Good morning: it’s Wednesday, January 13, 2021. Have questions or comments? Email me.
House poised to impeach Trump for a second time
President Donald Trump is poised today to become the first president in American history to be impeached twice, with one week left in his term and one week since a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in a riot that killed five people.
The House will vote on a single article of impeachment: “incitement of insurrection.” The article cites Trump’s false claims of victory in the weeks following his 2020 election loss, and his encouragement to “fight like hell” at the rally that proceeded the Capitol attack, on the day that Congress was to certify his defeat.
The impeachment resolution also points to the president’s attempts to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn his loss in the state, seeking to establish a pattern of “efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election.”
“In all this,” the resolution states, “President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
The House’s historic vote today will come about 13 months after Trump became the third U.S. president — following Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton — to be impeached at all. At the time, he was charged with “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress,” before being acquitted by the Senate.
But there will be one crucial difference between Trump’s first impeachment vote and this one: in December 2019, not a single House Republican joined the Democratic efforts to remove the president from office. Today, as many as two dozen Republican lawmakers are expected to vote in favor of impeachment.
Five House Republicans have already announced plans to back Trump’s re-impeachment: Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, and Fred Upton of Michigan.
Cheney, the chair of the House Republican Conference, is the highest-ranking member of Trump’s party to call for his removal. “The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” she explained in a statement, referring to the January 6 assault on the Capitol. “Everything that followed was his doing.”
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney added.
After the House votes at about 3 p.m. today, the articles of impeachment will be transmitted to the Senate, where a trial will be held before senators vote to either convict or acquit Trump. A two-thirds conviction vote would be required for him to become the first president to be removed from office.
However, Trump’s trial may not conclude until after his term has already ended: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned that the chamber could not begin considering the articles of impeachment until returning from recess on January 19, the last full day of Trump’s term. (One impeachment trial, for a 19th-century Cabinet secretary, has taken place after the official left office.)
The impeachment drama took an unexpected turn on Tuesday, when the New York Times became the first outlet to report that McConnell — who has worked closely with Trump throughout his presidency — privately supports impeachment. According to the Times, McConnell has concluded that Trump committed impeachable offenses and believes that impeachment will make it easier to end Trump’s influence over the Republican Party.
According to Axios, “there’s a better than 50-50 chance” that McConnell will vote to convict Trump. “If Mitch is a yes, he’s done,” one Senate Republican told CNN, predicting that enough GOP senators would join McConnell if he decided to back conviction. If the president is convicted, a simple majority of the Senate can then vote to bar him from holding office in the future, an option many Democrats have called to be invoked.
Even as pressure bears down on him from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Trump has remained publicly resolute in defending his conduct last week. “The impeachment hoax is a continuation of the greatest and most vicious witch hunt in the history of our country,” Trump said in Alamo, Texas, on Tuesday, insisting that his speech on January 6 was “totally appropriate.”
The president’s comments echoed his defense in the first impeachment effort, although the intense lobbying effort launched by the White House that time has not been replicated. Instead, the president is laying low, isolated from his own advisers — many of whom have already resigned — and party leaders. Trump is also without his greatest megaphone, his Twitter account, which was permanently suspended last week.
Republican leaders in the House and Senate have both indicated that they will not urge their members to vote one way or another on impeachment, a notable break from Trump and a symbolic end to his four-year iron grip on the party and its members.
— The FBI has opened more than 160 cases tied to the Capitol riot, the bureau announced on Tuesday. “We’re looking into significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy,” acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said, adding that “hundreds” of charges could eventually be filed.
— The nation’s most senior military leaders, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, released a rare statement condemning the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol and affirming that President-elect Biden would be sworn in on Janaury 20. “The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition, and insurrection,” the joint chiefs said.
— Tensions are rising in Congress as some lawmakers accuse their colleagues of abetting the raid at the Capitol. Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) claimed that she “didn’t feel safe around other members of Congress” last week, while Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) accused Republicans of leading groups the Capitol on January 5 as “reconnaissance for the next day.” Republican lawmakers protested on Tuesday when metal detectors were installed to enter the House floor.
— Before turning to impeachment today, the House voted 223-205 on Tuesday to urge Vice President Mike Pence and the U.S. Cabinet to remove Trump via the 25th Amendment. Pence had already announced that he would not invoke the amendment, writing that it “would set a terrible precedent.”
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled. According to the White House, he will “work from early and in the morning until late in the evening” and “make many calls and have many meetings,” although none of them were specified.
Vice President Mike Pence has no public events scheduled.
President-elect Joe Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief and meet with transition advisers.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief, meet with transition advisers, and participate in a virtual finance event to raise money for the inauguration. Tickets to the event range from $250 to $50,000 per seat.
The Senate is not in session.
The House will meet at 9 a.m. to consider H.Res. 24, the resolution to impeach President Trump for “incitement of insurrection.” The chamber will debate the rule for the resolution for one hour, followed by two procedural votes on the measure. The House will then debate the resolution itself for two hours, followed by a final vote on impeachment at around 3 p.m.
The Supreme Court will hear virtual oral arguments in AMG Capital v. Federal Trade Commission at 10 a.m.
- The justices will consider this morning whether the Federal Trade Commission can compel people who commit “unfair or deceptive acts... affecting commerce” to pay a fine as punishment. The FTC argues that it has the authority to seize people’s money, although federal law only explicitly gives it the power to stop offenders’ behavior.
— Supreme Court case summary contributed by Anna Salvatore
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