The vote in the Democratic-controlled House was 232-197 following the deadly assault on American democracy, although it appeared unlikely the swift impeachment would lead to Trump’s ouster before his four-year term ends and Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

The Senate’s Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, rejected Democratic calls for a quick impeachment trial, saying there was no way to conclude it before Trump leaves office. But even if he has left the White House, a Senate conviction of Trump could lead to a vote on banning him from running for office again.

Biden said it was important that a Senate impeachment trial in the early days of his term not delay work on his legislative priorities, including Cabinet confirmations, and urged Senate leaders to find a way to do both at the same time.

The House passed a single article of impeachment – a formal charge – accusing Trump of “incitement of insurrection,” focused on an incendiary speech he delivered a week earlier to thousands of supporters shortly before the pro-Trump mob rampaged through the Capitol.

The mob disrupted the formal certification of Biden’s victory over Trump in the Nov. 3 election, sent lawmakers into hiding and left five people dead, including a police officer.

During his speech, Trump repeated false claims that the election was fraudulent and exhorted supporters to march on the Capitol, telling them to “stop the steal,” “show strength,” “fight much harder” and use “very different rules.”

In a video statement released after the House’s action on Wednesday, Trump did not mention the impeachment vote and took no responsibility for his remarks to supporters last week, but condemned the violence.

“Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for. No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence. No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law and order,” Trump said.

With thousands of rifle-carrying National Guard troops inside and outside the Capitol, an emotional debate unfolded in the same House chamber where lawmakers had ducked under chairs and donned gas masks on Jan. 6 as rioters clashed with police officers outside the doors.

“The president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said on the House floor before the vote. “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

At a later ceremony, she signed the article of impeachment before it is sent to the Senate, saying she did it “sadly, with a heart broken over what this means to our country.”

No U.S. president has ever been removed from office through impeachment. Three – Trump in 2019, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 – previously were impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.

Democratic congressman Joaquin Castro called Trump “the most dangerous man to ever occupy the Oval Office.” Congresswoman Maxine Waters accused Trump of wanting civil war and fellow Democrat Jim McGovern said the president “instigated an attempted coup.”

‘PRESIDENT BEARS RESPONSIBILITY’

Some Republicans argued the impeachment drive was a rush to judgment that bypassed the customary deliberative process such as hearings and called on Democrats to abandon the effort for the sake of national unity and healing.

“Impeaching the president in such a short time frame would be a mistake,” said Kevin McCarthy, the House’s top Republican. “That doesn’t mean the president is free from fault. The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.”

Trump’s closest allies, such as Ohio Republican Jim Jordan, went further, accusing Democrats of recklessly acting out of pure political interest.

“This is about getting the president of the United States,” said Jordan, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump in a private White House ceremony this week. “It’s always been about getting the president, no matter what. It’s an obsession.”

‘I’M CHOOSING TRUTH’

Ten Republicans voted to impeach, including Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican.

“I am not choosing a side, I’m choosing truth,” Republican Jamie Herrera Beutler said in announcing her support for impeachment, drawing applause from Democrats. “It’s the only way to defeat fear.”

In a break from standard procedure, Republican House leaders refrained from urging their members to vote against impeachment, calling the vote a matter of individual conscience.

Under the U.S. Constitution, impeachment in the House triggers a trial in the Senate. A two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove Trump, meaning at least 17 Republicans in the 100-member chamber would have to join the Democrats.

McConnell has said no trial could begin until the Senate was scheduled to be back in regular session next Tuesday, one day before Biden’s inauguration. The trial would proceed in the Senate even after Trump leaves office.

McConnell, who is reported to be furious with Trump, said in a memo to his fellow Republicans that he had not made a final decision on how he will vote on impeachment in the Senate.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, set to become majority leader later this month, said in a statement that no matter the timing, “there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate; there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors; and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again.”

Biden said work on the economy, getting the coronavirus vaccine program on track and confirming crucial Cabinet posts should not be delayed by the Senate trial.

“I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation,” he said in a statement.

The Capitol siege raised concerns about political violence in the United States once considered all but unthinkable. The FBI has warned of armed protests planned for Washington and all 50 U.S. state capitals ahead of Biden’s inauguration.

Impeachment is a remedy devised by America’s 18th century founders to enable Congress to remove a president who has, according to the Constitution, committed “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” If Trump were removed before Jan. 20, Vice President Mike Pence would become president and serve out his term.

The House impeached Trump after he ignored calls for his resignation and Pence rebuffed Democratic demands to invoke a constitutional provision to remove the president.

The House previously voted to impeach Trump in December 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stemming from his request that Ukraine investigate Biden and his son Hunter ahead of the election, as Democrats accused him of soliciting foreign interference to smear a domestic political rival. The Senate voted in February 2020 to keep Trump in office.

In related developments President Donald Trump may hire a law professor who spoke at his rally before the riot at the U.S. Capitol to help defend him in an impeachment trial over a charge that he incited the violence, according to two people familiar with the matter.

John Eastman, who joined Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani on stage at the Jan. 6 rally, is being considered for a role on Trump’s defense team, the people said.

Giuliani, 76, who told the crowd they should engage in “trial by combat,” may lead the impeachment defense, Reuters reported on Sunday, citing a source. Giuliani has not responded to requests for comment.

Eastman, 60, who made unsubstantiated claims of election fraud at the rally, would neither confirm nor deny whether he will represent Trump, citing attorney-client privilege.

Asked whether he would be willing, Eastman said: “If the President of the United States asked me to consider helping him, I would certainly give it consideration.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Eastman and has declined to comment on Giuliani.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday made Trump the first U.S. president to be impeached twice, charging him with inciting an insurrection as lawmakers sought to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election.

A former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Eastman represented Trump last month in unsuccessful challenges to the election.

At the rally, Eastman, who until Wednesday was a professor at Chapman University in California, spoke about “secret folders” of ballots used to defraud the election before Trump took the stage and repeated the discredited claim that the election was stolen from him.

Faculty members and students, among others, subsequently called for Chapman to fire Eastman. In a statement on Wednesday, the university president said an agreement had been reached under which Eastman would immediately retire from Chapman.

Eastman told Reuters he did not believe he did anything wrong. He does not think Trump has culpability, either. “None, whatsoever,” he said.

Eastman came under fire last summer for an op-ed he wrote in Newsweek that questioned whether Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was eligible to serve because her parents were not U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Newsweek later apologized for publishing the piece.

Trump may have a tough time retaining legal talent. He has had trouble hiring lawyers since former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the widespread condemnation of the violence at the Capitol and pressure from anti-Trump groups may discourage others from signing up.

Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House in 2019 on charges that he pressured Ukraine’s president to announce an investigation of his rival Biden, but was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate in February 2020.

Giuliani’s own pressure on Ukraine helped lead to Trump’s impeachment trial.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who helped lead the defense effort during the impeachment over Ukraine, is not expected to participate in the latest effort, according to one person familiar with the matter. Cipollone will leave his post on Jan. 20, when Biden becomes president.

Jay Sekulow, another personal lawyer for Trump who played a role during the first impeachment, also is not expected to be involved.

John Yoo, a conservative legal scholar who also clerked for Thomas and worked in the Department of Justice during the George W. Bush administration, said on Wednesday he did not think Trump would want him to represent him.

“I think he committed impeachable acts,” said Yoo, although he added that he thought incitement was the wrong grounds and “the Senate should not convict him.”

Source: Reuters

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