In the House of Representatives yesterday, Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes described the U.S. Capitol as not just the symbol of democracy in this country, but “a symbol of democracy the world over.” He called the violent insurrection last week in Washington, D.C., intended to thwart the certification of President-Elect Joe Biden, “an attack from within…our democracy.”
Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, went further. The last speaker during the two-hour impeachment debate over President Trump’s role in inciting the deadly sedition, Hoyer quoted Liz Cheney, the chair of the House Republican Conference, who earlier had put the blame for the attack at the feet of the president. “There is no question that the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob,” Hoyer said, citing Cheney’s words Tuesday. “He lit the flame.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Hoyer continued, still quoting Cheney.
The House of Representatives, for the first time in the 232 years since George Washington took office in 1789, impeached a sitting president for the second time Wednesday. By a bi-partisan vote of 232-197, Democrats and Republicans voted to impeach President Trump for his actions related to the insurrection on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol. For the Democrats, 222 representatives voted in favor of impeachment and none against. On the Republican side, the tally was 10 in favor of impeachment, with 197 against. Four Republicans and one Democrat did not vote.
Baltimore-born Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi pounded her gavel shortly after 4:30 p.m. to make the vote final and the impeachment official.
“Today,” Pelosi said later as she signed the impeachment, “I think the Congress [in a bi-partisan vote] has demonstrated that no one is above the law.” She described the president as a “clear and present danger” and that she and her colleagues had acted in accordance with their oath office “to defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The trial of the president will be held in the U.S. Senate sometime after the members of the upper chamber return to work Jan. 19. It would take a two-thirds vote to convict. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear he will not call back the Senate before Jan. 19 for a trial. McConnell, who holds tremendous sway among GOP senators, has indicated, however, that he is “open” to voting in favor of impeachment.
Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who lost his son last week, is serving as the lead manager of the House impeachment process and will carry the Trump indictment forward to the U.S. Senate.
“This is not just a crisis and an emergency,” Raskin said earlier in support of a failed effort to get Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. He was alluding to Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20 and renewed armed threats, made online, against the Capitol and state capitals around the country. “It is a continuing crisis and emergency. It is not over yet. Can we say that we feel safe being in the hands of this president, with the horror and the threats returning to the nation’s capital?”
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be inaugurated January 20. Trump has previously said he will not attend the inauguration. Andrew Johnson, who was also impeached, is this last sitting president not to attend an inauguration in 1869.
A post-presidency conviction of Trump in the U.S. became slightly more likely with the addition of two new Democratic senators from Georgia, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, after runoff elections this month. (Warnock, a Georgia native, served as pastor of Baltimore’s Douglass Memorial Community Church for four years in early 2000s).
Lower officeholders have been impeached after departing office.
A post-office impeachment conviction would not bar Trump from running for office again, a ban that is one of the Democrats’ goals. That, however, could be accomplished through a simple majority vote in both houses by invoking Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which was passed in the aftermath of the Civil War. Trump could be barred from holding federal office if he’s found to have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the U.S. Constitution.
The shocking attack on the Capitol, incited by the president’s incendiary language at a rally just two hours previous—he’d vowed “never to concede” and urged supporters to “stop the steal”—stunned Americans and allies around the world. “If you don’t fight like hell,” Trump implored, just before telling his supporters he was heading “down Pennsylvania Avenue” and “going to the Capitol” with them, “you’re not going to have a country anymore”. Others, including his sons Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, and his lawyer Rudolph Guiliani, used similar inciting words.
Maryland U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen said the president had “threatened the safety and security of our democracy” and his conduct left the Congress with no choice but to take action.
“Today’s bipartisan House impeachment vote is a critical reaffirmation of the oath sworn by every individual serving this country—to support and defend our Constitution against all threats, foreign and domestic,” Van Hollen said. “The House of Representatives has acted and now the Senate must vote to convict.”
The tragic insurgence, the controversies around the failure to protect the Capitol, and reports of locals who joined the riot last week sent ripples through Maryland politics.
Major contributors to Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, who opposed the Electoral College certification and got into a heated confrontation during the Capitol vote last week, have said they are withdrawing campaign support. Those corporate supporters—suspending support from all 147 Republicans who tried to block certification—include Marriott, Comcast, and Exelon.
Harris said Wednesday night, after the insurrection had finally been quelled, that he still supported “forensic audits and investigating potential election fraud” in the 2020 presidential race, even as some other Republican officials pulled back their rhetoric. He was among the five representatives who abstained from the impeachment vote earlier this week.
Seventy-one members of the House of Delegates and the 13 members of the Maryland Senate signed a letter condemning Harris and called on him to resign for joining “in cynical, politically motivated attempts to undermine the legitimate, free, and fair election that selected Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.”
Hogan, viewed as a potential 2024 contender for the GOP presidential nomination, told CNN: “I’m not sure what Congressman Harris should do, but I was extremely outraged at some of the things he did and said.”
Hogan has also been in the national media several times, explaining he was delayed by the failure of federal approval to send Maryland National Guard troops to the Washington to assist overwhelmed Capitol police.
Meanwhile, Hogan is also trying to distance himself from Republican state Del. Dan Cox of Frederick, who organized buses for the Trump rally last week and tweeted, “Mike Pence is a traitor” as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Hogan later called Cox a “Q-Anon conspiracy theorist.” Cox later wrote a letter to General Assembly apologizing for his “poor choice of words.”
“President Trump put this riot in motion weeks before Election Day, when he began his baseless complaints about mail-in ballots and fraud,” Maryland Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger said in a statement shortly after voting in favor of impeachment. “Since he lost, he’s been ramping up the dangerous rhetoric, knowingly and falsely claiming the election was rigged and ‘stolen.’ He created a ‘combustible environment of misinformation, disenfranchisement, and division,’ as Republican Congressman John Katko put it yesterday.”