Liz Cheney

Republicans begin turning on Trump over impeachment

The House plans to hold an impeachment vote Wednesday, as Trump rejected any blame for the deadly riot at the Capitol

Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican

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POLITICS PRESS GROUP

Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, said Tuesday she would vote to impeach President Donald Trump for his role inciting deadly violence at the Capitol last week, fueling new urgency behind the Democrats’ push to remove the president from office.

Cheney was one of several key Republicans to voice support either explicitly or implicitly for Democrats’ impeachment effort late Tuesday, signaling the bipartisan fury directed at Trump for his role in the riots Wednesday and refusal to accept any responsibility in the days since.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney said in a statement Tuesday. “I will vote to impeach the President."

The House will move to impeach Trump on Wednesday, less than one week after Trump goaded a mob of his supporters to seize the Capitol. As many as a dozen Republicans are expected to support the impeachment effort, according to lawmakers and aides of both parties, though it’s unclear how Cheney’s public endorsement will change the calculation for Republicans who have resisted backing to impeachment but are privately dismayed, or even outright enraged, at the president.

Minutes before Cheney’s press release, moderate Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) became the first House Republican to publicly state he would vote to impeach Trump. Another, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, has said broadly Trump should be removed and is expected to buck the president on the floor.

“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 told Syracuse.com. “For that reason, I cannot sit by without taking action. I will vote to impeach this president.”

Democrats’ push to force Trump out — first with a vote later Tuesday calling on Vice President Mike Pence to take unilateral action and then the impeachment vote Wednesday — is barreling to the floor at unprecedented speed.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said Democrats will only move ahead with impeachment if Pence continues to ignore their party’s increasingly urgent demands to remove the president. With no word from the vice president, a second vote to impeach Trump is now all but inevitable Wednesday.

“This is a solemn day,” said House Rules Chair Jim McGovern, who was steps away from the House doors as rioters attempted to pound their way in on Jan. 6. “It is past time for the vice president to do the right thing here.”

Trump himself has remained defiant even as a growing faction of his party has blamed him for Wednesday’s violence.

Speaking in Texas, Trump delivered an ominous warning that the Democratic effort to remove him would “come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration. As the expression goes, be careful what you wish for."

Many Democrats pointed to a New York Times report Tuesday that said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has refrained from commenting publicly about the impeachment proceedings, has told associates that he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses. The Times also reported that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has asked his GOP colleagues if he should call for Trump’s resignation.

Spokespersons for McConnell and McCarthy’s offices did not immediately provide comment.

McConnell’s reported break from Trump would be enormous for the congressional GOP, which is already being ripped apart by internal strife in the days since the president encouraged rioters to march on the Capitol, temporarily halting certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

Cheney's support for impeachment is a sharp break from McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise — who both backed Trump’s effort to overturn the election on the floor last week. Republican leaders do not plan to whip their members to oppose Trump’s impeachment this time, in contrast with the GOP’s stance in 2019.

Still, many of Trump’s allies have continued to defend him, making clear that the base of the congressional GOP will reject both of Democrats’ efforts this week.

Tensions remained high on Tuesday as many Democrats and Republicans returned to work for the first time since Wednesday’s siege.

In a meeting of the normally mild-mannered Rules Committee, multiple Democrats became enraged as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) repeatedly refused to acknowledge that Biden won the election fairly.

“I’m glad that all it took for you to call for unity and healing was for our freedom and democracy to be attacked,” McGovern fired back at Jordan, a Trump ally, as he and others grew increasingly furious. “But for the several months, the gentleman from Ohio and others have given oxygen to the president’s conspiracy theories.”

Even before Trump’s comments Tuesday, the Democrats’ effort to remove the president for an unprecedented second time left some concerned on Capitol Hill about the potential divisiveness of the step. Lawmakers of both parties fear the impeachment vote will again inflame the pro-Trump mob who stormed the Capitol last week and terrorized lawmakers and staff and which resulted in dozens of injuries and five deaths, including a police officer.

But Democrats, including Pelosi, say they have no choice but to deliver a firm rebuke against Trump. The vast majority of House Democrats say they are prepared to press ahead with impeachment even as some worry about returning to the Capitol.

The resolution the House will vote on later Tuesday, introduced by Raskin, would call on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment — deeming the president unfit for office and removing him if a majority of the Cabinet or a commission appointed by Congress agrees.

“It’s very clear that the president did not discharge the proper duties of office,” Raskin said.

With Pence showing no desire to invoke the 25th Amendment, the House is all but certain to impeach Trump Wednesday. The question then turns to the Senate and when it will begin a trial.

Pelosi and her leadership team discussed over the weekend delaying sending the article of impeachment over to the Senate so as not to immediately trigger a trial that could derail Biden’s agenda and Cabinet confirmations in his first critical weeks.

But top Democrats have since begun coalescing around a plan to immediately send over the article, with Biden himself floating the idea that the Senate could focus on the trial in the morning and consider Cabinet nominees in the afternoon. (During Trump’s first impeachment trial, the Senate began proceedings in the afternoon each day, allowing for other Senate action.)

McConnell circulated a memo late last week saying the earliest a Senate trial would begin would be Jan. 19, the day before Biden’s inauguration. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the incoming majority leader, has looked into the option of reconvening the chamber earlier under emergency powers but the move would require buy-in from McConnell, who is unlikely to agree to it.

In a memo outlining his priorities as majority leader Tuesday, Schumer did not mention the impeachment trial specifically, instead saying that the Senate will "continue to take action to address these events — including action to mitigate and hopefully remove the immediate and ongoing danger President Trump poses to our country."

Pelosi declined to comment on the potential timeline as she entered the Capitol Tuesday.

“That is not something I will be discussing right now as you can imagine,” Pelosi told reporters. “Take it one step at a time.”

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