WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to charge President Donald Trump with “incitement of insurrection,” making him the first president ever impeached twice and exposing a rift in the Republican Party both in Washington state and nationwide.
Reps. Dan Newhouse of Central Washington and Jaime Herrera Beutler, whose southwest Washington district stretches across the Cascade Mountains, were among 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the president over his role in the storming of the U.S. Capitol a week earlier that left five people dead and dozens of police officers injured.
Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane and Idaho’s Russ Fulcher, meanwhile, opposed impeachment while decrying last week’s violence and calling for the country to move forward.
“I analyzed the Article of Impeachment through the lens that has guided my decision-making throughout my time in Congress: the oath I took to support and defend the Constitution,” McMorris Rodgers said in a statement. “Based on my assessment of Constitutionally-protected speech, I do not believe his words constitute an incitement of violence as laid out in Supreme Court precedent.”
Newhouse, who represents the most solidly conservative district in Washington, said in a statement Trump violated his oath of office when he called on his supporters to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell” to pressure lawmakers to overturn the Electoral College results that won President-elect Joe Biden the White House.
“The president took an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Newhouse said on the House floor. “Last week, there was a domestic threat at the door of the Capitol, and he did nothing to stop it. That is why, with a heavy heart and clear resolve, I will vote yes.”
Unlike Trump’s first impeachment a year earlier, Wednesday’s vote approved a single article of impeachment that cites the outgoing president’s monthslong campaign to overturn the results of November’s election and his speech to a crowd outside the White House on Jan. 6.
At the rally, Trump repeated his baseless claim that the election was stolen from him through a vast conspiracy and directed his supporters to march down Pennsylvania Avenue and “demand that Congress do the right thing” and block the largely symbolic count. The Trump campaign’s legal team has requested recounts and filed more than 60 lawsuits challenging the election without identifying any inconsistencies that could meaningfully change the outcome.
Rep. Kim Schrier, a Democrat whose district stretches from Wenatchee to the Seattle suburbs, said she decided to vote to impeach the president while she and other members were sheltering in secure locations as the rioters roamed the halls of the Capitol, some calling for the execution of Democrats and Vice President Mike Pence, who had drawn Trump’s ire when he correctly said he did not have the authority to block Biden’s win.
“For most of us, probably all of us, it started during the lockdown,” Schrier said in an interview. “We saw in real time a president giving a speech that incited violence, that sent a mob down to the Capitol to hunt us, to hunt down Vice President Pence.
“If there was ever a reason to impeach a president, this was it.”
Few Republicans defended Trump’s actions, with most instead arguing the impeachment was needlessly divisive and Congress should instead focus on a smooth transition to the Biden administration, a hard rhetorical pivot after many GOP lawmakers echoed Trump’s debunked vote-rigging claims and resisted acknowledging Biden’s win for more than a month.
In a statement, Fulcher said the Jan. 6 attacks “have no place in politics and cannot be tolerated” but criticized the swift impeachment process.
“On Jan. 20, the process will take place to inaugurate a new President, and I believe, if our republic is to survive, we must respect that,” Fulcher said. “I anticipate this will be made only more difficult and divisive by further attempts to impeach President Trump in the House, with only days left in his term, and without proper hearings or investigations taking place. … This is not the time to drive the partisan wedge deeper.”
Fulcher’s district includes North Idaho. Rep. Mike Simpson, who represents the eastern half of Idaho, also voted no.
Speaking on the House floor before the vote, Newhouse said there was blame to go around for lawmakers in both parties for failing to clearly condemn extremist violence.
Democrats, Newhouse said, “are responsible for not condemning rioters this past year, like those who barricaded the doors of the Seattle Police Department and attempted to murder the officers inside.”
“Others, including myself, are responsible for not speaking out sooner, before the president misinformed and inflamed a violent mob who tore down the American flag and brutally beat Capitol Police officers,” Newhouse added.
In the statement explaining her opposition to impeachment, McMorris Rodgers also accepted some responsibility for not speaking out against the departing president.
“For too long, people on the left have chosen to try and silence anyone who disagrees with them and have refused to acknowledge President Trump as duly elected,” she said. “At the same time, people on the right have excused and defended President Trump, including me, because he stood for free markets and economic growth, led the most pro-life administration in history, defended religious freedom, stood for Israel, and supported the rule of law.
“For Trump supporters like me, it meant turning a blind eye to arrogant, prideful, and bullying behavior.”
While Democrats had enough votes to impeach the president without any GOP help, the 10 Republican “yes” votes suggest there may be significant support for convicting Trump among GOP senators.
The soonest a Senate trial could begin is Jan. 19, virtually ruling out the possibility of Congress removing the president from office before Biden’s inauguration the next day, but a conviction could let lawmakers bar Trump from holding future elected office.
Orion Donovan-Smith'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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