Trump was down to his final week in the White House - and then he got impeached for a second time

Andrew Buncombe
President expected to leave White House on eve of Joe Biden inauguration (Getty)
President expected to leave White House on eve of Joe Biden inauguration (Getty)

We all knew this would end badly. Though probably not like this.

After Donald Trump lost the election it seemed his future in politics was set, if he wanted it to be. After all, he secured more than 74m votes, the second highest total of any presidential candidate, only pipped by Joe Biden’s 81m.

Even when he started to denounce the integrity of the election and claim Biden had won unfairly, you could see many Republicans went along with him. Millions accepted his lies that he was a victim of electoral fraud, and as he prepared for an exit marked by ill-temper and attempts to undermine the nut and screws of the electoral college system, he looked set to occupy a major piece of political real estate.

He may yet still do so. Yet after last week’s storming of the US Capitol by supporters of Trump, incited and encouraged by their president, much has changed. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to impeach him for a second time, a historical first. Ten Republicans voted with Democrats, equally outraged by the scenes of chaos.

Among many things that were striking about all of this was the instinct to rush to look to Trump’s Twitter feed to see his angry reaction, only to remember it was no longer there, just like the sensations amputees say they have from “phantom nerves”.

With 433 members of the House sitting, rather than the usual 435, Nancy Pelosi needed to only secure 217 votes, to officially censure the man who has mocked and denounced her throughout his administration.

That total was reached at around 4.30pm on the US east coast. Biden is due to be sworn in at noon next Wednesday; Trump was down to his very final week when he was humiliated for a second time.

Some had voiced the idea that to push for a second impeachment while Trump had so few days left to serve, was to risk both adding to turmoil in the country, and distract from Biden’s own agenda.

Yet, as more details emerged of the violence that played out last week, resulting in the deaths of five people, one of them a Capitol Hill police officer, it seemed the determination of Democrats to punish the president only grew.

It was interesting to listen to the Republicans who spoke on Wednesday. Some, such as Steve Chabot, who represents Ohio’s 1st congressional district, opposed impeachment.

He said pressing ahead with such a move would be harmful, and reminded the House of Abraham Lincoln’s exhortation to listen to their "better angels". “We could choose a more positive, constructive path,” he implored.

Others were adamant that to not act would be to give in to fear.

Jaime Herrera Beutler, is a Republican who represents the large swathe of southwestern Washington that makes up its third congressional district.

“To clarify, our enemy isn’t the president, or the president-elect. Fear is our enemy. It tells us what we want to hear, it incites anger and violence and fire, but it also haunts us into silence and inaction. What are you afraid of,” she said

The vote has left Trump in a perilous position. While Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has suggested he will not make the time for a vote in the Senate to convict the president - something that would prevent him from running again for federal office - it is unclear how long that protection will remain. (It is also possible McConnell would permit a vote.)

Experts say the next Senate, which will be controlled by Democrats could decide to vote to convict Trump when he has left office. McConnell might even be happy to see them do so, figuring a defanged Trump will be easier to counter as a struggle ensures for the leadership and direction of the party.

At the same time, political observers have learned they write off Donald Trump as their cost. When he leaves office next week, he will do so with the support of his millions of very energetic and enthusiastic Americans.

He may even be in a position to set up his own political party, projecting himself as a martyr, who stood up to the evils of Democrats and weak Republicans alike.

Indeed, barely two hours after the House impeached him, Trump posted a video message urging peace in the days before inauguration. He had rarely sounded so “presidential”.

“I want to be very clear. I unequivocally condemned the violence that we saw last week,” he said, in a message many felt he should have delivered weeks, or months ago.

He added: “There has been reporting that additional demonstrations are being planned in the coming days…Every American deserves to have their voice heard in a respectful and peaceful way. That is your First Amendment right. But I cannot emphasise enough that there must be no violence, no law breaking and no vandalism of any kind.”

So do not write off Trump. Trump is not leaving the political sphere, or the national converation.

But Donald Trump is leaving the White House. In less than a week.

Read More

A day of historic impeachment, a Capitol as armed encampment

Trump has been impeached — now we’re at the mercy of Mitch McConnell

Yes, Republicans really did try to blame Trump’s behavior on BLM