Lesser-known but no less brave was Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), who at 1:42 p.m. Wednesday stood on the floor and announced: “There is no excuse for President Trump’s actions. . . . With a heavy heart and clear resolve, I will vote yes on these articles of impeachment.”
Less than five minutes later, another Republican from Washington, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, rose to declare that she, too, would vote to impeach. “I’m not afraid of losing my job, but I am afraid that my country will fail,” she said.
In the Oval Office, Trump must have feared a stampede. Within minutes, the White House issued a statement from the president: “In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence.” Trump’s chief defender, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), quickly read it aloud in the chamber.
If only Republicans had spoken up earlier. If only, even now, more Republicans could overcome their fear of Trump and denounce him for inciting insurrection, they could rid the party of this cancer.
After greenlighting his every assault on democratic norms, many Republicans amplified his attempts to overturn the election results by perpetuating the lie that the election was stolen. It culminated in last week’s bloodshed and mayhem in the Capitol.
Now, our nation’s capital is under siege by the MAGA mob. Approximately 2,000 National Guard troops bivouacked in the halls of Congress before Wednesday’s impeachment debate, the first such deployment since the Civil War and part of a force of 20,000 coming to defend the capital from attack by pro-Trump rioters.
Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) kicked off the impeachment debate for Republicans by asking “for God’s blessing and protection . . . for all who come to this chamber.” He had to cut debate short because speakers were delayed navigating through the fortress. “They’re just having a hard time getting here,” he said.
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), a veteran, observed that “there are more troops right now in Washington, D.C., than in Afghanistan, and they are here to defend us against . . . the president of the United States and his mob.” He urged Republicans to see the warriors defending democracy and “take a tough vote.”
In the end, 10 honorable House Republicans took that tough vote — even though it could cost them their jobs, and even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) let it be known, in the middle of the House debate, that he would block a Senate trial until at least Jan. 19 — the day before Trump leaves office.
One after the other, several of the 139 House Republicans who last week voted to overturn the election results now justified votes against impeachment because “our country needs unity” (Rep. Debbie Lesko, Ariz.) and “our nation is still healing” (Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, Pa.). Several of those who last week engaged in a seditious act now cited Lincoln’s second inaugural call to “bind up the nation’s wounds.”
“Unity, after they voted to overturn a free and fair election?” replied Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). He said the Capitol attack “would never have happened if everybody stood up in unity and called out the president when he was not telling the American people the truth.”
Some always-Trump Republicans defended Trump’s words inciting the Capitol insurrection, employing a web of false equivalence, whataboutism and warnings that impeachment “will cause further unrest,” as Ronny L. Jackson (R-Tex.), Trump-doctor-turned-congressman, put it. Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) denounced the “unconstitutional” election. QAnon-admiring Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) declared: “I call bullcrap!” Jordan pushed an effort to strip Cheney of her leadership position.
But most Republicans were conspicuously unwilling to defend Trump. “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Trump should “accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest,” McCarthy added, and a “censure resolution would be prudent.”
Cole called Trump’s words “inappropriate and reckless.” Freshman Rep. Nancy Mace (S.C.) said “I hold him accountable . . . for the attack on our Capitol.” Rep. Tom McClintock (Calif.) said Trump “was wrong.” Rep. Jodey Arrington (Tex.) said Trump used “poor judgment.”
Ya think? Lawmakers described the mob violence they witnessed personally: “I was in this chamber when those gunshots rang.” . . . “Democrats and Republicans hid on the floor, put on gas masks.” . . . “I heard the mob pounding on the door.” . . . “Fearing for my life.”
After such personal terror at Trump’s hands, it’s disturbing that only 10 Republicans found the courage to break with him. But at least a few have survived the Trump era with their souls.