Black lawmakers made their voices heard as the House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump on Wednesday, January 13 for a second time.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus—among them, the group’s new chairwoman, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH)—gave passionate speeches on the House floor about the January 6 mob insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building. Other House members voted by proxy, amid COVID. Overwhelmingly, lawmakers cited the need for accountability.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) are among the newest members of the 117th Congress. Both voted to impeach. Jones told colleagues, “the world is watching,” while Bush denounced white supremacy as underscoring the riots. “We have a mandate to legislate in defense of Black lives,” she said.
Trump, who was accused of “incitement of insurrection,” was impeached 232-197 in the historic vote. All of the House Democrats voted to impeach, as did 10 Republicans. The article of impeachment must be formally transmitted to the Senate, which could proceed with a trial–although the timing is uncertain.
Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA) said he was one of the earliest congressional supporters of impeaching Trump “because he keeps demonstrating he is unfit for office. I was one of just 58 House members to vote for impeachment in 2018. I did not come to Congress with impeachment in mind, but no one can be above the rule of law in America.”
Kweisi Mfume (D-MD) agreed. “I never thought I’d see the day where the nation’s Commander in Chief would encourage his followers to disrupt a democratic process, and in doing so, gravely endanger the lives of innocent people,” said Mfume, who recently re-joined the House following the death of Rep. Elijah Cummings.
“…We performed our constitutional duty in taking steps to remove him and permanently disqualify him from holding federal public office ever again,” Mfume added.
Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) was the only Black woman to serve as an impeachment manager in 2018; Trump was impeached the first time for using his office to pressure Ukrainian government officials, reportedly to investigate president-elect Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
Trump’s GOP supporters in the House accused Democrats of hypocrisy, with members saying they feared impeachment will further divide the nation. Vice president Mike Pence expressed similar sentiments in a letter to Nancy Pelosi, noting he would not invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be inaugurated on January 20th. None of [the] sound and fury will change that result,” said Demings.
“Yet this attack on our republic matters. Its supporters have abandoned their oath of office. They hide behind democracy but do not believe in it. They sell their souls and our republic for their own gain,” she said.
“They are fakes; hollow shadows who believe only in power but vanish in the light of a new day. ‘We know them by the fruits they bear’ and we will remember.”
Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) also voted to impeach. Adams termed those involved in the riots, “domestic terrorists” who “desecrated the temple of our democratic republic, and disrupted one of our most sacred duties: counting the people’s votes for President.”
While the insurrection did not stop Congress from fulfilling its constitutional duties, she noted, it led to the deaths of six people, including two Capitol police officers.
“Make no mistake, the choice is clear: we either stand as guardians of justice and democracy, or as appeasers of fascism, autocracy, and white supremacy,” Adams said. “We have an obligation to defend the sanctity of our Constitution… It requires speaking the truth and doing the right thing.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said president Trump “has been, and continues to be a threat to our national security and our democracy.”
“I urge the Senate and Mitch McConnell to do publicly what they know is right privately and swiftly begin the process of convicting Donald Trump,” said Lee. “Some of my colleagues have hypocritically called for unity. I remind them that we should unify around the rule of law. We will never have peace and unity without accountability. Our democracy will prevail.”
Amidst all this, new information is being revealed about the violence that unfolded last week at the Capitol.
On Tuesday, January 12 the chairs of several House Congressional committees—Oversight and Reform, Judiciary, Homeland Security, Intelligence, and Armed Services—were briefed by the FBI and the Washington D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office about the events, which were deemed a “siege.”
In a joint statement, the committee chairpersons said the briefing left them with “grave concerns” about “ongoing and violent threats” to American democracy.
It is clear, the chairs wrote, that more must be done “to preempt, penetrate, and prevent deadly and seditious assaults by domestic violent extremists in the days ahead.”
“This was not a peaceful protest that got out of hand,” they added. “This was an attempted coup to derail our Constitutional process and intimidate our duly elected leaders through violence.”
The committee heads also indicated they were troubled by reports that law enforcement authorities received warnings prior to the attack and failed to warn or respond appropriately. Arrests have already been made, and federal charges filed, with more expected. Officials say they will prosecute individuals associated with the rioting, including anyone who entered restricted areas outside the Capitol, as well as those who breached the Capitol itself.
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security attended the briefing. He had harsh words on Facebook recently “to all those who were complicit.”
“The attack on our Capitol was preventable and inexcusable,” he said. “You all supported this foolishness for four years and benefited from it. You don’t get to excuse yourself now and pretend to be blameless.”
Trump initially told supporters at a rally before the melee, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” He has subsequently denied any responsibility for the deadly violence, terming his speech “totally appropriate.” During the impeachment proceedings on Wednesday, the president issued a statement urging no violence during next week’s inauguration.