Democrats in the US House of Representatives have charged outgoing President Donald Trump with “incitement to insurrection”, meaning that he is heading for impeachment in the dying days of his presidency.
The move came after Republicans blocked an effort to unanimously agree a motion calling on Vice-President Mike Pence to strip Trump of his power.
The Republicans’ refusal forced a vote on the motion yesterday, which the party expected to pass.
The charge of insurrection relates to the storming by Trump supporters of Capitol Hill on 6 January that left five people dead and shocked the world.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi issued a statement saying Trump’s threat to American democracy was “urgent” and hence action would be taken urgently.
She had issued an ultimatum to Pence to persuade Trump to vacate the presidency, but a meeting between the president and vice-president on Monday night dashed any slim hope that this would happen.
Such a decision by cabinet would have seen a clause in the 25th Amendment of the US constitution invoked for the first time in history.
Pelosi’s missive to Pence had given him 24 hours to take this direction, failing which the Democrats would move for impeachment.
If the Democrats hold sway in the House of Representatives, Trump will become the first US president to face impeachment charges TWICE in his term.
But given the small number of Republicans who have turned against Trump for seeking to overturn the outcome of the presidential election and inciting his supporters to “fight like hell” to achieve this, it still seems unlikely that the Senate would convict him on impeachment charges.
If it did, however, he could be barred from running for president again.