The U.S. House in a bipartisan vote impeached President Donald Trump on Wednesday for inciting a riot at the Capitol last week that left five people dead.
As expected, Utah’s four Republican congressmen voted against impeachment.
“Voting to impeach the president seven days before his departure from office serves little purpose given the Senate will not be able to hold a trial by that time and risks establishing this impeachment as politically motivated,” Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, wrote in a joint statement with two Texas Republicans and one from North Carolina.
“Furthermore, the articles are flawed, charging crimes that are lacking the requisite element of intent.”
Still, Curtis said he condemned the president’s words and actions that contributed to the violence and encouraged Americans to similarly condemn him.
I condemn the President's words and actions which contributed to last week’s violence and encourage all Americans to similarly condemn.— Rep. John Curtis (@RepJohnCurtis) January 13, 2021
I vote no to rushing impeachment and politicizing what could have been a serious & thoughtful bipartisan review. pic.twitter.com/yVesRc22v3
Ten Republicans — including Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the third-ranking House Republican — joined 222 House Democrats in passing one article of impeachment charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection,” making him the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. The final vote was 232-197.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Trump a “clear and present danger” to the country.
“We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go,” she said on the House floor.
Impeachment and conviction by the Senate, she said, is “a constitutional remedy that will ensure that the republic will be safe from this man, who is so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold dear, and that hold us together.”
Trump encouraged his supporters gathered at a rally in Washington, D.C., last Wednesday to march on the Capitol after again falsely asserting that he had won the election and Democrats had stolen it from him. An armed mob stormed the building as Congress counted electoral votes confirming that Democrat Joe Biden had won the election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will not convene the Senate until Jan. 19, a day before Biden’s inauguration.
“Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office. This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact,” McConnell said.
The New York Times reported that McConnell supported the idea of impeachment, hoping it would move Trump away from the Republican Party. McConnell did not deny the report.
The trial would most certainly take place after Trump leaves the White House. While the main penalty for a guilty verdict is removal from office, the Senate could bar him from holding future public office.
With the Senate evenly split between Democrats and Republicans starting next Wednesday, 17 Republicans would have to cross party lines to convict Trump in a vote that requires a two-thirds majority.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the only Republican senator who voted to remove Trump from office last year, directly blamed Trump for the insurrection.
In his first speech on the House floor Wednesday, Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, said that without a single hearing or investigation, “I simply cannot reach the high bar of impeachment.”
Noting that he was abandoning the remainder of his prepared remarks, Moore, who took office 10 days ago, vowed to his district that he would be “objective.”
“As I listened to this debate, it’s no wonder that this nation is divided. We are on an absolute race to the bottom, and I was hoping last week we could have hit rock bottom,” he said in the one-minute speech. “I commit to do doing better and I hope that we all can dig in and find a way.”
In a statement after the vote, Moore said, “To my critics — and there will be many — please know that this was the most painful decision I have ever made in my life.”
Moore, who was in the House chamber on his third day in Congress when the attack occurred, described last Wednesday as “harrowing” and said he feared for his life and the life of his family.
Trump has responsibility for what happened, Moore said, adding that’s why he joined a resolution Curtis and other Republicans introduced to censure the president.
Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, who also took office on Jan. 3, said in a prepared statement Wednesday that he opposed impeaching Trump.
“With only seven days until President-elect Biden takes office, any debate on impeachment will not only deepen the divide, it will also be rushed, purely political and distract from the unprecedented challenges facing Utah families,” he said.
Owens — who along with Rep. Chris Stewart voted to object to the certification of Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes hours after the Capitol was seized — said the articles of impeachment raise serious constitutional questions that deserve a full hearing and considerable debate, a lengthy task that will delay the next administration’s ability to move forward.
“The constituents in my district want elected officials to get to work and look to the future, and that is what I am committed to doing,” he said.
Democrats formally introduced the impeachment resolution Monday, charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection.”
On Tuesday, the House voted 223-205 to adopt a resolution to compel Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Pence earlier Tuesday rejected that effort in a letter to Pelosi.
All four of Utah’s House members voted against that resolution.
Curtis said before the vote Wednesday that he would not vote to impeach Trump.
“I do not understand the rush to judgment. One of our bedrocks of our judicial system is a fair trial and innocence until proven guilty,” he said on C-SPAN. “I think we’re robbing those of us who need a little bit more time.”
Curtis called Democrats’ argument that Trump is a danger to the country every hour he remains in office “hollow.”
“It’s clearly laughable because everybody knows impeachment won’t be concluded by the time the inauguration rolls around,” he said.
Biden will be inaugurated Jan. 20.
Curtis urged Pelosi and Democratic leaders to allow time for a full impeachment inquiry so Congress can bring all the facts to light and hold those responsible accountable, including Trump.
He and five other Republicans introduced a resolution late Tuesday to censure the president.
“Censuring the president and making it clear that Congress does not support any level of his involvement in the riots nor any attempts to undermine an election is a critical step in holding him accountable as more facts continue to unfold,” Curtis said.
The resolution calls on Congress to publicly state Trump acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. It also would condemn him for trying to unlawfully overturn the 2020 presidential election and violating his oath of office as well to affirm that Biden was duly elected.
The resolution isn’t likely to go anywhere as House Democratic leaders move ahead with impeachment.
Stewart, R-Utah, said Trump is going to leave office in a week.
“There’s nothing that’s going to happen to this country that we destroy ourselves in that period of time,” Stewart said last week on KSL Newsradio’s “Live Mic,” adding that a president can’t be removed on speculation or for something he might do.
“For heaven sakes, you could say that about virtually any leader,” he said.
Stewart questioned how removing Trump would help unite the country.
Chase Thomas, executive director of the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah, said the Jan. 6 violence was an attack on “all of us,” including representatives in Trump’s own party. Utah’s congressmen, he said, “betrayed their constituents and their country when they voted to let Trump get away with it.
“Utahns expect integrity from our leaders in Congress, and today they failed us.”