A Christian historian and writer has said he doubts that US evangelicals will waiver in their support for President Donald Trump because of his impeachment.
On Wednesday, Mr Trump was impeached by the US House of Representatives for a second time, charged with “incitement of insurrection” over the siege of the US Capitol in his final days in office.
With the Capitol secured by armed National Guard troops inside and out, the House voted 232-197.
The proceedings moved at lightning speed, with representatives voting just one week after violent pro-Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol, egged on by the President’s calls for them to “fight like hell” against the election results.
Ten Republicans joined Democrats who said Mr Trump needed to be held accountable and warned ominously of a “clear and present danger” if Congress should leave him unchecked before Democrat Joe Biden’s inauguration on 20th January.
But Martyn Whittock, Christian and author of ‘Trump and the Puritans’ doesn’t think the impeachment will cause Trump’s ardent evangelical supporters to turn their back on him.
“The latest polling that came out on Sunday shows that only 15 per cent of Republicans thought he should be removed from office, and within that there'll be huge numbers of evangelicals,” he said. “The support for him is still very, very strong.
“When you look at evangelical condemnation [of the Capitol riots], it tends to be condemnation of the effect, not the cause. [such as] 'that shouldn't have happened last Wednesday’, but that's not the same as repudiation of Trumpism.
“I think there's still a very large residue of evangelical support for Trump even though people were shocked about what happened last Wednesday."
Mr Trump is the only US president to be impeached twice. It was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in modern times, more so than against Bill Clinton in 1998.
The Capitol insurrection stunned and angered politicians, who were sent scrambling for safety as the mob descended, and it revealed the fragility of the nation’s transfer of power.
The riot also forced a reckoning among some Republicans, who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread false attacks against the integrity of the 2020 election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invoked Abraham Lincoln and the Bible, imploring colleagues to uphold their oath to defend the constitution from all enemies, foreign “and domestic”.
She said of Mr Trump: “He must go, he is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”
Holed up at the White House, watching the proceedings on TV, Mr Trump later released a video statement in which he made no mention at all of the impeachment but appealed to his supporters to refrain from any further violence or disruption of Mr Biden’s inauguration.
He said: “Like all of you, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the calamity at the Capitol last week.”
The President appealed for unity “to move forward” and said: “Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for. No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement.”
Mr Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 to acquit.
Mr Biden said in a statement after the vote that it was his hope the Senate leadership “will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation”.
The soonest that Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell could start an impeachment trial is next Tuesday, the day before Mr Trump is already set to leave the White House, Mr McConnell’s office said.
The legislation is also intended to prevent Mr Trump from ever running again.
Conviction and removal of Mr Trump would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which will be evenly divided between the parties.
Fending-off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down his first days in office, Mr Biden is encouraging senators to divide their time between taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving Covid-19 relief while also conducting the trial.
Listen to Premier’s interview with Martyn Whittock here.