Republicans gauge support for Trump impeachment
House Democrats are charging ahead this week to impeach President Trump anew for his role in Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol — and this time they might have some GOP support.
No House Republicans crossed the aisle 13 months ago when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her caucus impeached Trump for leveraging U.S. aid to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate his rival, President-elect Joe Biden.
But last week’s violent siege of the Capitol by pro-Trump supporters — an assault that occurred with Congress in session and Vice President Pence presiding — has infuriated a host of GOP lawmakers, some of whom are now considering support for the ensuing impeachment charge, which Democrats introduced on Monday.
The resolution, which charges Trump with “inciting violence against the Government of the United States,” will hit the House floor on Wednesday. And a number of Republicans have suggested they might be on board.
Centrist Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Iraq and Afghanistan war vet who’s clashed with Trump, has signaled support for impeachment.
“I’ll vote the right way, you know, if I’m presented with that,” Kinzinger said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” program. “I just think it’s probably not the smartest move right now, but I think that’s going to be out of my hands.”
A day later, after the article of impeachment was introduced, Kinzinger’s spokesman struck a harsher tone and indicated the Illinois Republican may very well vote with Democrats.
“Congressman Kinzinger is committed to doing what is right, no matter the political cost. What President Trump did last week was incite violence and encourage a mob to attack the United States Capitol. Clearly, the President violated his oath of office and is unfit to serve,” the spokesman said in a statement.
Kinzinger won re-election in November by 29 percentage points.
Republicans are closely watching moderate House GOP members facing tough reelections in 2022, including Tuesday Group Co-Chairs John Katko (N.Y) and Fred Upton (Mich.), as well as Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.).
GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney (Wyo.), a Trump critic who opposed Republican efforts to overturn the certification of Biden’s election victory, has not yet said how she will vote. But on a conference call Monday, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told fellow House Republicans he opposed impeachment.
House Democrats are racing to adopt the new impeachment charge in the short window before Jan. 20, when Trump is scheduled to leave office. The resolution was formally introduced by Democratic Reps. David Cicilline (R.I.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Jamie Raskin (Md.) and Jerry Nadler (N.Y.). Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced later on Monday that the House will rush the resolution to the floor Wednesday.
“We have a president who most of us believe participated in encouraging an insurrection, an act on this building and on democracy and trying to subvert the counting of the presidential ballot,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol on Monday morning.
For many first-term Republicans, Wednesday’s impeachment roll call will be the first major vote of their congressional career. Several of the lawmakers, including Reps. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), are furious over the Capitol assault and have blamed GOP colleagues for pushing to overturn the election without basis.
“When it comes to impeachment, it’s something we’re strongly considering at this point. … What we saw on Wednesday left the president unfit for office,” Meijer told WXMI, the Fox affiliate in Grand Rapids.
But Mace said she was worried impeachment could inflame partisan tensions that are already at a boiling point.
“We were sitting ducks in the halls of Congress. … Everyone was put at risk, unnecessarily so,” Mace told CNN on Sunday, adding that “we have to hold the president accountable for what happened.”
But she has called on Biden to urge Democrats to back off impeachment, warning, “We need to be very careful about the rhetoric, about being divisive right now in the next 10 days.”
The comments highlight the dilemma facing Republicans after Wednesday’s shocking attack on the Capitol complex. On one hand, GOP lawmakers want to burnish their law-and-order bona fides by holding those responsible for the violent siege to account. On the other, they don’t want to alienate the party’s conservative base, which remains largely loyal to the president, and risk the backlash in the form of either a primary challenge or a threat to their personal safety.
Some Republicans on the Hill said there’s another consideration for GOP lawmakers still on the fence: how their vote will look if Trump incites more violence and bloodshed leading up to Inauguration Day or in the months to come.
“That was always something we knew we would have to grapple with after the election: what to do about Trump,” said one Republican source on the Hill. “The events of the past week have revealed that Trumpism is not the future of the Republican Party. We have to say who we are, what we stand for and how we can win.”
House Democrats are expected to pass their impeachment article easily Wednesday, regardless of how many Republicans join them. The terrifying assault on the Capitol has unified Democrats of all stripes, from liberal members of “the squad” to the moderate Blue Dogs, all of whom say Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his election defeat — combined with his entreaty to supporters to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell” to overturn the results — fueled the tensions leading to the violent breach.
It remains unclear, however, when House Democrats will send the article to the Senate — an issue that seems to be dividing the caucus.
Several prominent Democrats, including Hoyer and Cicilline, said Monday that they want to deliver the resolution across the Capitol immediately after passage, setting the stage for Senate action just as Biden takes office.
But others, including Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the Democratic whip, have suggested the better plan would be to hold the article in the House to allow Biden the time to seat his Cabinet in the earliest stages of his new administration — a process that might be disrupted by an impeachment trial.
There’s virtually no chance the Senate would convict Trump, which requires support from two-thirds of the upper chamber. But it is likely that the number of supportive Republicans would increase relative to a year ago, when only Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) broke ranks and backed one of the two Democratic impeachment articles related to Trump’s Ukraine dealings.
This time around, Romney could be joined by other moderate Republicans fed up with the turmoil of the Trump years, and furious with the president’s role in stirring up Wednesday’s mob. That list includes Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Ben Sasse (Neb.).
“I will definitely consider whatever articles they might move,” Sasse told CBS over the weekend.
Updated at 6:41 p.m.
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