US Republicans in Congress are deeply divided after 10 members split with their party to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday.
The president was accused by the House of inciting the storming of the Capitol – the seat of the US Congress – with a speech on 6 January to supporters outside the White House.
He urged them to “peacefully and patriotically” make their voices heard, but also to “fight like hell” against an election that he deemed to have been stolen.
On this premise of allegedly inciting rioters who stormed Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives voted by 232 to 197 votes against Trump on Wednesday thereby paving way for his trial in the Senate.
Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the third ranking House Republican whose father was vice president to Republican George W. Bush is facing calls to resign her party leadership role after her vote to impeach Trump.
“I’m not going anywhere. This is a vote of conscience,” said Cheney, after Trump’s conservative defenders in Congress called for her to quit.
“It’s one where there are different views in our conference. But our nation is facing an unprecedented, since the Civil War, constitutional crisis,” she told reporters on Wednesday, as Trump was impeached for a historic second time.
The lawmakers that voted against President Trump face threats of violence, and have increased security, they say.
A Republican has said he and several colleagues have purchased body armour and have been forced to change their normal routines after receiving threats of violence.
“It’s sad that we have to get to that point, but you know our expectation is that someone may try to kill us,” Michigan Republican Peter Meijer, who voted for impeachment commented.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen next. We weren’t expecting for the Capitol to get overrun for the first time in 200 years,” he said.
“And so, in this unprecedented environment with an unprecedented degree of fear, of divisiveness and hatred, we have to account for every scenario.
Most Republicans did not seek to defend Trump, but argued instead that the impeachment had bypassed the customary hearings and called on Democrats to drop it for the sake of national unity.
“Impeaching the president in such a short time frame would be a mistake,” said Kevin McCarthy, the House’s top Republican. “That doesn’t mean the president’s free from fault. The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.”
Already, FBI has warned of possible armed protests planned for Washington DC and all 50 US state capitals in the run-up to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, 20 January.