A Historic Impeachment and a Big Choice for the Senate

Trump is impeached — again — but a Senate trial seems a long way off. In the meantime, the authorities are bracing for a rancorous Inauguration Day. It’s Thursday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

Donald Trump was impeached yesterday for a second time, becoming the only president in United States history to face a Senate trial more than once.

The House of Representatives voted to impeach the president on one count — incitement of insurrection — in response to the storming of the Capitol last week. Ten Republicans joined all 222 Democratic members of the chamber in voting to impeach.

Just after the vote, the president posted a video condemning the violence at the Capitol in his clearest terms yet, and urging supporters to remain peaceful on Inauguration Day. But he said nothing about his role in having instigated the riot.

Even some Republicans who opposed impeachment went out of their way to distance themselves from the president. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, said impeachment would be needlessly divisive, but he condemned Trump’s actions.

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” McCarthy said yesterday. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”

Impeachment proceedings will now move to the Senate, but Mitch McConnell, the departing majority leader, said yesterday that he had no intention of bringing senators back early to hear the case.

That means the Senate will return just a day before Trump leaves office on Jan. 20, making it virtually impossible that he would be removed before his term ends.

Still, there could be more than symbolic significance to convicting him, even if it comes after his term ends. If Trump were convicted by a two-thirds majority in the Senate of inciting insurrection, a second vote could then be held on whether to bar him from public office permanently. That vote would require only a simple majority to pass.

In a note to Republican colleagues yesterday, McConnell didn’t deny that he supported the impeachment push, but he said that he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote, and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate.”

Intelligence agencies warned in a joint bulletin yesterday that far-right extremist groups were likely to be emboldened after the attack on the Capitol, which the authorities called a “significant driver of violence.”

The federal officials wrote that extremist groups seeking to start a race war had seen the breach of the Capitol as a success and were rallying around the death of Ashli Babbitt, a QAnon follower who was shot by the police during the siege, treating it as “an act of martyrdom.”

Written jointly by the National Counterterrorism Center and the Justice and Homeland Security Departments, the bulletin is labeled “Domestic Violent Extremists Emboldened in Aftermath of Capitol Breach, Elevated Domestic Terrorism Threat of Violence Likely Amid Political Transitions and Beyond.” It states that antigovernment militias and racist extremists “very likely pose the greatest domestic terrorism threats in 2021.”

Americans are keenly aware of the heightened threat of violence, according to recent polls. Seventy-four percent of respondents in a nationwide CBS News/YouGov poll released Wednesday said it was at least somewhat likely that attempted violence could occur at Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony.

A clear majority in that poll and others said Trump was to blame for the rioting at the Capitol; his approval ratings have fallen to historic lows in his final days in office.

But support for impeaching and removing him isn’t as widespread. Surveys generally showed a slimmer majority supporting Trump’s impeachment or removal from office. And polls have historically underestimated his support in elections.

In a sign of major institutional blowback against Trump and the right-wing extremism he has helped foster, a growing list of corporate giants and major Republican philanthropists are pledging to cut ties with politicians who supported the president’s effort to challenge the election results based on false premises.

A representative of Charles Koch’s political and nonprofit network, which is one of the largest and most influential in conservative circles and spent about $60 million in federal elections last year, said that opposing certification would be a factor that would “weigh heavily” in determining its future spending decisions.

Photo of the day

Speaker Nancy Pelosi overseeing the vote to impeach Trump yesterday.

Latest Updates

From Opinion: Impeachment 2.0

By Talmon Joseph Smith

Before the storming of the Capitol by rioting Trump supporters egged on by the president himself, before President Trump claimed the November election was rigged, before the summer of racial unrest that the president used to further his demagogy, and before the coronavirus pandemic hit U.S. shores, the outrageous news gripping the country was Trump’s impeachment. But that outrage was highly polarized.

Democratic voters and lawmakers (as well as some generally nonpartisan civil servants) were angrily demanding the president’s removal based on their case that Trump had violated his oath of office by bribing a foreign official into publicly ordering a damaging corruption investigation of Trump’s opponent. Republican voters and lawmakers said the multistep argument was convoluted and hypocritical in light of Democrats’ recent history of sponsoring international opposition research efforts, like the infamous Steele dossier.

This time, however, feels different. In an opinion essay published Wednesday, Steven G. Calabresi, a Republican and a professor at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, argues along with Norman Eisen, a Democrat and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, for a bipartisan approach to impeachment, anchored in protecting democracy.

They write: “We have considerable political differences. But we firmly share a view that should transcend partisan politics: President Trump must be impeached again and tried as soon as possible in the Senate, either before or after Inauguration Day on Jan 20. Mr. Trump’s most egregious impeachable offenses are inciting a violent insurrection against his own vice president, the Senate and the House of Representatives, and pressuring Georgia’s secretary of state to ‘find’ enough votes for him to overturn the legitimate election result there.”

The Trump Impeachment ›

From Riot to Impeachment

The riot inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, followed a rally at which President Trump made an inflammatory speech to his supporters, questioning the results of the election. Here’s a look at what happened and at the ongoing fallout: