Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is signaling support for the House Democratic impeachment effort that includes an article charging the president with ‘incitement of insurrection.’
Word of the powerful Republican’s posture came Tuesday as the House prepared prepared to take up an impeachment article Wednesday – with signs that several Republicans will back it.
McConnell worked successfully to scuttle the impeachment effort during a trial last year on different charges, and follows reports that McConnell never wants to speak to Trump again after the Capitol riots that had Trump supporters invading the Capitol, trashing leadership offices, and endangering the lives of lawmakers.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced Trump’s election challenge in a speech last week after a mob egged on by Trump invaded the U.S. Capitol
McConnell backs the effort because it will make it easier to purge Trump from the party, the New York Times reports.
One feature of impeachment – which can grind the Senate to a halt and lead to furious partisan arguments – is that it allows lawmakers to vote to prohibit the person being impeached from ever holding public office with the U.S. government.
Trump may run for president in 2024, and many of his potential rivals happen to hold Senate seats.
McConnell has made clear in private discussions that ‘now is the moment to move on the weakened lame duck, whom he blames for Republicans losing the Senate,’ according to the report.
His view emerged as Trump, rather than express contrition, called impeachment a ‘hoax’ and a ‘witch hunt,’ and defended his pre-riot comments that Democrats have already said was incitement. Trump called his speech minutes before the siege ‘totally appropriate.’
U.S. President Donald Trump disembarks from a helicopter before boarding Air Force One at Valley International Airport after visiting the U.S.-Mexico border wall, in Harlingen, Texas, U.S., January 12, 2021. A pro-Trump mob invaded the Capitol last week, with angry rioters stopped just feet short of the Senate chamber and McConnell’s leadership office
Nevertheless, a McConnell memo that emerged over the weekend cited scheduling challenges for impeachment – a trial might not even begin until after Jan. 19th, since the Senate is not in session.
Trump ignored McConnell’s advice and launched his election challenge despite two run-off elections in Georgia which the GOP lost – stripping the party of its majority.
McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, quit the Trump cabinet after the riots, which included an angry mob getting blocked steps from the door to the Senate chamber that McConnell uses when he normally strolls from his leadership office.
A source told CNN McConnell ‘hates’ Trump and is ‘furious’ with him after the Capitol riots.
The siege left five people dead, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer who was based on the Senate side.
It was not immediately clear how McConnell might vote on impeachment.
Convicting Trump on an impeachment article requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, where Republicans hold 50 votes – a high bar to meet.
Report on his potential thinking follows reports that a House GOP leader, Conference Chair Rep. Liz Cheney, could potentially back impeachment, after calling it a conscience vote that leaders would not whip.
She, like McConnell, put out a blistering statement following the Capitol riots.
The House is set to vote Tuesday on a procedure for impeachment after an angry clash at the Rules Committee over Trump’s claims of election fraud. The full House is set to vote Wednesday on impeachment.
Assuming passage, it has not been determined when Democratic leaders will transmit the impeachment article, or when the Senate might take it up.
Amid concern among members of both parties about what Trump will do in his final eight days in office, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and other top military members issued a letter stating that the military would not follow any unlawful orders and expressing loyalty to the U.S. Constitution.
The FBI has warned of possible plans for additional attacks on the Capitol – and announced an array of charges that could include sedition, conspiracy, and murder, along with trespassing and property theft in ongoing manhunt for Capitol riot perpetrators. More than 160 cases are currently open.
Just as news broke of McConnell’s posture, it was revealed that upstate New York Republican Rep. John Katko would back impeachment in the House.
‘To allow the president of the United States to incite this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy,’ Katko said in a statement, Syracuse.com reported. “For that reason, I cannot sit by without taking action. I will vote to impeach this president,’ he said.
President-elect Joe Biden said Monday there was the possibility of dual-tracking an impeachment and Senate session that would be needed to get his cabinet confirmed.
Biden phoned McConnell on Monday, according to the Times on the subject of a trial, and McConnell said he would consult the Senate parliamentarian and get back.
There are Senate rules and precedents governing impeachment, but leaders also might be able to negotiate a way to handle it, with the possibility of a special impeachment committee taking up some of the burden.
Trump has continued his usual pattern of lashing out at political adversaries when under attack.
‘Free speech is under assault like never before. The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me, but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden Administration. As the expression goes, be careful what you wish for,’ Trump said, amid a Democratic push to have Vice President Mike Pence invoke the amendment to declare Trump unfit.
