Second impeachment of Donald Trump

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Second impeachment of Donald Trump
Trump Second Impeachment Vote.png
The House of Representatives votes to adopt the article of impeachment (H.Res. 24)
Accused Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States
DateJanuary 13, 2021 – ongoing (10 days)
Congressional votes
Voting in the U.S. House of Representatives
AccusationIncitement of insurrection
Votes in favor232
Votes against197
Not voting4
Introduced by Representatives David Cicilline, Ted Lieu, and Jamie Raskin
Donald Trump official portrait (cropped).jpg
This article is part of
a series about
Donald Trump
President of the United States


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The second impeachment of Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, occurred on January 13, 2021, one week before his term was due to expire. Trump's impeachment by the House of Representatives of the 117th US Congress came after his attempts to overturn the 2020 United States presidential election; the adopted article of "incitement of insurrection" cited his January 2 phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and alleged that Trump incited the storming of the United States Capitol on January 6 after pushing baseless voter fraud conspiracies around the 2020 presidential election. [1]


A single article of impeachment charging Trump with "incitement of insurrection" against the U.S. government and "lawless action at the Capitol" was introduced to the House of Representatives on January 11, 2021. [1] The article was introduced with more than 200 co-sponsors. [2] The same day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave Vice President Mike Pence an ultimatum to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to assume the role of Acting President within 24 hours, or the House would proceed with impeachment proceedings. [3] [4] Pence stated he would not in a letter to Pelosi the following day. He argued that to do so would not "be in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution". [5] Nevertheless, a majority of the House of Representatives, including one Republican, passed a resolution urging Pence to either invoke the 25th Amendment or have the House majority impeach Trump. [6]

Trump's second impeachment marked the fourth impeachment of a president of the United States. Trump is the only U.S. president and the only holder of any federal office to have been impeached twice, having been previously impeached in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. [7] [8] With ten Republican representatives voting in support, the resolution received the most pro-impeachment votes ever from the president's party, making it the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in history. [9] This was also the first presidential impeachment in which all majority caucus members voted unanimously for impeachment.

If the Senate holds a trial and a two-thirds majority of senators present vote to convict Trump, he would be the first former president convicted by the Senate. A conviction would trigger a second vote in which a simple majority in the Senate could permanently disqualify Trump from holding public office in the United States. [10]


In early January 2021, President Trump was criticized for his various actions in his attempt to overturn the 2020 United States presidential election. He telephoned Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on January 2 to pressure him to overturn the state's election results.

Trump spoke at the January 6 March to Save America rally on the National Mall, where his speech was filled with violent imagery, [11] and suggested that his supporters had the power to prevent President-elect Joe Biden from taking office. [12]

When the United States Congress convened to certify the electoral votes of the presidential election, supporters of Trump crossed the Mall and stormed the United States Capitol in an attempt to prevent the tabulation of votes and protest Biden's win. Protestors unlawfully entered the U.S. Capitol Building and gathered on both its eastern and western fronts, including on the inaugural platform constructed for Joe Biden's inauguration. [13] Five people, including a United States Capitol Police officer, died as a result of the riots, while several improvised explosive devices were found on and near the Capitol grounds. [14] [15] Another Capitol police officer who was on duty during the riots died by suicide days later. [16] During the riots, Trump was "initially pleased" by the attack on the Capitol and took no action. [17] In a speech hours into the event, Trump told the rioters "We love you. You're very special," and restated his false claims of electoral fraud. [18] Hours later, Congress reconvened and ultimately certified the electoral votes in the early morning hours of January 7. Trump then released a statement asserting that there will be an "orderly transition" of power on Inauguration Day, even while continuing to falsely claim that the election was stolen from him and also stating that he would not attend Biden's inauguration. His partial concession came precisely two months after Biden's win. [19]

Considered scenarios

Four scenarios for the removal of Trump from office had been posited by members of Congress, members of Trump's cabinet, political commentators, or legal scholars: resignation, invocation of the 14th Amendment, invocation of the 25th Amendment, or impeachment and conviction.


