Republicans wrestle over removing Trump
GOP lawmakers are wrestling with whether to stick with President Trump between now and Jan. 20 as members of his Cabinet consider resigning or invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska became the first Republican senator to call on Trump to resign, declaring on Friday afternoon that “he has caused enough damage.”
“I want him to resign. I want him out,” she told the Anchorage Daily News.
A day later, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is retiring at the end of 2022, said Trump’s actions rise to the level of impeachment.
“I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” Toomey told Fox News during an interview.
Murkowski and Toomey’s comments put pressure on Republican centrists, such as Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Susan Collins (Maine), who as of Saturday night had not addressed whether Trump should step down or be removed from office.
Romney, the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump on an article of impeachment in February, accused Trump of inciting a mob of supporters to storm the Capitol while Congress was counting the vote of the Electoral College on Wednesday.
Rep. Garrett Graves (R-La.) on Friday called for Trump to step back from the duties of his office, though he said he did not support impeaching the president or invoking the 25th Amendment.
“He effectively needs to resign. And what I mean by that is, effectively, he will not be out there talking, speaking, wielding the full authority and power of the White House, maybe even technically finding a way to hand over the keys to [Vice President] Pence,” he said.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a prominent conservative and potential presidential candidate in 2024, said Thursday he would consider voting to convict Trump on an article of impeachment — something he voted against less than a year ago when House Democrats impeached Trump, charging him with abuse of power and obstructing justice.
“If they come together and have a process, I will definitely consider whatever articles they might move, because as I told you I believe the president has disregarded his oath of office,” Sasse said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.”
“He swore an oath to the American people to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. He acted against that,” Sasse said. “What he did was wicked.”
Sasse later said he was angry that Trump appeared “delighted” by images of rioters flooding past security to disrupt the counting of electoral votes.
“As this was unfolding on television, Donald Trump was walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was as you had rioters pushing against Capitol Police trying to get into the building,” Sasse told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt in an interview. “That was happening. He was delighted.”
“I’m sure you’ve also had conversations with other senior White House officials, as I have,” Sasse told Hewitt.
Particularly damaging to Trump was a clip that emerged showing him and his family in a festive mood watching video monitors of the pro-Trump mob gathered around the Capitol with the party song “Gloria” blaring.
The video filmed by Donald Trump Jr. showed his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle dancing and urging viewers to fight, with an enthusiastic White House chief of staff Mark Meadows flashing a thumbs up shortly before rioters overran Capitol Police and ransacked Senate and House offices.
In the background, the president and his daughter Ivanka Trump, a senior White House adviser, could be seen intently watching coverage of the crowd.
House Democrats are threatening to impeach Trump before Inauguration Day if he does not resign or if he isn’t removed by the 25th Amendment.
Pelosi said Friday evening that if Trump does not step down immediately she has instructed the House Rules Committee to advance a motion to impeach him. She said the House would also pass legislation to create a commission to declare the president is unable to discharge the duties of his office.
On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Republicans are now preparing for the possibility of a second Trump impeachment trial.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday circulated to colleagues a memo outlining how the Senate would proceed if the House approves articles of impeachment and transmits them to the upper chamber before or by Jan. 19, when senators are scheduled to resume regular business after the January recess.
McConnell said the most likely scenario if the House impeaches Trump is for the Senate to receive a message from the lower chamber notifying it of the action on Jan. 19. That would then give the Senate the option of ordering the House managers to present those articles on the same day.
Two members of Trump’s Cabinet have already stepped down after Wednesday’s violence: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to McConnell, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“We should be highlighting and celebrating your administration’s many accomplishments on behalf of the American people,” DeVos wrote in her letter to Trump. “Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protesters overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business.”
“That behavior was unconscionable for our country,” she wrote. “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.”
The biggest question going forward is whether McConnell, who is now seen as the primary political compass for Senate Republicans, will call on Trump to step down.
“McConnell has an ability to get Republican senators to do things. He has many levers and your relationship with the leader is important,” said one Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss how GOP senators will handle the political fallout from Wednesday’s violence on Capitol Hill that left five people dead.
McConnell was credited by GOP senators for largely quashing a push to object to electoral votes for Biden after delivering two powerful speeches on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Only six GOP senators voted to reject the electoral slate from Arizona and seven voted to reject the slate from Pennsylvania, a striking contrast from how Republicans voted in the House, where those challenges garnered 121 and 138 votes, respectively.
Other Senate Republicans say they’re still fearful of Trump’s ability to wield power within the Republican base, noting that he still won 74.2 million votes on Election Day.
Trump suffered a major setback on that front Friday when Twitter permanently suspended his account, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.”
A second Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss Trump’s influence with voters said his office was flooded with calls from constituents demanding that the senator vote to support objections to Biden’s electoral votes.
“Some of my friends are saying the talk back home is bad for you,” said the lawmaker, who voted against sustaining objections to the votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania.
“They’re agitated about it,” the lawmaker said of Republicans back home.
Many GOP lawmakers, however, are sticking with Trump.
Sen. Mike Lee (Utah), the chairman of the Senate Republican Steering Committee, contacted national security adviser Robert O’Brien and White House counsel Pat Cipollone to ask them not to resign before Trump leaves office.
Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) predicted Friday that Republicans would reject any articles of impeachment swiftly passed by the House, telling a Missouri television station that the Senate voting to remove Trump from office was “not going to happen.”
Jordain Carney contributed.