If the House impeachment of President Donald Trump seems faster this time, it is basically the difference between a week and a year.
House Democrats began investigating Trump across six committees after regaining control of the chamber in January 2019. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., declared a formal impeachment inquiry in September 2019. The House impeached Trump that December and the Senate acquitted Trump in February 2020.
Wednesday's impeachment was sparked by the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol that left five people dead. House Democrats charge Trump with inciting the insurrection and voted a week later to impeach Trump.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who has participated all four modern impeachment investigations, said there was no need for the extensive review of the facts and uncovering of evidence required in previous cases.
“What happened this time was in plain view,” said Lofgren, who was a Judiciary Committee staffer investigating President Richard Nixon and a House member for the impeachments of Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. “He incited a right-wing mob of insurrections to come and overturn constitutional government a week ago. You don’t need a long investigation to find that out.”
The pace became a flashpoint because Trump’s term ends Jan. 20. Impeachment is a tool to remove a president, but could also serve to block Trump from holding future office, if the Senate convicts him and votes to bar him.
Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Rules Committee, said a committee should have held an investigation, to call witnesses and gather other evidence. That process would have provided Trump due process to challenge the evidence.
“The House is moving forward erratically with a truncated process that does not comport with modern practice and it will give members no time to contemplate the serious course of action before us,” Cole said.
Despite Trump’s “inappropriate and reckless words,” Cole said, “The presidency itself deserves due process in the impeachment proceedings.”
But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said there was no rush to judgment. He said a majority of Democrats voted against multiple attempts from rank-and-file lawmakers to impeach Trump. But he said the violence demanded a quick response.
"Is there little time left? Yes,” Hoyer said. “But it is never too late to do the right thing."
Trump’s previous impeachment took much longer.
House Democrats mounted wide-ranging investigations into Trump and his businesses in early 2019. One path of inquiry followed special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 election.
Mueller's report was released publicly in April 2019. The report found no evidence that Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia and made no judgment about whether the president obstructed the investigation.
Pelosi said impeachment was not yet in the cards.
The Judiciary Committee voted in May 2019 to urge the House to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for failing to testify about the Mueller report. Lawmakers said the report could serve as the foundation for impeachment.
In August, the committee filed a lawsuit to enforce a subpoena for testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn to determine “whether to recommend articles of impeachment” against Trump.
The tide turned after the White House released the transcript of a July 2019 call between Trump and the president of Ukraine. The transcript revealed Trump urging an investigation of his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Democrats argued the call was worthy of impeachment and Trump said the call was justified.
Pelosi declared a formal impeachment investigation on Sept. 24, 2019.
The House Intelligence Committee led the investigation because of its foreign-policy implications. The panel collected confidential testimony from government officials for weeks and then held public hearings in November 2019.
The Judiciary Committee then voted Dec. 13, 2019, on two articles of impeachment against Trump based on the Intelligence Committee’s report. The House voted to impeach Trump Dec. 18 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Pelosi delayed sending the articles to the Senate until Jan. 15, in an effort to build pressure for the Senate to have witnesses at the trial. But the Senate voted not to call witnesses and to hear arguments from House Democrats and Trump’s lawyers.
A majority of the Senate voted Feb. 5, 2020, to acquit Trump – far shy of the two-thirds majority needed for conviction. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Republican to join Democrats in voting to convict on one article.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: House impeaches Trump in a week, compared to lengthy probe first time