Washington – U.S. Rep. John Katko said today he will vote to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting a riot last week at the U.S. Capitol.
Katko, R-Camillus, is the first House Republican to acknowledge that he will join at least 218 House Democrats who signed onto an impeachment resolution. A vote is expected Wednesday, a week before President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office.
Katko said he felt compelled to uphold his oath of office and defend the Constitution by impeaching Trump.
“To allow the president of the United States to incite this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy,” Katko said in a statement. “For that reason, I cannot sit by without taking action. I will vote to impeach this president.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, is the only other GOP House member who has signaled he would support an effort to remove Trump from office. But he has not specifically said he would vote for impeachment.
Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, told GOP members in a conference call Monday that their impeachment decision is a “vote of conscience” and not a political vote, The Associated Press reported.
No other House Republican in New York state has said they will break with the GOP to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection.”
Katko said that as a former federal prosecutor, he approached the question of impeachment by reviewing the facts of what happened last week.
“It cannot be ignored that President Trump encouraged this insurrection – both on social media ahead of January 6th, and in his speech that day,” Katko said. “By deliberately promoting baseless theories suggesting the election was somehow stolen, the president created a combustible environment of misinformation, disenfranchisement, and division. When this manifested in violent acts on January 6th, he refused to promptly and forcefully call it off, putting countless lives in danger.”
Katko was among hundreds of members of Congress locked down in the Capitol for hours on Wednesday waiting for rioters to be cleared out of the building and for Trump to call off his supporters.
The House impeachment resolution seeks to remove Trump from the presidency and prevent him from ever again holding federal elected office.
Katko, who co-chairs the Tuesday Group caucus of moderate Republicans, is expected to be among fewer than a dozen House Republicans to break ranks in Wednesday’s vote.
Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, said today he will support a bill to censure Trump and an effort to ban him from holding federal office in the future. But Reed said impeachment was too big a step, and could “further fan the flames of division” without accomplishing anything.
For Katko, his decision to support impeachment caps a rapid reversal of his support for Trump since the attack on the Capitol.
Katko endorsed Trump in the 2020 presidential election. He joined a unanimous House Republican conference in a vote against impeaching the president in December 2019.
After an angry mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol last week, Katko said the president lost his support. The violence left one Capitol police officer and four rioters dead.
“If I knew back then what I saw yesterday, I clearly wouldn’t have supported him, and I can’t support him going forward,” Katko said Thursday when asked about Trump. “Hindsight is 20-20.”
Even before the attack on the Capitol, Katko had rebuked the president for making baseless claims about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Katko refused to join the GOP House majority that objected Wednesday to certifying the Electoral College vote for Biden.
Trump, in comments to reporters today, criticized the effort to impeach him for a second time in 13 months.
Trump said the impeachment resolution is “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics.” He called for “no violence” but said “this impeachment is causing tremendous anger.”
Before voting on the impeachment resolution Wednesday, House Democrats plan to vote tonight on a measure that formally calls for Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and strip Trump of his duties.
Katko said he plans to vote against the resolution tonight.
“Vice President Pence has made clear he will not do this, and believes elected representatives should be tasked with this effort, not acting and remaining cabinet members,” Katko said. “Accordingly, I will not support this effort.”
Any impeachment trial in the Senate likely would not start until Jan. 19 when senators are due back in Washington, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY., the Democratic leader, said he may try to use emergency powers to move up the start of the trial.