Republicans Break Ranks on Impeachment

Plans for impeachment get an unexpected nudge — from Republicans — but for now, Pence stands with Trump. It’s Wednesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

The House of Representatives voted last night to formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and strip President Trump of his powers, setting up an increasingly likely second impeachment of the president.

Pence had already rebuffed the request, saying in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he didn’t think it would be “in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our Constitution.” But what comes next is looking increasingly worrisome for Trump. Pelosi is expected to hold a vote to impeach the president today — and yesterday his impeachment began to look a lot closer to becoming a sure thing.

A number of leading Republicans indicated over the course of the day that they would support the move, or at least not oppose it.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the departing majority leader, privately told associates that he believed Trump had committed impeachable offenses and welcomed Democrats’ efforts to impeach him, thinking it could help the G.O.P. purge the president from its bloodstream. On the House side, Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, has decided not to lobby members of his party to vote against impeaching Trump.

Representative Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, announced yesterday that she would vote to impeach the president. In a statement, she said that the president bore the responsibility for the attack on the Capitol. “Everything that followed was his doing,” she said, later writing that there had “never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

These defections make it increasingly easy to see a path forward for impeachment, and they also indicate just how ready many top Republicans are to ditch Trump and seek a new approach, without him holding the party’s future hostage.

Trump sounded a defiant tone earlier in the day, during his first public appearance since the events last week. Calling the impeachment proceedings a “witch hunt,” he insisted that he had done nothing wrong when he rallied his supporters in Washington last week.

“People thought what I said was totally appropriate,” he said at an event in Alamo, Texas, where he was visiting a portion of the wall he had had built along the Mexican border.

When asked if he would resign from office, as some have called on him to do, Trump declined to answer directly and mentioned the potential for further violence.

“I want no violence,” he said. He then warned that impeachment was likely to stoke rage. “I think it’s causing tremendous anger,” he said.

Three lawmakers in Washington have tested positive for the coronavirus since the attack on the Capitol, an event that experts worry may end up having been a superspreader event.

Representatives Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey both announced their positive tests on Monday; Representative Brad Schneider of Illinois announced yesterday that he had also caught the virus after spending “several hours in a secure but confined location with dozens of other members of Congress.” Jayapal, Coleman and Schneider are all Democrats.

House Republicans, meanwhile, expressed their anger at a new rule requiring all lawmakers to pass through a metal detector before entering the chamber. A number of them complained, and some ignored the detectors completely.

Progressive Democrats in the House brought forward legislation yesterday that would allow a committee to investigate and potentially expel Republican lawmakers for their role in seeking to subvert the results of the November election.

Drafted by the newly arrived Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, the bill would direct the House Ethics Committee to determine whether some lawmakers who had proffered false information about election fraud “should face sanction, including removal from the House of Representatives.”

Staff resignations continue to shake up Washington in the wake of the riot at the Capitol. Senator Ted Cruz’s communications director, Lauren Blair Bianchi, announced her resignation yesterday in response to Cruz’s support for efforts to overturn the election.

Cruz and Senator Josh Hawley led the push in the Senate to contest the Electoral College’s vote; staff members in both offices have wondered aloud whether they should quit, according to several people who work close to the situation.

Jason Schmid, a senior staff member with the House Armed Services Committee, released a scathing letter upon resigning his post yesterday, calling out fellow legislative aides for their apparent complicity.

“Anyone who watched those horrible hours unfold should have been galvanized to rebuke these insurrectionists in the strongest terms,” Schmid wrote in a letter addressed to the committee’s top Republican, and first reported by Politico. “Instead, some members whom I believed to be leaders in the defense of the nation chose to put political theater ahead of the defense of the Constitution and the republic.”

If you’ve been watching closely as Senator Lindsey Graham has swiveled from position to position over the course of Trump’s 2016 campaign and presidency, you must have a sprained neck by now.

In 2015 Graham declared that the Republican Party would be making a grave mistake if it nominated Trump, calling him a “kook,” but then eventually became one of the president’s staunchest allies in Congress.

Last week, he broke rank after Trump incited the Capitol riot, voting to confirm Biden’s victory and saying he did not believe there had been widespread voter fraud. “Count me out,” he told Trump’s defenders.

But yesterday Graham accompanied the president on a visit to the border wall, one of the president’s last opportunities to take something close to a victory lap as his single term draws to a close. Graham was the only senator to join Trump and a number of White House officials at the wall, 400 miles of which have been constructed during the Trump administration.

Photo of the day

Trump toured areas where a border wall is being built near Alamo, Texas, yesterday.

Bernie Sanders will control the ‘reconciliation’ process in a divided Senate.

A below-the-radar story in Washington is that Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has just become the most powerful guy in town. With the Senate split 50-50 and Democrats in control, their most conservative member may find himself in the position of playing Solomon on major legislative items.

But a closely divided Senate also raises the importance of another figure: Senator Bernie Sanders. That’s because, as the chamber’s budget committee chairman, he controls the process of “reconciliation,” whereby certain kinds of laws can be passed by a simple majority and cannot be filibustered.

As the incoming head of the budget committee, Sanders will be in a position to exert major influence over a range of domestic policy measures. High on that list will be passing another economic recovery package, and Sanders has expressed his intention to seek an additional $1,400 in stimulus payments for Americans who recently received $600 federal checks.

“I believe that the crisis is of enormous severity and we’ve got to move as rapidly as we can,” Sanders told Alan Rappeport and Jim Tankersley for a new article.

The Trump Impeachment

From Riot to Impeachment

The riot inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, followed a rally at which President Trump made an inflammatory speech to his supporters, questioning the results of the election. Here’s a look at what happened and at the ongoing fallout:

    • This video takes a look inside the siege on the capitol.
    • This timeline shows how a crucial two hour period turned a rally into the riot.
    • Several Trump administration officials, including cabinet members Betsy DeVos and Elaine Chao, announced that they were stepping down as a result of the riot.
    • Federal prosecutors have charged more than 70 people, including some who appeared in viral photos and videos of the riot. Officials expect to eventually charge hundreds of others.
    • House Democrats have begun impeachment proceedings. A look at how they might work.

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