by Heather Cox Richardson | January 11, 2020
This morning began with House Democrats filing one article of impeachment against Trump, charging him with “incitement of insurrection.” It makes its case by noting that Trump’s months of lies about the election and his inflammatory speech to the rally on January 6– including lines like “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore”—led directly to “violent, deadly, destructive and seditious acts.”
The article also noted Trump’s attempt to subvert the election through his phone call on January 2, 2021, to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, demanding he “find” enough votes to overturn the results of the presidential election in the state. Including this in the impeachment article will prevent Georgia Governor Brian Kemp from pardoning Trump for it.
The article says that Trump is, and will remain, “a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.” He must be removed from office and disqualified from any future positions in the U.S. government.
This document and the procedures around it tell us far more than their simplicity suggests.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had announced the day before that the House would take up a resolution, advanced by Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), that called on Vice President Mike Pence “to convene and mobilize the Cabinet to activate the 25th Amendment to declare the President incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting President.” The resolution did not speak to the physical or mental health of the president, but focused on his inability to fulfill his duty to respect the legitimate results of the Presidential election, accept the peaceful transfer of power, protect the people of the United States, and see that the laws be faithfully executed.
This resolution was a generous offer to Republicans. It limited its condemnation of Trump to his quite obvious refusal to accept the election results, rather than digging deeper into his behavior. Pelosi also called for Unanimous Consent to bring up the Raskin resolution. This was a way to give cover to Republicans who didn’t want to go on the record against Trump, but who want him out of power in favor of Pence.
Although extremist Republicans are trying to argue that removing Trump shows Democratic partisanship, in fact, Pelosi was trying to give Republicans as much cover as possible.
It was a Trump Republican who shot that down. Representative Alex Mooney (R-WV) objected to Unanimous Consent, which means that when the measure comes up again tomorrow, each Republican will have to vote either for it or against it. Mooney has condemned his fellow Republicans who would not go along with Trump’s election claims, and now he is forcing them to go on record. In other words, he is making a play to force Republicans behind Trump.
The House will vote on the Raskin resolution tomorrow and will take up impeachment on Wednesday. There should be enough votes to pass both.
The tide is running strongly now against Trump and those who have supported him in his attack on our democracy. What had been shock on Wednesday is hardening into fury. Yesterday, Representative Peter Meijer (R-MI) tweeted: “I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that the President of the United States was completely MIA while the next three individuals in the lines of succession (VP, Speaker of House, Senate Pres[ident] Pro Tempore) were under assault in the Capitol. Unconscionable.”
As of tonight, the government remains MIA. We have had no briefings from the White House, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, or the Justice Department about what happened on January 6, or what has happened since. And now acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf has resigned, effective at midnight tonight. He will be replaced by FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor.
The crisis is breaking the Republican Party in two. Newly elected House members have expressed dismay that they have not gotten clear instructions from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on how they should approach this week’s votes. They say they only have the sense he would like them to support the president: pretty weak sauce to hold a coalition together.
McCarthy has his own troubles. He is closely tied to the president—Trump called him “my Kevin”– and has been telling people that the Republicans will take the House in 2022 as voters turn against Biden, who is inheriting a colossal mess that it appears Republicans are working to make as bad as possible. But suddenly Trump is toxic. All of a sudden, McCarthy is talking about unity and working across the aisle: “As leaders, we must call on our better angels and refocus our efforts on working directly for the American people.”
McCarthy is facing the same problem Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), the new chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is: they are supposed to bring in campaign cash, but suddenly corporations are announcing they will no longer make political donations… at least to Republicans. Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria at Popular Information yesterday broke the story that Marriott, BlueCross BlueShield, and Commerce Bank would not contribute to the 147 Republicans who objected to the counting of the electoral votes in Congress. That’s more than half the Republicans in Congress. Verizon, AT&T, and Amazon have now joined that boycott. Citigroup, 3M, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and JPMorgan Chase have all halted political giving for several months, and a number of other companies say they are reevaluating their giving. T-Mobile told Popular Information: “The assault on the U.S. Capitol and on democracy was unacceptable.”
It is no wonder that both McCarthy and Scott are madly backpedaling from their former pro-Trump stances and now calling for an end to partisan rancor. According to Jonathan Swan of Axios, in a phone call this morning, Trump tried to tell McCarthy it was “Antifa people” who stormed the Capitol. But McCarthy was having none of it: “It’s not Antifa, it’s MAGA. I know. I was there.” When Trump tried to rant about election fraud, McCarthy interrupted: “Stop it. It’s over. The election is over.”
But the crisis is not. Army and police forces are investigating their officers who either did participate or may have participated in the riot. The FBI warned today that online activists are planning armed protests in Washington, D.C., and at all fifty state capitols between January 16 and 20, although it is not clear that their plans will translate into mass protests. In the wake of the attack, Trump supporters are harassing lawmakers, making them fear for the safety of themselves and their families.
As Yale historian Joanne Freeman noted, threats of political violence are a means of intimidation, a way to dominate a situation when a party does not have the support of the majority. Trump’s approval rating has dropped to 33%, with 60% of voters disapproving of his job performance. Fifty-six percent of voters blame Trump for the storming of the Capitol.
Trump supporters are growing more violent perhaps because the wave against them is building. Today Hillary Clinton called for impeachment and condemned white supremacy, hardly a surprise coming from the former Democratic presidential candidate, but the news that former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a well-regarded retired four-star general and Republican senior statesman, has rejected the Republican Party sits a little harder. Perhaps even worse is that Bill Belichick, general manager of the New England Patriots and previously a Trump supporter, today declined to accept Trump’s offer of a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Insurgents now face institutional pressure, as well. The Department of Justice and the FBI are tracking down more than 150 suspects for prosecution—so far—and hackers today claimed to have captured the personal data of Parler users from Parler servers, including material that users believed they had deleted after the January 6 Capitol riot. Since rioters stole laptops and documents that included items relating to national security, they are not going to be able to drop off the radar screen.
Trump is also under pressure, the pressure of impeachment, of course, and the loss of his social media platforms. He is also under financial pressure, as Deutsche Bank, the only bank that would still lend to him, has announced it will no longer do business with him. But, according to Maggie Haberman at the New York Times, what is upsetting him most is that the PGA has pulled its 2022 golf championship from Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club.
That, not the riots, not the deaths, not impeachment, and certainly not the coronavirus–which has now killed more than 375,000 of us—has “gutted” him.