A week after the storm on the Capitol and a week before the inauguration of the newly elected US President Joe Biden, downtown Washington has become a fortress. At bus stops, the federal police are using large posters to search for people who had violently entered the congress building last Wednesday.
Thousands of national guards patrol around the Capitol, the White House and other government buildings, and they are now openly carrying weapons. In many places, concrete barriers, miles of iron fences and sometimes just trucks block the way. The traffic in the city center is chaotic. There are great concerns that rioting will occur again in the coming days.
Also in the Capitol you can see forces in uniform for days, who apparently also spend the nights there. On Wednesday morning they populated the corridors of the building, in some places dozens were resting on the venerable marble floor. And even MPs now have to go through metal detectors when entering the plenary – this is to prevent weapons from being smuggled in.
Trump is the first president to be tried twice
At nine o’clock local time, the House of Representatives met to indict a president for the second time for the first time in the US’s 244-year history. In contrast to the first impeachment, this time several Republicans joined the Democrats’ motion to indict President Donald Trump, who had been voted out, of “inciting riot”.
Since the election and again explicitly at a rally immediately before the session of Congress, at which Biden was to be confirmed as the election winner, Trump had incited his supporters and asked to march to the Capitol in protest against the alleged election fraud.
The security forces were unable to cope with the onslaught of the partly armed demonstrators and could not prevent hundreds from breaking into the congress building. The session was suspended and politicians had to be taken to safe places. Five people died in the riots and many were injured.
Impeachment has now been initiated
The House vote on impeachment was scheduled for 3 p.m. local time (9 p.m. CET) on Wednesday. Vice President Mike Pence had previously refused to remove Trump prematurely because it was “not in the best interests of our nation”.
Because of the corona pandemic, the meeting room was only filled with a few MPs for most of the day. In the sometimes very emotional debate, the Democrats accused Trump of instigating an uprising against the peaceful change of power.
The Democratic Chairman of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said, “He has to go.” Trump was an ongoing threat to America. “The President of the United States instigated this uprising, this armed rebellion against our country.” Former presidential candidate and MP from California, Eric Swalwell, said it was not over: “The attack on America continues.”
Most Republicans, however, spoke out against impeachment. Their argument: Such a process divides the nation further. Others argued that Trump hadn’t called for a storm on the Capitol at all.
However, several Republicans also joined the call for Trump to be impeached. It was particularly attentive that Liz Cheney was number three in the Republican faction.
“The President of the United States called this mob, gathered them and stoked the fire in this attack,” said the eldest daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Trump was responsible for the violence and the victims. Immediately afterwards, they asked parts of their party to resign from their offices – which they refused.
Ten Republicans also vote for it
Around 4:30 p.m. it was then clear that the majority of the House of Representatives had voted to initiate the proceedings: the result was 232 to 197. Ten Republicans voted for it. The next step is for the Senate to deal with the indictment. This chamber does not meet again until January 19, one day before Trump’s term of office ends.
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A two-thirds majority would be needed for a conviction. Trump is losing support among Republican senators, too, but it is currently unlikely that the Democrats will be able to win 17 Republicans on their side.
According to the “New York Times”, however, even the Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell is said to have declared in private that Trump’s behavior justified an impeachment. On Wednesday it was reported that he had told colleagues that he had not yet decided. But he refused to speed up the Senate proceedings.
The first impeachment proceedings against Trump ended in early February 2020 with Trump’s acquittal in the Senate. So far, only three presidents have been charged by the House of Representatives: Besides Trump, they were Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. No president has yet been convicted.
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While the House of Representatives was still discussing the impeachment, Trump called on Wednesday for non-violence and a peaceful transfer of power. He could not change the opinion of his critics. But his statement shows how serious the authorities are.
The armed National Guards show that the situation is serious
The fact that the National Guard, which was initially only supposed to provide logistical support to the Washington police after the storming of the Capitol, is now armed shows how serious the authorities are. In view of threats from violent Trump supporters to disrupt Biden’s swearing-in on January 20 and to demonstrate in advance, the Department of Defense had decided to deploy 15,000 National Guards in Washington. On Wednesday the Washington Post reported that the number would even be increased to 20,000.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser had previously urged the federal government to send support and urged foreigners not to travel to Washington because of the tense security situation for Biden’s inauguration.
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US General Daniel Hokanson, who heads the National Guard’s office at the Pentagon, announced on Monday that the National Guard had not been authorized to carry weapons. The arming of the national guards and their authorization to carry out arrests are the “last resort” in the event that the security situation gets out of hand. According to the “New York Times”, the Pentagon ordered the arming of the National Guards on Tuesday.
Radical Trumpist threat has increased
According to security experts, the threat posed by right-wing extremists and militant Trump supporters, who armed nationwide protest against Biden’s swearing-in, has increased significantly in the past few days. In an internal report, the FBI warned of the disruption of the swearing-in by armed Trump supporters.
According to the US media, the federal police have also learned of plans that a militant group plans to “storm” government facilities in all 50 states on January 20.
In an unusual step, the highest generals in the US Army commented on the events of last Wednesday on Tuesday.
The eight members of the General Staff of the Armed Forces condemned the storming of the Capitol in a memorandum to the soldiers and stressed that the members of the American armed forces were obliged to abide by the Constitution. “Freedom of expression and assembly do not give anyone the right to violence, riot and insurrection,” declared the generals.