What does impeachment mean for Donald Trump? What happened in the vote?

13 January 2021, 15:21 | Updated: 13 January 2021, 21:42

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The US House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Donald Trump for an unprecedented second time.

With the House voting for impeachment by 232-197 on Wednesday, the US leader became the first president in the country's history to be impeached twice.

It comes following last week's storming of the US Capitol as members were affirming president-elect Joe Biden's election victory.

The president faced one count of insurrection, worded: "President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperilled a co-equal branch of government.

"He thereby betrayed his trust as president to the manifest injury of the people of the United States."

Vice President Mike Pence had already confirmed he would not invoke the 25th Amendment which could have ruled Mr Trump as unfit to serve.

So what is impeachment? And what happened in the vote?

What does impeachment mean?

Impeachment in the US is described as a formal charge of misconduct made against the holder of a public office.

It is used to remove a sitting president - or any other politician - if they have committed "treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanours".

A vote is first held in the House of Representatives - the US equivalent to the UK's House of Commons - where it requires a simple majority before being passed to the Senate - the upper chamber which is similar to the House of Lords - for a trial.

It is here where Senators will decide - with a two-thirds majority needed - the fate of the president: whether he is either convicted or acquitted.

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What time was the Donald Trump impeachment vote?

The House of Representatives convened at 9am local time (2pm GMT) and members began debating the rules and parameters for the impeachment vote later in the day.

At around midday in Washington D.C. (5pm GMT), the debate on Mr Trump's impeachment began, lasting for between three and four hours.

The impeachment vote got under way before 9pm GMT and the result became clear shortly before 9:30pm.

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What happened during the impeachment vote?

Representatives voted to impeach President Trump by more than 30 votes. Most voted along party lines, but 10 Republicans chose to side with the Democrats.

However, as in December 2019, it is unclear whether the impeachment will lead to the president being ousted from the Oval Office.

Grand Old Party (GOP) Representative Liz Cheney - the daughter of Dick Cheney, who served as vice president to George W. Bush, and who is "the most senior woman in the Republican caucus" - previously came out in favour of the move, while Senate Speaker Mitch McConnell - the individual who will decide whether Mr Trump goes on trial in the chamber - had also reportedly privately supported it.

There was also no planned Republican whip on the vote, nor any lobbying of Republicans to back the US leader.

What happens now Donald Trump has been impeached for a second time?

With the US leader impeached again, it will not necessarily mean that he has the presidency removed.

The process will now move to the upper chamber for a trial where Senators will decide whether or not Mr Trump is convicted.

However, this trial could continue beyond the president leaving the White House before Joe Biden's inauguration on 20 January.

With the date of a trial currently unknown, the Senate could vote to block Mr Trump from running for public office ever again, which would scupper his plans for being on the 2024 ballot.

He would also lose access to a wide range of public benefits that he would usually be entitled to, including his $200,000 annual pension, a $1 million annual travel stipend and extra funding for his future staff.