House Democrats Move Ahead With Trump Impeachment Plans
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Meanwhile, House Democrats are moving ahead with their plan to impeach President Trump for a second time. Although this comes with just 10 days left in the Trump presidency, lawmakers say his role in inciting rioters to attack the U.S. Capitol cannot go unpunished. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis is here with us to tell us more. Sue, thank you so much for joining us.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey there.
MARTIN: It may seem obvious, but could you just please tell us exactly what the articles or the grounds for impeachment actually say?
DAVIS: Sure. It's just one article of impeachment, and it's just four pages. And I would encourage anyone to go online and read it for themselves. But it accuses the president of, quote, "willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States," end quote, and specifically cites the comments he made at that rally on January 6 that then encouraged these extremists to then go storm the Capitol. It characterizes that conduct as, quote, "a threat to national security, democracy and the Constitution."
As of the most recent count, Michel, there's about 200 Democrats cosponsoring this resolution. They plan to formally introduce it on Monday, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told members to be prepared to come back to Washington this week to vote for it.
MARTIN: Could you talk more about how this timeline would actually work, though? Because there are only 10 days left in office for President Trump, and a Senate trial would last longer than that, wouldn't it?
DAVIS: Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of complicating factors here. One is that the Senate is out of session, and so it would not begin a Senate trial until Inauguration Day, basically, at the earliest, because once an impeachment trial is triggered in the Senate, it stops everything. It stops all business. It forces senators to be in their seats six days a week until the trial concludes, which could take weeks. There's also a constitutional question here about whether you can finish an impeachment process on someone who has left office. We don't really know the final answer on that. And there's a concern about jamming up incoming President Joe Biden and confirming his cabinet nominees and getting his legislative agenda through, which is why some top Democrats, like Majority Whip James Clyburn, are calling for what I would call an impeach and then delay strategy. This is what he told CNN today.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JAMES CLYBURN: Let's give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running, and maybe we'll send the articles sometime after that.
DAVIS: So the House could impeach and just hold back on telling the Senate that someone has been impeached, which would basically just give the incoming Democratic Senate majority more time to figure out what they want to do next.
MARTIN: Which - but that still invites the question of, why go through that if President Trump will be gone from office by then?
DAVIS: Yeah. I mean, I just can't overstate how unified Democrats are here - and I would say some Republicans in both the House and Senate - that what happened this past week just cannot go unpunished. And there's a lot - a broad sentiment that they need to send a message to the country and to all future presidents that conduct of this kind against the Congress and against the country and against the election will be impeached.
Also, remember; if somehow the Senate were to vote to convict, they could then vote to bar Trump from ever running for office again. This has never happened before in history, but they could do it. And again, recall, he is teasing that he may run again for office in 2024.
MARTIN: So would you just say a bit more about where Republicans are on all this? You know, some have been much more openly critical of President Trump in recent days than they certainly have been over the last four years, but the last impeachment ended with an acquittal on a near party-line vote.
DAVIS: The party is definitely fracturing over this right now. I don't want to - you know, there's still a lot of political loyalty to the president in Congress, but we have certainly seen more House and Senate Republicans supportive of efforts to get him out of office than they were during that last round. What many Republicans are hoping for, especially in the Senate, is that the president will just resign before his term is up. That's what senators like Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are calling for, although they both concede it's probably not likely.
Just want to say, the White House spokesman on Friday said that impeachment, they see it as - would divide the country even further, although some say we can't get much more divided than this. But the president still has not taken any responsibility for his role in what happened this past week.
MARTIN: That is NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis. Sue, thank you so much.
DAVIS: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.