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Lawmakers are calling for a second impeachment trial for Trump. Here’s what that might look like

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 8, 2021

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says President Donald Trump should immediately be removed from office or Congress may proceed to impeach him. Her call came one day after a violent mob stormed the Capitol, forcing the building into lockdown.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says President Donald Trump should immediately be removed from office or Congress may proceed to impeach him. Her call came one day after a violent mob stormed the Capitol, forcing the building into lockdown.

Two days after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers continue to call for the removal of the president, whether through invoking the 25th Amendment, resignation or impeachment.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday the House could move to impeach Trump if he did not resign “immediately.” House Democrats also drafted the impeachment resolution against Trump for “incitement of insurrection.” All of Washington’s Democrats in Congress called for Trump’s removal, although not all have publicly supported an impeachment.

With less than two weeks until President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Congress would have to act fast, meaning an impeachment trial could be coming as early as next week, making him the first president to be impeached twice. It’s still unclear how much Republican support an impeachment would have, meaning it’s also unclear how far the hearings would get.

The constitution is “pretty bare bones” in terms of the impeachment process, said Cornell Clayton, director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute of Public Policy and Public Service at Washington State University.

“Presumably Congress could hold hearings pretty quickly,” Clayton said. “You don’t necessarily need to hold extensive hearings.”

Once the House decides to bring forward impeachment, they draw up the articles – a document explaining the charges against the president. The House then votes on those charges. It only takes a majority, and Democrats currently have that majority.

In Trump’s last impeachment, multiple House committees sorted through evidence for months before sending it to the House floor, but it isn’t necessary if there isn’t a ton of evidence to go through, Clayton said.

If the impeachment passes in the House, the articles are sent to the Senate, which holds the trial and votes on whether to convict a president and remove him from office. It requires two-thirds of senators to vote yes.

Along with voting for his removal, the Senate could also vote to bar him from serving in public office ever again.

Whether any of that happens in the Senate hinges on Republican support, Cornell said. For the next two weeks, Republicans control the Senate, and while many of them are upset with Trump’s behavior, it’s unclear how many of them actually want him out.

Still, Democrats are facing a lot of pressure to make some kind of formal statement or reprimand, Clayton said.

“There’s still a reason for impeachment in the House,” Clayton said. “It would set the precedent that this kind of behavior isn’t tolerated.”

In Washington’s delegation, there’s support for impeachment, with every Democratic member calling for his removal in some way.

On Thursday, Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell said she supported impeaching him before and will again. Similarly, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen tweeted he voted to impeach Trump last year and is prepared to do so again, although he urged Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment sooner.

On Twitter, Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal called on Congress to reconvene immediately and remove Trump from office.

“I refuse to just sit back and allow him to remain in office another week, another weekend, another day,” Jayapal tweeted.

Sen. Patty Murray on Thursday called on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, and if not, said it is the responsibility as members of Congress to “impeach, remove and bar this President from future office.” On Friday, she also called for the resignation of Republican Senators Josh Hawley, of Missouri, and Ted Cruz, of Texas. Hawley and Cruz were leaders in the Senate in the effort to block the certification of the Electoral College in multiple states.

“Any Senator who stands up and supports the power of force over the power of democracy has broken their oath of office,” Murray tweeted.

Murray said there can be no normalizing or looking away from what happened at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Republicans have been far less outspoken on Trump’s removal, and it’s unclear how many support impeachment.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, became the first Republican senator to call for Trump to resign.

“I want him out,” she told the Anchorage Daily News. “He has caused enough damage.”

She criticized Trump for refusing to focus on COVID or appear at the inauguration. She even went as far as to say she may no longer be a Republican if it is the party of Trump.

“He doesn’t want to stay there,” she said. “He only wants to stay there for the title. He only wants to stay there for his ego. He needs to get out. He needs to do the good thing, but I don’t think he’s capable of doing a good thing.”

With less than two weeks left in Trump’s tenure, there is some question of whether he can be impeached after he’s left office, in an effort to bar him from holding office again.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrote in a memo to other Senate Republicans that the Senate would not be able to debate impeachment until Jan. 19 unless all 100 Senators agree to allow debate, the Washington Post reported. Trump’s term ends on Jan. 20.

“Again, it would require the consent of all 100 Senators to conduct any business of any kind during the scheduled pro forma sessions prior to January 19, and therefore the consent of all 100 Senators to begin acting on any articles of impeachment during those sessions,” the memo from McConnell said, according to the Post.

A delay like that could mean the decisions on impeachment in the Senate would be pushed until Democrats take control of the chamber. That is expected to happen around Jan. 20 when Georgia certifies the election of two Democrats, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who defeated incumbent Republicans in an election Tuesday.

There is some debate about if an impeachment trial could be done after the person has left office, Clayton said. Some scholars say that because impeachment’s primary goal is to remove someone from office, it can’t be done after they’ve left.

If nothing else, a reason for impeachment might be symbolic.

The biggest question right now is how the country should protect its democracy, Clayton said. Some say it’s better to move on completely, while others think Trump should be held accountable.

“Whenever someone insights insurrection, you need to hold them accountable, otherwise it becomes normalized,” Clayton said. “That’s very, very dangerous, and that’s how democracy ends.”

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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