Post-riot accounts from last Wednesday reveal that not only did President Trump egg on supporters who wreaked havoc in the Capitol – but he was glued to the television as the events unfolded, incapable of responding to desperate pleas to use influence to stop it and enjoying seeing it unfold.
There were two major areas where the president fell dramatically short of what was being asked of him: using his personal popularity with his followers to urge them to vacate the Capitol immediately; and using the vast powers of his office to try to speed a federal response.
But when key current and former aides and family members tried to reach him, he was ‘busy enjoying the spectacle,’ according to a Washington Post account.
President Donald Trump called his pre-riot remarks ‘totally appropriate’
President Donald Trump was glued to the television at the White House as his supporters ransacked the Capitol
As the historic mob invasion of the U.S. seat of legislative government unfolded, a variety of people with influence over Trump sought to get to him to urge action.
The routes they took were typical of the loosely organized web of influence within the Trump White House.
Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham – who only after the riot firmly declared Joe Biden the winner of the election – reached out to the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump.
‘It took him a while to appreciate the gravity of the situation,’ Graham told the Post. ‘The president saw these people as his allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen,’ Graham said of the rioters who took the Capitol.
House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who Trump believes is so much under his wing that he has publicly called him ‘My Kevin,’ was pleading for action.
Trump had told supporters to ‘fight’ and encouraged them to march to the Capitol
Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Protesters attempt to enter the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Pro-Trump protesters entered the U.S. Capitol building after mass demonstrations in the nation’s capital during a joint session Congress to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. One Capitol Police officer died in the action
Police officers in riot gear line up as protesters gather on the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. It took hours to regain control of the building
Senator Lindsey Graham reached out to Ivanka Trump during the chaos
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) pleaded with Trump during the riot
Chief of staff Mark Meadows urged Trump to speak out after an aide told him ‘They are going to kill people’ in reference to the rioters
McCarthy phoned Trump directly to try to plead for assistance – but also called the president’s son in law, Jared Kushner, who was returning form a trip to the Middle East.
Former counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, who doesn’t even work for Trump anymore, tried to get through to him to urge action. She phoned an aide she knew was in close proximity to Trump.
The office of the Mayor of Washington, desperate to get more National Guard forces amid logistical and jurisdictional hurdles, also reached out to Conway.
Chief of staff Mark Meadows urged Trump to speak out after an aide told him: ‘They are going to kill people,’ in reference to the rioters.
A primary area of the pleas related to something Trump was capable of doing on his own without engaging with the bureaucracy: issuing simple Twitter or video pleas for protesters to get out of the Capitol.
The appeals he finally made either lacked a direct call to fall back, or sprinkled in approving language even as the riot that would become deadly unfolded.
At 2:30 pm, about half an hour after the Capitol breach, Trump told his supporters to ‘Please support our Capitol Police’ and to ‘Stay peaceful!’
His next message was more explicit, writing ‘No violence!’ – but claimed ‘WE are the Party of Law & Order.’
After he finally put out a video at about 4 pm, Trump finally told his backers to ‘go home.’ But he also called them ‘very special,’ called the election ‘fraudulent,’ and said: ‘You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home, and go home in peace.’
Trump himself had egged on his supporters with demands that they ‘fight,’ calling the election fraudulent, and putting pressure on Vice President Mike Pence, whose only role was ceremonial and involved opening and reading from envelopes containing electoral votes.
Trump was glued to the television as the storming of the Capitol was broadcast.
Prior reporting has revealed that the Washington D.C. government had requested a National Guard presence, but Guard were assigned to traffic and other assistance and weren’t issued ammo or riot gear.
The now resigned chief of Capitol Police says he wanted more Guard support in advance of Wednesday but had been told by superiors to ask for it informally. The governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, says there were delays getting approval to send Guard forces from the Pentagon.
But it wasn’t mere distraction that kept Trump from springing into action. It’s not atht he was too busy because he was so consumed, which he was,’ the New York Times reported.
‘He was pleased because it was people fighting on his behalf. He was pleased because he liked the scene. And he was pleased because it was delaying the certification of the Electoral College vote,’ the New York Times reported. ‘He knew what was happening… He just didn’t want to do anything.’
Although McCarthy told colleagues on a call Monday Trump had accepted ‘some responsibility’ for the riot, on Tuesday the president was back to his defiant posture familiar from impeachment and the Russia probe. He said a second impeachment Democrats are lining up is a ‘continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics.’