Long Island’s five-member congressional delegation voted along party lines during the unprecedented second impeachment Wednesday of President Donald Trump for inciting a deadly riot in the U.S. Capitol.
The three Democrats who represent the Island voted to impeach the president and the two Republican congressmen from LI voted against the measure charging Trump with inciting an insurrection in last week’s violent rampage in the Capitol that left five dead, including a police officer.
“While I fully condemn the domestic terrorists that stormed the Capitol last Wednesday, and I believe the President bears some responsibility, I ultimately cannot and will not vote to impeach,” U.S. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bay Shore) said. “Last week, I upheld my Constitutional duty to count and certify the results of the presidential election. Which is why today, I am abiding by the Constitution and voting against this rushed impeachment.”
Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, as 10 of his fellow Republicans joined Democrats in the House of Representatives to vote for impeachment. The vote in the Democratic-controlled House was 232-197, although it appeared unlikely the swift impeachment would lead to Trump’s ouster before his four-year term ends and Democratic President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
While Garbarino last week broke rank with the majority of Republicans in the House who voted against certifying Biden’s win shortly after a mob of Trump supporters unleashed a deadly rampage in the halls of Congress, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who was among Trump’s top defenders during the first impeachment, stood by the president.
“Democrats just threw more fuel on the fire by ramming through score settling, hastily drafted articles of impeachment just a week before the inauguration,” Zeldin tweeted. “I voted NO on this latest push that will only serve to divide our nation further.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said impeaching Trump was necessary after the president riled up his supporters before they vandalized the Capitol, halting the vote certifying Biden’s electoral college win.
“President Trump instigated this and must be held accountable,” Suozzi said. “The president’s duty is to protect our republic and its people. Yet, he built a mob, filled it with lies, and encouraged it to ‘fight to stop the steal.’”
Echoing the sentiment was U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City).
“President Trump betrayed his oath to the Constitution by inciting a deadly insurrection on the U.S. Capitol last week,” Rice said. “If we do not hold the president accountable for this act of sedition, it would set a dangerous precedent and pose a lethal threat to the future of democracy in this country.”
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), whose district includes part of southwestern Nassau County, emphasized that the nation’s standing in the world as a beacon of democracy is at stake.
“The world is watching,” he said, “and we must show them that no one will rule this country and be above the law.”
In a video statement released after the House’s action on Wednesday, Trump did not mention the impeachment vote and took no responsibility for his remarks to supporters last week, but condemned the violence.
“Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for,” Trump said. “No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence. No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law and order.”
No U.S. president has ever been removed from office through impeachment. Three — Trump in 2019, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 — previously were impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.
Under the U.S. Constitution, impeachment in the House triggers a trial in the Senate. A two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove Trump, meaning at least 17 Republicans in the 100-member chamber would have to join the Democrats.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said no trial could begin until the Senate was scheduled to be back in regular session next Tuesday, one day before Biden’s inauguration. The trial would proceed in the Senate even after Trump leaves office.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), set to become majority leader later this month, said in a statement that no matter the timing, “there will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate; there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors; and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again.”
Biden said work on the economy, getting the coronavirus vaccine program on track and confirming crucial Cabinet posts should not be delayed by the Senate trial.
“I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation,” he said in a statement.
The Capitol siege raised concerns about political violence in the United States once considered all but unthinkable. The FBI has warned of armed protests planned for Washington and all 50 U.S. state capitals ahead of Biden’s inauguration.
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