Donald Trump has become the first president in US history to be impeached twice, as house Democrats pushed to remove the firebrand politician from office over the incitement of political violence on Capitol Hill last week.
An article of impeachment will now proceed to the Senate, but Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell has already ruled out cutting short a holiday recess to hold a trial before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20, meaning Trump is likely to serve out the remainder of his term.
However, the Senate could find Trump guilty after his departure from the White House, which would bar him from standing for elected office in future, and prohibit him from receiving lucrative presidential benefits.
A two-thirds Senate majority will be required for a guilty verdict, meaning a bipartisan effort would be necessary, even after Democrats take a slim majority in the Senate later this month.
But there are already signs of cross-party appetite to punish Trump for his role in stirring up supporters ahead of their deadly storming of the US Capitol last week, with 10 house Republicans voting in favour of impeachment today, making it the most bipartisan effort to remove a president in US history.
McConnell, the key player in rallying Republican votes in the Senate, said Congress would ‘best serve’ the nation by delaying an impeachment trial for at least seven days to focus on a safe transfer of power to the incoming Biden administration.
“Given the rules, procedures, and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachment trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week,” he said.
But the prospect of a Senate impeachment trial running into the first weeks of the Biden administration could throw a spanner in the works for the administration in confirming its cabinet picks, delivering leverage for Republicans as McConnell prepares to transition back to his role as Senate minority leader.
Current Senate minority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, said earlier this week the Senate should fast-track confirmation of Biden’s cabinet to position the nation to best deal with the pressing coronavirus crisis.
“Despite the efforts of Donald Trump and violent insurrectionists, America is not a dictatorship,” Schumer said today.
“We have been and will forever remain a democracy that respects and reveres the rule of law, including the bedrock principle that the voters choose our leaders — that just power can only derive from the consent of the governed.”
There have now been four presidential impeachments in US history, half of which have been directed at Donald Trump. However, several other presidents have left office under the cloud of possible or imminent impeachment.
Speaking on the floor of Congress today, House majority leader, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, said Trump “must go”.
“He is a clear and present danger to the nation we all love,” she said.
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Earlier today Trump branded the move to impeach him as ‘absolutely ridiculous’.
“Its really a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics,” Trump said.