The result was predetermined. The Republican response was no.
When Parliament spent the day speaking, everyone knew that Nancy Pelosi had the votes to accuse Donald Trump – and secured, if nothing else, in the history books as the only president to suffer that fate twice.
But there was a long-running question about how many GOP lawmakers followed the lead of Liz Cheney, the third-place Republican who dramatically broke with his party to support accusations with a blistering statement about Trump’s “betrayal” of his office.
It may have been personal in part – her father, Dick Cheney, called her in the locker room to say that Trump had attacked her in his rally before the uprising ̵
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer repeatedly quoted Cheney in his closing remarks.
In the vote 232-197, 10 Republicans joined each Democrat to support the bill. It’s a small fraction, though probably double what it would have been without Cheney’s farewell, but still gave the case a two-way taste.
Today’s second big surprise: Minority leader Kevin McCarthy holds Trump accountable, even though he instead argued for a no-confidence motion. “The president is responsible for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mobsters,” he said on the floor. “He should have immediately condemned the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”
McCarthy has been under heavy pressure from party members who are unhappy with his handling of the attack’s demand. Clearly, some Republicans are torn between supporting their president and showing voters that they want responsibility for the violent invasion of the House of Commons.
And yet it is the Mitch McConnell maneuver that still has Washington to roll. On Tuesday, his team leaked a message to the New York Times, Fox News and other outlets that he believes Trump was committing insurmountable offenses and is pleased that Parliament is moving forward. Then CBS reported yesterday, based on “someone close to” the Republican leader, that he supports the accusation but will not make any comments until Parliament formally dismisses the accusation.
TRUMP’S IMPEACHMENT CAN FIZZLE AFTER HE IS GONE
After lighting the match, the senator had to deal with smoke. McConnell made a statement saying “while the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate.” He must, of course, say so or be accused of anticipating the evidence.
If McConnell eventually embraces persecution, it raises the possibility – for the first time really – that 17 GOP senators could vote to convict Trump. It would be a far easier vote if the leader of the Republican election rally blaming the president for the loss of their majority is on board.
That is why I remain skeptical. Trump remains very popular among the rankings, and any senator who votes to judge him would alienate part of his or her base and likely face a primary challenge backed by the former president. I also do not believe that McConnell would whip the vote – which means he would leave his colleagues to vote their conscience instead of forcing them to back the leadership line.
When we saw the House debate yesterday, it was striking how many members talked about their personal reactions to the uprising, some saying they feared for their lives. This fear was quite real, especially given what we have since learned about the organized nature of the siege and the intent to commit murder.
One Democrat after another spoke of Trump inciting violence Missouri’s Cori Bush called him “the white supreme boss.” One Republican after another called the movement an unprecedented “skin,” as Ronny Jackson of Texas put it, and an attempt at revenge.
Each side accused the other of crushing political unity. Republicans said Democrats had opposed the election results for George W. Bush and Trump; Democrats said it was symbolic protests long after John Kerry and Hillary Clinton confessed.
Outside, photographs showed National Guard troops who should have been there last week and nibbled on marble floors, a reminder that the Capitol is still at war.
Democrats justified their busy jobs – no consultation, no ability to change the article accusing Trump of incitement – by saying that Trump represents such a clear and present danger that he should be removed from office as soon as possible.
But that argument was undermined by the fact that the Senate’s trial will not end until Trump is already out of office – and continued confusion over when the Democrats will present the case to the upper house.
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Beyond the political cross-currents, it just seems strange to judge a former president who will be back in Mar-a-Lago before then. (McConnell’s office says no lawsuit will begin until after the inauguration.)
The Democrats, of course, want to hold the follow-up vote that prevents him from running again at the age of 78, four years from now. The downside of the Dems is that all of this will distract and overshadow the incoming Biden administration, with Covid-19 now killing as many as 4,400 Americans a day.
Meanwhile, the Twitter-less Trump issued a statement the old-fashioned way – email to the press – and an accompanying video orchestrated by White House aides. He said in the release that “in the light of reports of multiple demonstrations, I urge that there should be no violence, no crime and no vandalism of any kind. That is not what I stand for and that is not what America stands for. “
That’s a far more positive message than Trump’s “witch-hunt” rhetoric just a day earlier.