Instead of accepting his loss in the 2020 presidential election and moving toward a transition, former President Trump and his allies set their sights on Congress’ largely ceremonial role in certifying Electoral College votes on Jan. 6 as a final stage where the will of the voters could be subverted.
This culminated in Trump’s speech near the White House. The President told a crowd of supporters to march to the Capitol building, where Congress was set to formalize his loss in a gathering presided over by Vice President Mike Pence.
“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol. And we’re gonna cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong,” he said at that rally, less than an hour before the certification was due to begin.
After he spoke, Trump returned to the White House in an armored SUV and hunkered indoors. But his supporters, emboldened by Trump’s call to action, marched east to the seat of the legislative branch, where they climbed over scaffolding already in place for Biden’s inauguration to launch an unprecedented breach of the Capitol that engulfed DC in chaos.
Only after pleading from aides and congressional allies inside the besieged building did Trump release a video urging the rioters to “go home,” while still fanning their baseless grievances about a stolen election. “We love you,” Trump said. “You’re very special.” Later, he seemed to justify the actions in a tweet, writing, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away.”
The insurrection left five dead, including an officer with the US Capitol Police.
Congress reconvened later that night to complete its task, and Biden’s win was certified in the early hours of Jan. 7 — a step delayed by the decision of Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley to proceed with an objection to counting Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced just two days after the episode that her party was prepared to move forward with impeachment if Trump didn’t resign immediately.
Trump didn’t resign and his Cabinet didn’t invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. The following Monday, Democrats formally introduced their impeachment resolution, charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection.”
The single impeachment article specifically points to Trump’s repeated false claims that he won the election and his speech to the crowd on Jan. 6 before the rioters breached the Capitol. It also cited Trump’s Jan. 2 call with Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, where the President urged him to “find” enough votes for Trump to win the state.
The House voted to impeach Trump 232 to 197 two days after their resolution was formally introduced, and exactly one week after rioters forced lawmakers to flee from the very chamber in which they cast ballots. Ten House Republicans joined Democrats to impeach.
The blazing House impeachment process prompted a push among Democrats for an immediate Senate trial, potentially before Trump left office on Jan. 20. Sen. Mitch McConnell rejected those calls and ultimately struck a deal with Schumer that allowed some formal steps in late January before the trial formally begins this week — a delay that allowed the Senate to confirm some key Cabinet members as well as time for Trump’s defense team to prepare.