Trump
Donald Trump. Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
  • The US House of Representatives impeached American President Donald Trump on Wednesday for "incitement of insurrection" over his role in catalysing a violent riot at the US Capitol on January 6 that resulted in five deaths.
  • Multiple Republican lawmakers broke ranks to vote with their Democratic colleagues to impeach the US President.
  • Trump is the first American President to be impeached twice.
  • He was previously impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to the Ukraine scandal.
  • Visit Business Insider SA's homepage for more stories.

The US House of Representatives impeached American President Donald Trump on Wednesday over his role in allegedly inciting a violent riot at the US Capitol that resulted in five deaths. The article of impeachment against Trump charged him with "incitement of insurrection."

Multiple Republican lawmakers broke ranks and sided with their Democratic colleagues in the impeachment vote.

Trump is the first American President to be impeached twice.

The events that led up to the Capitol riots were set in motion months before January 6, as the president fed his loyalists a steady diet of lies and disinformation about the election. He falsely insisted that the only way he would lose the election was if it was fraudulent, that the race was "stolen" from him, and that he was the legitimate winner despite losing the popular vote and Electoral College vote.

After a string of defeats in courts across the country and after the Electoral College certified US President-elect Joe Biden's win on December 14, Trump turned his attention to the legislative branch in a last-ditch effort to hang onto power.

He made the false claim that Vice President Mike Pence and Congress, who count the electoral votes and formalise the president-elect's victory, had the legal authority to "decertify" some states' electors and throw the White House back to Trump.

Pence has no such power and his role overseeing the counting of electoral votes is largely ceremonial. Still, in the weeks before Congress met, Trump publicly and privately urged Pence to step in and block the process.

At a rally in Washington, DC, on January 6, shortly before Congress convened, the president called on thousands of his supporters to march to the Capitol and stop the peaceful transfer of power.

"You'll never take back our country with weakness," he told his fanatics. "You have to show strength, and you have to be strong."

"We're going to have to fight much harder," he said, before unleashing the mob.

Pro-Trump insurrectionists converged on the US Capitol as lawmakers debated election challenges in the House and Senate chambers. The frenzied crowd clashed with law enforcement and eventually breached barriers set up around the Capitol as overwhelmed police officers rushed to clear the building.

Capitol Police interrupted Congress' proceedings and frantically evacuated Pence and senior lawmakers as Trump supporters swarmed in, ransacked offices, and stole property, including records that the Justice Department said may have contained "national security equities."

One of the rioters who participated in the siege was carrying 11 Molotov cocktails and an assault rifle, prosecutors said, while others were armed with metal pipes, ziptie handcuffs, pepper spray, and more objects used to attack law enforcement and get into the building.

Insurrectionists were seen roaming the halls of Congress with Confederate flags and banging on doors as frightened lawmakers, Hill staffers, and reporters hid under desks and behind makeshift barricades. An armed standoff took place at the entrance to the House chamber and a woman was shot and killed by Capitol Police as Trump supporters broke through and made it onto the House floor. The Senate chamber was similarly breached.

Outside the building, the president's acolytes set up a gallows with a noose, and one photojournalist said he overheard three rioters saying they wanted to hang Pence "from a Capitol Hill tree," while others debated more ways to execute the vice president.

Additional footage and media reports that have come out since the riot indicate that some of the insurrectionists were active law enforcement officers and ex-military members with tactical training.

Trump watched the hours-long siege play out on television from his perch at the White House. He issued a tepid call on Twitter for his followers to "stay peaceful" and "go home" before praising them for being "very special" and repeating the same lies that incited the mob in the first place.

Some of the rioters beat a police officer with a fire extinguisher. The officer, 42-year-old Brian Sicknick, later died from brain injuries sustained during the attack. Other rioters shoved officers, called them "traitors," and promised a second civil war.

The events that unfolded made the US an object of ridicule to its adversaries, and longtime allies watched in horror and dismay as the president sat back while his supporters desecrated a centuries-old symbol of democracy.

When the US Congress finally reconvened after officers secured the building, multiple Republican lawmakers who had initially backed Trump's efforts to overturn the election withdrew their support, citing the "abhorrent" attack on the Capitol.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forcefully condemned the "unhinged" rioters and reiterated his commitment to formalizing Biden's win, saying, "This failed insurrection only underscores how crucial the task before us is for our republic."

The events also precipitated a string of high-profile departures from the Trump administration. Three Cabinet secretaries resigned, as did the former White House press secretary, deputy press secretary, deputy national security advisor, the former White House chief of staff, and others in the Commerce Department and National Security Council.

The House passed a resolution calling on Pence and Trump's cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove the president from power, but the vice president said in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he would not do so.

More than half a dozen Republicans voted to impeach Trump on Wednesday. And a number of Republican senators have signalled an openness to convicting the president following a Senate trial.

McConnell is said to be furious with Trump and believes he committed impeachable offenses, The New York Times reported. And Axios later reported that McConnell might vote to convict the president, a remarkable development that would end years of the two men moving in lockstep.

"The House, if they come together and have a process, I will definitely consider whatever articles they might move," Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska told "CBS This Morning" in an interview.

"I believe the president has disregarded his oath of office. He swore an oath to the American people to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. He acted against that," Sasse added. "What he did was wicked."

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey said he believed Trump had committed impeachable offenses, and he and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski called on the president to resign from office.

The president, for his part, has shown no remorse over what happened at the Capitol. Speaking to reporters Tuesday after being banned from every mainstream social media platform, Trump said his remarks at the rally on January 6 were "totally appropriate" and called the push to impeach him "absolutely ridiculous."

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