Democrats, GOP face defining moments after Capitol riot
Both political parties are trying to figure out how to move forward following the cataclysmic events of Jan. 6, when a mob fueled by conspiracies and riled up by a president in his final days in office ransacked the Capitol.
House Democrats are set this week to move to impeach President Trump — short of an unlikely eleventh-hour move by Vice President Pence — but there is some division within the party over the process and politics of what would be the second impeachment effort in Congress in just more than a year.
Few if any Democrats think Trump does not deserve to be impeached. But there are worries impeachment could backfire by hurting President-elect Joe Biden during his first 100 days in office, distracting from the new commander in chief’s focus on tackling the coronavirus pandemic and healing the nation’s divides.
Republicans are much more divided about how to move forward, with some in the party still clinging to Trump.
The House Republican Study Committee, which is filled with GOP members who have long defended Trump, put out a release Saturday which listed “#savedemocracy” as its No. 1 campaign, saying people were right to be frustrated with the 2020 election and not mentioning a word about Trump.
Yet a number of Republicans are directly blaming Trump for endangering his own vice president and members of his party by stirring conspiracy talk about the election.
Mick Mulvaney, the former White House budget chief and acting chief of staff and a former South Carolina congressman, said Sunday he believed a number of Republicans would at least consider backing an impeachment push.
Wednesday’s mob attack endangered lawmakers, staff, members of the press and a beleaguered Capitol Police force that was badly outnumbered.
One police officer died after being hit with a fire extinguisher, and a woman who was part of the mob was shot and killed as she tried to reach the Speaker’s lobby just outside the House floor.
Days after the ugly episode, it is becoming increasingly clear that it could have been even worse.
There have been reports of rioters searching for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other lawmakers, purportedly to do them harm.
A photographer for Reuters, Jim Bourg, said he heard three older white men wearing red “MAGA” hats talking about finding Pence to hang him as a “traitor.”
Pence’s crime, to those who believe unproven theories that the election was marred by fraud and that Congress could have overturned it, was to indicate he would not overturn Electoral College results in certain battleground states — a power he did not have.
Widely circulated photos and video showed one masked man carrying flex cuffs while in the Senate chamber. The restraints suggested some in the mob wanted to restrain those working in the Capitol — lawmakers duly elected to their offices, staffers and reporters, or maybe police.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who led the House impeachment prosecution team against Trump in January, told The Washington Post that a GOP colleague urged him to stay out of sight as the rioters rampaged. The GOP lawmaker told Schiff that he could talk to them, but suggested Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, would be in danger if he was even seen. Trump and his allies have long criticized and mocked Schiff.
Much talk in the next week will focus on how secure the Capitol will be for Biden’s inauguration, which is to be held in nine days.
It was a completely different scene at the Capitol on Sunday morning compared to Wednesday. Eight-foot fencing now encircles the Capitol complex, with sentries every 30 yards or so. A much larger police and National Guard presence was evident. On Wednesday, much lower barriers were easily cast aside by the mob that stormed the Capitol.
The biggest worry for Democrats when it comes to impeachment is whether it will hurt the new president.
It’s unclear whether it will be possible to win the 67 votes needed to win a Senate conviction, and no new president would want to deal with that issue as their first course of business.
Biden has sidestepped the issue, saying it is a question for Congress.
“What the Congress decides to do is for them to decide, but I’m going to have to — and they’re going to have to be ready to hit the ground running,” Biden said. “Because when [Vice President-elect Kamala Harris] and I are sworn in, we’re going to be introducing immediately significant pieces of legislation to deal with the virus, to deal with the economy and deal with economic growth.”
Biden will be working with small majorities in both the House and Senate. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will hold the tie-breaking vote in the new Senate after the inauguration.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who has repeatedly made it clear that he feels strongly the House has a moral obligation to impeach Trump over what happened at the Capitol, said Sunday the House could impeach Trump and then hold back on sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, which would delay a trial.
“Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running,” Clyburn said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“And maybe we will send the articles sometime after that,” he added.
Such a trial would still be historic even if it took place after Trump left office. It’s possible it could end in a conviction for Trump given talk from a number of Republicans that the president committed impeachable offenses.
A conviction could lead to a second vote to ban Trump from ever running for public office again, which would only need majority support for passage. There is a chance that in such a vote, even months from now, enough Republicans will want to ensure that Trump cannot run for president again in 2024.
Most Republicans seem to want to avoid an impeachment trial.
A handful of House and Senate Republicans, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), are calling for Trump to resign from office.
“I want him to resign. I want him out. He has caused enough damage,” Murkowski told the Anchorage Daily News.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) expressed support for the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump, while Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was open in saying he would consider articles of impeachment against the president.
Far more Republicans say impeachment would be a mistake because it would further divide the country at a perilous time. Some of these lawmakers, such as Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), nonetheless say that Trump committed impeachable offenses.
“I think the president has disqualified himself from ever certainly serving in office again,” Toomey said. “I don’t think he’s electable in any way, and I don’t think that he’s going to be exercising anything like the kind of influence like he’s had over the Republican Party going forward.”
Significant political differences also remain between House and Senate Republicans.
In the House, a majority of the GOP voted to throw out Electoral College results in Arizona and Pennsylvania following the riot at the Capitol. But in the upper chamber, there were six GOP votes to invalidate Arizona’s count and seven Republican votes to nullify Pennsylvania’s.
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