By David M. Greenwald
Ten Republicans crossed party lines on Wednesday to vote for a second Trump impeachment. Not only is he the first President to be impeached twice now, but, while it doesn’t sound like a lot, 10 Republicans is the most votes for impeachment in our history by the sitting President’s own party—more than Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Trump last year.
On Tuesday, Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former Vice President and the No.3 House Republican in her own right, announced that she would support impeachment.
“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Ms. Cheney said in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Still, the numbers here are small. But as we know the Senate is another animal. Nearly 140 House members voted not to certify Biden’s electoral victory last week even AFTER the Capitol siege—and then many had the gall to suggest that the impeachment would harm unity—while the Senate had just seven members.
It really comes down to Senator Mitch McConnell, the outgoing majority leader.
On Tuesday, the NY Times reported, “Senator Mitch McConnell has concluded that President Trump committed impeachable offenses and believes that Democrats’ move to impeach him will make it easier to purge Mr. Trump from the party, according to people familiar with Mr. McConnell’s thinking.”
This is a private assessment, however.
“If Mitch is a yes, he’s done,” said one Senate GOP source who asked not to be named.
CNN reports that McConnell has made no commitment about how he would vote but that he has moved his conference away from Trump and that “he believes that impeaching President Donald Trump will make it easier to get rid of the President and Trumpism from the Republican Party.”
Now given that McConnell declined to fast track the impeachment process, it would be rather simple to conclude he is trying to run out the clock and is not inclined to remove Trump.
However, it was reported in the media yesterday that McConnell in a note to Republicans said he is uncertain how he will vote.
He wrote, “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.”
Frankly, that reads like a punt. It may well be, but there is also a method to his madness. By being uncommitted, he may be hoping to keep the president under wraps.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the president said, “In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind.” Trump added: “That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers.”
We have two more hurdles to cross—one this weekend, where there are plans for “armed” protests at all the state capitals, and the second next week, when Biden is inaugurated.
There are real concerns for the possibility of violence. Officials in Washington won’t be caught flatfooted again, when they plan to have 20,000 National Guard troops in Washington to prevent any repeat of last week.
Federal officials in a memo leaked to the New York Times yesterday warn of “Domestic Violent Extremists Emboldened in Aftermath of Capitol Breach, Elevated Domestic Terrorism Threat of Violence Likely Amid Political Transitions and Beyond.”
The memo warns that extremists view last week’s breach “as a success” and have been galvanized by the death of Ashli Babbitt.
The federal officials also wrote that “the shared false narrative of a ‘stolen’ election,’” the false claim perpetuated by President Trump, “may lead some individuals to adopt the belief that there is no political solution to address their grievances and violent action is necessary.”
Needless to say, any further violence will increase the pressure on Senators to act to remove Trump from office and prevent him from holding future public office, a move that the NY Times said was unprecedented and would likely trigger a court battle.
In the meantime, video has surfaced showing leaders of extremist movements plotting events at the Capitol for last week and a report by CNN finds, “Evidence uncovered so far, including weapons and tactics seen on surveillance video, suggests a level of planning that has led investigators to believe the attack on the US Capitol was not just a protest that spiraled out of control, a federal law enforcement official says.”
Perhaps most intriguing, “Among the thousands of tips the FBI received are some that appear to show members of Congress with people who later showed up at the Capitol riot, two law enforcement officials said. This doesn’t mean members of Congress and staff are under investigation, but the FBI is checking the veracity of the claims, the officials said.”
What will happen? I think it largely depends on whether there is additional violence. If this weekend’s protest and the inauguration turn out to be non-events, it is likely that the vote in the Senate falls well short of the 67 needed for removal. But additional rounds of violence—even after Trump’s belated statement—will likely change that calculation.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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