The political ground has shifted under President TrumpDonald TrumpSanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown Laura Ingraham 'not saying' if she'd support Trump in 2024 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement MORE with startling speed.
He kept his own party in line for two months after his election loss, even as he pumped out ever more conspiratorial theories to claim a nonexistent victory.
The insurrectionary violence that hit the Capitol on Jan. 6, inflicted by a mob that had been riled up by Trump, changed all that. Shock has deepened among lawmakers and the general public in the days afterward, as new video footage and eyewitness testimony have underlined how close the nation came to an even greater catastrophe.
On Wednesday afternoon, Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. The House voted 232-197 to sustain the single charge facing Trump: incitement of insurrection.
Ten Republicans voted against Trump. During his first impeachment, in December 2019, not a single Republican broke party lines.
Evidence has mounted this week that senior Republicans have — finally — reached a breaking point with Trump.
Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Left laughs off floated changes to 2024 ticket The Memo: 2024 chatter reveals Democratic nervousness MORE (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking Republican in the House, announced her decision to vote for impeachment in a scathing statement released on Tuesday evening.
Cheney accused Trump of having “lit the flame of this attack.” His failure to quell the assault once it had begun, she added, was a “betrayal … of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats make voting rights push ahead of Senate consideration Hogan won't say if he will file to run for Senate by Feb. 22 deadline Voting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities MORE (R-Ky.) appears to have run out of patience with Trump, too. A New York Times report on Tuesday, which has not been contradicted by McConnell or his aides, said he welcomed the impeachment process as an opportunity for the GOP to purge itself of Trump.
“Leader McConnell is thinking way into the future and he understands that there is no future for the Republican Party with Donald Trump,” said former Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloProtecting the freedom to vote should be a bipartisan issue Former lawmakers sign brief countering Trump's claims of executive privilege in Jan. 6 investigation A conservative's faith argument for supporting LGBTQ rights MORE, a Trump critic within the GOP who represented a South Florida district from 2015 to 2019. “He is not wasting any time in doing what needs to be done.”
Even some Republicans who have previously been aligned with Trump share the anger that many critics feel about the attack last week.
“The president just let it unfold and sat there like a spectator, taking some kind of pleasure in the fact that the vote [to certify President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenMacro grid will keep the lights on Pelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown MORE’s victory] was stalled,” said one GOP strategist with ties to the White House.
Asked about McConnell’s break with Trump, the strategist said: “Trump unleashed violent protests that almost overran the Senate and put McConnell and his colleagues at risk. What kind of reaction would anyone have?”
Trump tried to row back his position on Wednesday. In a video released late that afternoon, he said he “unequivocally” condemned what had happened at the Capitol. “Mob violence goes against everything I believe in,” he added.
The video message made no mention of the impeachment vote.
Earlier in the day, Trump had released a brief statement with a similar, conciliatory message. The statement was read on the House floor by Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanRand Paul cancels DirecTV subscription after it drops OAN Sunday shows preview: Democrats' struggle for voting rights bill comes to a head GOP's McCarthy has little incentive to work with Jan. 6 panel MORE (R-Ohio), one of Trump’s most fervent congressional supporters.
The 10 Republicans who broke with Trump on the big vote made it the most bipartisan impeachment in American history. The only two other presidents to be impeached, Andrew Johnson and Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonLeft laughs off floated changes to 2024 ticket A year into his presidency, Biden is polling at an all-time low Second gentleman Emhoff acts as public link to White House MORE, suffered zero and five defections from their own party, respectively.
“The fact that 10 House members voted against him does not bode well for Trump’s prospects in the Senate,” said GOP strategist Alex Conant, referring to the trial of Trump that is likely to begin about a week from now in the upper chamber.
Still, despite the undoubted anger at Trump from some in the GOP, the extent of his party’s break with him should not be overstated.
The GOP members who voted to impeach him were outnumbered almost 20 to 1 by colleagues who backed him. McConnell has said he will not reconvene the Senate early, which ensures that Trump cannot be removed from office before his term is up on Jan. 20.
And there were, as usual, plenty of vigorous defenders of Trump within the GOP ranks on Wednesday.
Jordan contended that the impeachment process has “always been about getting the president, no matter what.” Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzGallego on Jan. 6 rioters: 'F--- them' The Hill's Morning Report - For Biden, it goes from bad to worse Gaetz ex testified to federal grand jury in sex crimes investigation MORE (R-Fla.) argued that “the left in America has incited far more political violence than the right.”
A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week found that 73 percent of Republican voters believe Trump has been “protecting” democracy rather than “undermining” it.
The president will always have his diehards.
But the fact remains that he is ending his time in the White House as a more isolated figure than he has ever been before.
The impeachment vote places one more indelible mark against him.
“This is what Donald Trump will be remembered for,” said Conant. “Whatever else he may have done over the last four years, he leaves office as the first president to be impeached twice.”
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.