Solemnity and tensions on Capitol Hill for Trump’s historic ‘impeachment’

In deep silence, the mallet fell in Congress on Wednesday.

Hands clasped against each other on the sheet giving the result of the historic vote, the Democratic President of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi had just announced the indictment of Donald Trump for having “incited to insurgency” against the Capitol.

It makes him the first American president to suffer the infamy of a second “impeachment”. And who will bring together these two great political enemies forever in the history books.

As if to better underline the historical repetition, the one who usually sports brightly colored sets had opted for the same dark outfit, as in mourning, as on the day of Donald Trump’s first “impeachment”, December 18, 2019.

Silent silence also reigned when the “Speaker” later signed the indictment. A sober and brief ceremony far from the one which had seen her initial the first charges to send them to the Senate, in January 2020, using several pens that she had then distributed, with smiles, to elected Democrats.

The situation has changed.

The 45th President of the United States “incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion” on January 6, accuses Nancy Pelosi. Violence on Capitol Hill has left five dead and shattered America’s democratic foundations.

It is in this same hemicycle that the elected officials had to throw themselves to the ground exactly a week ago, when pro-Trump demonstrators tried to force the door of the House.

Seven days later, a certain hushed calm had returned to its marbled corridors, adorned with sculptures and paintings. But not normal, in a Washington under siege.

Armed soldiers had spent the night on the ground in the venerable rotunda of the Capitol. They patrolled its corridors while outside, armored vehicles and concrete blocks framed the vast square which sprawls out at the foot of this “people’s house”.

The pandemic added to the impression of a particular weight weighing on this day, scattering the ranks of elected officials in the House and stifling the activity that usually roars in its halls.

In the front row during the announcement of the vote, an elected Democrat, Lisa Blunt Rochester, stood erect, standing, solemn alongside other elected officials. On January 6, she had been seen praying aloud, taking refuge in the gallery overlooking the hemicycle while armed guards tried to prevent supporters of Donald Trump from entering.

The terrifying memory of the day haunted the debates of parliamentarians. But it was not enough to bring together Democrats and the many elected officials who are still very loyal to the outgoing president among the Republicans. Lively exchanges and boos punctuated the otherwise emotional speeches.

– “Decisive turning point” –

“The left in America has incited much more political violence than the right,” shouted Republican Matt Gaetz, a great ally of Donald Trump, under the protests of his opponents. A rare agitation in this enclosure.

An elected African-American Democrat, Cori Bush, has provoked the jeers of the Republicans by calling for the dismissal of “a white supremacist president, who has incited an insurrection of white supremacists”.

In the corridors, parliamentary assistants, police officers, cafeteria employees and journalists exchanged knowing looks, sometimes touching memories.

“We are still living the consequences of an insurgency against our authorities and this Capitol,” Democrat Adam Schiff told AFP, who had brought the case for the first “impeachment” against Donald Trump.

“But I have the firm conviction that (…) we are at a decisive turning point and that we can bring the country back on the right path” to “restore our democracy”.

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