The President of the United States can resign from office, in which case the Vice President would automatically become president, instead of merely assuming the powers and duties of the presidency as acting president. While Article II of the Constitution states that the "Powers and Duties" of the president devolve to the vice president in the event of the president's death, resignation, incapacity, or removal, John Tyler interpreted that provision as allowing the Vice President to ascend to the presidency in such cases, without any qualifications. This practice was codified in 1967, with the passage of the 25th Amendment.

If Trump had resigned, Vice President Mike Pence would have become the 46th president of the United States; he would have been the shortest-serving president ever, being in office for a matter of days before handing power to Joe Biden as the 47th president on January 20. This would have surpassed the record of William Henry Harrison, who died 31 days into his term. It would have been the second time in history that a president would be forced to resign; the first was the 1974 resignation of Richard Nixon when it appeared inevitable that he would be impeached and removed from office for his role in the Watergate scandal.

Due to intense pressure on his administration, the threat of removal, and numerous resignations, Trump committed to an orderly transition of power in a televised speech on January 7. [20] In the White House on January 8, Trump mentioned that he was not considering resignation. [21] Trump made other similar comments the following week and gave no indication that he was worried about leaving early or a removal. Trump also predicted that it was, to him, a pointless endeavor since the soon-to-be Democratic-controlled Senate, currently in Republican hands, would never convict him in another impeachment trial, and asked advisers if they agreed with him. [21] On January 9, The New York Times reported that Trump told White House aides that he regretted his statement committing to an "orderly" transition of power and that there was no chance he would resign from office. [22]

14th Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is one of the Reconstruction Amendments. It addresses citizenship rights and equal protection under the law and was proposed in response to issues related to former slaves following the American Civil War. Section 3 states that a person who participated in insurrection after having taken an oath to support the Constitution is disqualified from office unless permitted by Congress.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of the House Democrats that supported invoking the 14th Amendment against Trump. In a letter, Pelosi thanked her colleagues for their contributions to discussions on the 14th Amendment. [23]

If Trump were to be removed from office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, Pence would have become the 46th president of the United States, and he would still have been the shortest-serving president ever before handing power to Joe Biden as the 47th president on January 20. It would also be the first time that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was invoked since 1919 when it stopped Victor L. Berger, convicted of violating the Espionage Act for his anti-militarist views, from taking his seat in the House of Representatives. [24] It would also be the first time that it would be invoked on a sitting president and was seen as especially unlikely. [25]

25th Amendment

The Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution deals with presidential succession and disability. Though the amendment thus far has been used in medical situations, Section 4 provides that the vice president, together with a majority of Cabinet secretaries, may declare the president unable to carry out his duties, after which the vice president immediately assumes the duties of the president.

If Section 4 of the 25th Amendment action is carried out, it would have made Pence the acting president, assuming the "powers and duties of the office" of the president. Trump would have remain president for the rest of his term, albeit stripped of all authority. Section 4 of the 25th Amendment has not been invoked before. [26] [27] Pence, who would have been required to initiate removal, stated that he would not invoke the 25th Amendment against Trump. [28] The 25th Amendment, however, was initially created for the case where the President was incapacitated.

Impeachment and conviction

Impeachment begins in the House of Representatives, where articles of impeachment are drawn up. These articles are then voted on by House members. Each article is voted on separately and requires a simple majority to pass. Once an article has been passed in the House, the president has been impeached. The articles are then sent to the Senate for adjudication with an impeachment trial. After views have been laid out in the trial, the Senate moves to vote on conviction. Each article requires a two-thirds majority of Senators present to pass. If an article passes in the Senate, the president has been convicted and is removed from office. Once the president is convicted, a further vote may then be held which determines whether the (now-former) president is barred from holding future office; this vote passes with a simple majority in the Senate. [29] [30]

Because the Senate was not scheduled to reconvene until January 19, 2021, [31] discussions had taken place around possibly convicting Trump in the Senate after he leaves office, leaving open the possibility of permanently restricting a convicted former president from ever holding public office. This has never been constitutionally tested in the case of a former president, but the 1876 trader post scandal saw Secretary of War William W. Belknap impeached by the House after he had resigned, and then tried and acquitted by the Senate. [10]

