For the first time, there were signs on Tuesday that some Republican leaders might be genuinely ready to crack down on President Donald Trump – by supporting his impeachment or conviction.
MP Liz Cheney (WY), the third largest Republican leader in the House of Representatives, is already on board. She announced on Tuesday afternoon that she would vote for the House Democrats’ impeachment article accusing Trump of inciting a rebellion. What’s even more intriguing is that several anonymized leaks alleged that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell believed Trump had committed criminal acts, and McConnell welcomed the impeachment process.
Cheney is the senior Republican to have pledged to support the impeachment. In a damning statement, she wrote: “The President of the United States has called this mob, gathered the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. All that followed was what he did. “
Cheney’s statement continues: “The President could have acted immediately and forcefully to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal of office and constitutional oath by a President of the United States. “
Shortly before Cheney’s declaration, Rep. John Katko (NY) was the first elected Republican member of Congress to support the impeachment. “Allowing the President of the United States to instigate this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy,” Katko said in his own statement. “Because of this, I can’t sit without doing something.” A Third House Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, IL, also announced his support for the impeachment.
It is unclear how many other Republicans in the House will support the impeachment (reports put the 211-person conference at about 10). It only takes a majority for the House to indict Trump, however, and Democrats have more than enough votes to do so on their own. The votes of Cheney, Katko and Kinzinger will not change the outcome, but they will put a symbolically important non-partisan stamp on this impeachment – a contrast to Trump’s previous ones, who did not support Republicans in the House.
What is Mitch McConnell doing?
The real question was whether there was hope of condemning Trump in the Senate – a much bigger task since it would take two-thirds of the chamber. (That would currently require 18 Republicans. However, once the Georgian special election winners Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are sworn in, the magic number would drop to 17.)
The signs among the Senate Republicans had not been encouraging to impeachment supporters. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) have announced their opposition to impeachment in the last few days. Even Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), the only Senate Republican who voted to remove Trump from office during his first impeachment, had said he didn’t think there was enough time to indict Trump again .
But on Tuesday afternoon, not long before Cheney’s announcement, anonymized reports from multiple outlets claim that Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell could support the condemnation of Trump after all.
McConnell has said he believes Trump has committed criminal acts and is “pleased” with the impeachment spree because it gives Republicans the option to remove Trump from the party after those stories.
According to Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post, McConnell has no plans to whip Republicans either way for impeachment and is not firmly committed to voting for a conviction. And he was publicly silent about his intentions. Still, that signal will get through loud and clear for Senate Republicans weighing their own decisions on the matter.
An important consideration here is likely that if Trump is convicted after impeachment, the Senate can vote to no longer hold a future federal office – which would effectively prevent him from running again in 2024. If McConnell really wants to remove Trump from office, celebrate and make sure he doesn’t return in just a few years, this would be the way to do it.
It’s not yet clear if getting at least 17 Senate Republicans to vote to condemn Trump is a realistic prospect. But since McConnell is at least supposedly signaling that he’s open to it, it looks more realistic than it did a day ago.
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