Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Make It Stick This Time

The House is going to impeach Trump again.

The push for an unprecedented second impeachment of President Trump took a dramatic bipartisan turn Tuesday, as several senior House Republicans joined the Democratic effort to remove Trump for his role in inciting an angry mob to storm the Capitol last week and the White House braced for more defections.

Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican, and Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, both publicly held Trump responsible for last Wednesday’s violence. They were later joined by Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.).

“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said in a statement, adding, “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Said Katko, “To allow the president of the United States to incite this attack without consequences is a direct threat to the future of our democracy.”

Kinzinger added, “If these actions . . . are not worthy of impeachment, then what is an impeachable offense?”

A senior administration official said the White House expects at least a dozen Republicans to support impeachment in the likely House vote Wednesday. The White House is rudderless, unwilling or unable to mount any defense other than saying that Trump will already be leaving next week, two administration officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal dynamics.

Trump, banned from Twitter, for the first time lacks the ability to aim angry tweets at those who oppose him, and White House officials conceded that he has few ways to stem the tide. He has asked Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) to urge fellow Republicans to oppose impeachment, an official said. Top House GOP leaders have announced their opposition to impeachment but have not given their members an alternative way to register disapproval of Trump or the assault.

As we know from last year, just impeaching him does not remove him from office. That will take a conviction in the Senate. Under normal circumstances that would be a non-starter, but maybe this time

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.

The private assessment of Mr. McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Congress, emerged on the eve of a House vote to formally charge Mr. Trump with inciting violence against the country for his role in whipping up a mob of his supporters who stormed the Capitol while lawmakers met to formalize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.

In a sign that the dam could be breaking against Mr. Trump in a party that has long been unfailingly loyal to him, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican in the House, announced her intention to support the single charge of high crimes and misdemeanors, as other party leaders declined to formally lobby rank-and-file lawmakers to oppose it.

“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.”

Even before Mr. McConnell’s position was known and Ms. Cheney had announced her plans, advisers to the Senate Republican leader had already privately speculated that a dozen Republican senators — and possibly more — could ultimately vote to convict Mr. Trump in a Senate trial that would follow his impeachment by the House. Seventeen Republicans would most likely be needed to join Democrats in finding him guilty. After that, it would take a simple majority to disqualify Mr. Trump from ever again holding public office.

Don’t for a moment think that Mitch McConnell is considering voting to convict out of any concern for the rule of law or the good of the country. He’s thinking solely of the political fortunes of the Republican party; that if Trump is still around and eligible to run for another term in 2024, it’s going to make it hard to bring the GOP back to the way he wants it. That we might be able to get back to some semblance of normalcy would be a side effect.

Comparisons are being made to the first week of August 1974 when Richard Nixon was faced with a Supreme Court ruling that he must turn over the incriminating tapes in Watergate. The Republicans in the Senate realized that Nixon had to go, not for the good of the country, but for the sake of the mid-terms looming in November 1974. I think the more apt comparison would be the last week of April 1945 in Berlin when the bombs were falling around the bunker and yet Hitler still believed the war could be won and showed no remorse for what he had wrought. (Yes, Hitler comparisons are the end-game, but as long as we’re talking about psychopaths, we might as well go with the big one.)

We have a week. A lot can happen in a week. The Senate could actually meet, vote, convict, and brace themselves for the future.