Invoking the 25th Amendment

On the evening of January 6, CBS News reported that Cabinet members were discussing invoking the 25th Amendment. [32] The ten Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, led by U.S. Representative David Cicilline, sent a letter to Pence to "emphatically urge" him to invoke the 25th Amendment and declare Trump "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office", claiming that he incited and condoned the riots. [33] [34] For invocation, Pence and at least eight Cabinet members, forming a simple majority, would have to consent. Additionally, if challenged by Trump, the second invocation would maintain Pence as acting president, subject to a vote of approval in both houses of Congress, with a two-thirds supermajority necessary in each chamber to sustain. However, Congress would not need to act before January 20 for Pence to remain acting president until Biden is inaugurated, per the timeline described in Section 4.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (DMA) accused Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a tweet of quitting rather than supporting efforts to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump. [35] A Trump administration official disputed Warren's claim. [35] House majority whip Jim Clyburn on Friday accused DeVos and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao of "running away from their responsibility" by resigning from President Trump's Cabinet before invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. [36] Multiple news agencies reported that DeVos was in discussions to invoke the 25th Amendment prior to her resignation. [35] According to an advisor, DeVos decided to resign because she believed that it would not be possible to remove Trump from office under the 25th Amendment, after learning that Vice President Mike Pence opposed calls to invoke the 25th Amendment to oust Trump from office before January 20. [35] By late January 9, it was reported that Pence had not ruled out invoking the 25th Amendment and was actively considering it. [37] [ needs update ]

The House Rules Committee met on January 12, 2021, to vote on a non-binding resolution calling on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment. [2] Pence later reiterated his position of not invoking the 25th Amendment, according to a letter sent to Pelosi late on January 12. In it, he stated that the 25th Amendment was intended for presidential incapacity or disability and invoking Section 4 to punish and usurp President Trump in the middle of a presidential transition would undermine and set a terrible precedent for the stability of the executive branch and the United States federal government. [38]

On the same day, the House of Representatives voted to call for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment. The resolution passed with 223 in favor, 205 against, and 5 (all Republicans) [lower-alpha 1] not voting; Adam Kinzinger was the only Republican to join a unified Democratic Caucus. [39]

Raskin bill

House Resolution 21--Calling on Vice President Michael R. Pence to convene and mobilize the principal officers of the executive departments of the Cabinet to activate section 4 of the 25th Amendment to declare President Donald J. Trump incapable of executing the duties of his office and to immediately exercise powers as acting president. House Resolution 21 - Calling on Vice President Michael R. Pence to convene and mobilize the principal officers of the executive departments of the Cabinet to activate section 4 of the 25th Amendment.pdf
House Resolution 21—Calling on Vice President Michael R. Pence to convene and mobilize the principal officers of the executive departments of the Cabinet to activate section 4 of the 25th Amendment to declare President Donald J. Trump incapable of executing the duties of his office and to immediately exercise powers as acting president.

The 25th Amendment allows Congress to establish a committee to determine when a president is unfit to serve (section 4 of the Amendment provides that the "declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" is made by "the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments [i.e., the Cabinet] or of such other body as Congress may by law provide"). [40] However, such a committee has never been established. In May 2017, Representative Jamie Raskin (DMD-8) introduced legislation to create a standing, independent, nonpartisan body, called the Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity, to make such a determination. The bill had 20 cosponsors. [41]

In October 2020, Raskin and Pelosi introduced a similar bill to create a Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office, to have 17 members four physicians, four psychiatrists, four retired Republican statespersons, and four retired Democratic statespersons appointed by congressional leaders (the Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader). The bill defines "retired statespersons" as former presidents, vice presidents, attorneys general, secretaries of state, defense secretaries, Treasury secretaries, and surgeons general. The committee chair would be appointed by the other members. The bill provides that no members of the commission could be a current elected official, federal employee, or active or reserve military personnel, a measure intended to avoid conflicts of interest and chain-of-command problems. A majority of the commission (nine members), plus the vice president, would need to support invoking the 25th Amendment. The bill had 38 cosponsors. [42] While the bill has received renewed interest since the Capitol incident, as with any other bill it would require passage by both houses of Congress and consideration by the president for the commission to be formed and consider invocation of Section 4.


Drafted articles of impeachment

Within hours of the storming of the Capitol, multiple members of Congress began to call for the impeachment of Donald Trump as president. Several representatives began the process of independently drafting various articles of impeachment. Of these attempts, the first to become public were those of Representative Ilhan Omar (DMN-5) who began drafting articles of impeachment on January 7. [43] In the early hours of the morning on January 8, Omar posted an excerpt of draft articles of impeachment on her Twitter account, the documents stating that "every single hour that Donald Trump remains in office, our country, our democracy, and our national security remain in danger." [44] [45] "Article I" concerns the January 2, 2021, Trump–Raffensperger phone call during which Trump "repeatedly asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn the finalized and verified results of the November 2020 presidential election in the State of Georgia". [45] "Article II" concerns Trump's behavior on January 6, 2021, in which he encouraged travel to Washington, D.C. "with the sole purpose of inciting violence and obstructing Congress in engaging in its constitutionally mandated legislative business of certifying the electoral college results of the 2020 election". [46]

Representative David Cicilline (DRI-1) separately drafted an article of impeachment. The text was obtained by CNN on January 8. [47] On Twitter, Cicilline acknowledged the coauthorship of Ted Lieu and Jamie Raskin, [48] and said that "more than 110" members had signed on to this article. [49] "Article I: Incitement of Insurrection" accuses Trump of having "willfully made statements that encouraged—and foreseeably resulted in—imminent lawless action at the Capitol". [50] As a result of incitement by Trump, "a mob unlawfully breached the Capitol" and "engaged in violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts". [51] On January 10, it was announced that the bill had gathered 210 cosponsors in the House. [52]

Article of impeachment introduced

On January 11, 2021, U.S. Representatives David Cicilline, along with Jamie Raskin and Ted Lieu, introduced an article of impeachment against Trump, charging Trump with "incitement of insurrection" in urging his supporters to march on the Capitol building. The article contended that Trump made a number of statements that "encouraged–and foreseeably resulted in–lawless action" that interfered with Congress' constitutional duty to certify the election. It argued that by his actions, Trump "threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government," doing so in a way that rendered him "a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution" if he were allowed to complete his term. [2] [53] By the time it was introduced, 218 of the 222 House Democrats had signed on as cosponsors, assuring its passage. [54] Trump was impeached in a vote on January 13, 2021; ten Republicans, including House Republican Conference chairwoman Liz Cheney, joined all of the Democrats in supporting the article.

On January 12, with the article's passage assured, Pelosi named Raskin, Lieu, Cicilline, Diana DeGette, Joaquin Castro, Eric Swalwell, Joe Neguse, Madeleine Dean, and Stacey Plaskett to be managers in a Senate conviction trial, with Raskin as lead manager. [55] The managers were chosen for their expertise in constitutional law, civil rights, and criminal justice. Raskin is a former constitutional law professor at American University. Lieu is a former military prosecutor in the United States Air Force. Cicilline is a former public defender. Swalwell was a former prosecutor in California. DeGette is a former civil rights attorney. Castro, Neguse, Dean and Plaskett are all lawyers in private practice. [56]

House vote

Speaker Nancy Pelosi signs the article of impeachment following passage by the House. Pelosi Signing Second Trump Impeachment.png
Speaker Nancy Pelosi signs the article of impeachment following passage by the House.
Voting results on House Resolution 24 [57]
(impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors)
PartyArticle I (incitement of insurrection)
YeaNayPresentNot voting
Democratic (222)222
Republican (211)197
Total (433) [lower-alpha 2] 2321974
ResultAdopted [lower-alpha 3]