Yet six Senate GOP aides told Power Up that despite Republicans' fury with the outgoing president for his role in inciting the mob assault on the Capitol, they don't believe the chamber can muster enough GOP support to ultimately convict Trump.
Aides say there are clearly more Republicans considering turning on Trump now than did in the last impeachment process, when only one Republican senator broke ranks. But many say there's not enough political upside to convince at least 17 Republican senators to take a step that could hurt their reelections with Trump already set to leave office in eight days.
“I think the timing really creates a problem … if we somehow voted on impeachment last Wednesday night, we could have gotten 80 votes,” a GOP Senate aide told Power Up.
- And the proposal to hold off on sending the impeachment articles to the Senate until after President-elect Joe Biden's first 100 days makes it “start to feel like a charade” since Trump would be long gone, the aide added.
- Republicans will have more pressing priorities by then, the aide predicted: “I can't imagine a world where we get through the 100 days and think, you know what we really need to tackle is? Impeaching Trump. Democrats should have stuck to it through the weekend and voted it for it ASAP. I think it was a huge tactical error on their part.”
The Republican politics are even more complicated since even the question of Democratic unanimity is far from clear: Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) just threw cold water on the impeachment gambit, calling House Democrats' push “so ill-advised.”
More Republican senators, including Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), added to the pile-on of condemnations of Trump yesterday. But still, it remains only Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) who have called for Trump's resignation. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said last week that he'd “definitely consider” articles of impeachment brought by the House. Others who have expressed outrage at Trump have sidestepped the question of whether they support Trump's impeachment.
- A second GOP aide said they expected their boss would vote to convict Trump if they weren't running for reelection.
- Another worried that removing Trump from office would rev up his base against Republicans: “Ultimately, it would make Trump a sympathetic figure,” a third Republican aide said.
- “In most of the states that Republican senators represent, it would be really, really hard to vote to remove him — and one of the arguments against doing it would be that it looks like we're just trying to prevent him from running again,” the first aide added.
- Despite Trump's low 33 percent approval rating, per a Quinnipiac poll released yesterday, “this is still politically problematic,” a former Senate aide told Power Up. “I think about it like the guns issue: 90 percent favor universal background checks but the 10 percent who oppose are the ones who vote on the issue. Sure, maybe 60 percent support removal, but it’s the ones who strongly oppose it whose votes they’ll need.”
To be sure, the dynamics can change as new revelations continue to emerge. Some senators are waiting to see just how persuasive the article of impeachment — and arguments — will be, several sources said.
The first GOP aide said their boss might be more amenable to convicting Trump if one of his advisers went on the record to confirm that Trump “had resisted sending in the National Guard even after the Capitol had been stormed and that it had taken intervention from senior White House officials to get those forces ordered into action,” as the New York Times's Maggie Haberman reported.
- “[A]s senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help during the siege, they struggled to get through to the president, who — safely ensconced in the West Wing — was too busy watching fiery TV images of the crisis unfolding around them to act or even bother to hear their pleas,” our colleagues Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, and Phil Rucker report.
And Trump's waning influence may ultimately prove persuasive. A GOP strategist who worked on the Georgia Senate runoffs — which Democrats won — pushed back on the notion that voting to impeach Trump would be a political pitfall.
- “As you saw in Georgia, the Trump base is not transferrable,” the strategist told Power Up. “You can still appeal to working class voters and voters in the suburbs but you can’t light yourself on fire every time a hot bottom issue pops up in national politics. The defend-Trump-at-all-costs section of the base will hate impeachment but it’s imperative members get beyond that fear.”
But other Republicans have made clear that they're ready to turn the page on Trump after the finish line of his presidency on Jan. 20.
- “In light of President Trump’s Thursday statement pledging an orderly transfer power and calling for healing in our nation, a second impeachment will do far more harm than good,” Graham tweeted.
- Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Ia.) told reporters in Iowa on Monday that he believes that Congress should spend their time focused on Biden's agenda as opposed to impeaching Trump for a second time: “Right now, there's very little opportunity for him to lead the Republican Party,” he added.
- Others called for unity: “Let's move on. Let's get President Biden into place,” Ernst told reporters on Monday, according to the Des Moines Register's Brianne Pfannenstiel and Tony Leys. “Let's get the new administration going and let's start healing our nation.”
THE TRAIN CAN'T BE STOPPED: President-elect Joe Biden, however, has asked “Senate officials whether the Chamber could 'bifurcate' its schedule, so that his agenda and impeachment could be considered at the same time, while incoming Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) explored other, little-used ways of speeding up Senate action,” our colleagues Seung Min Kim, Annie Linskey and Josh Dawsey report.
- “I had a discussion today with some of the folks in the House and Senate. And the question is whether, for example, if the House moves forward — which they obviously are — with the impeachment and sends it over to the Senate, whether we can bifurcate this,” Biden told reporters yesterday as he received his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
- Notable: “The Senate is not scheduled to come into session until Jan. 19, delaying any impeachment trial until the start of Biden’s administration. The chamber ordinarily could not reconvene earlier unless all 100 senators agreed,” per SMK, Annie, and Dawsey.
- There are also potential legal challenges: Legal experts — including Alan Dershowitz, who represented Trump during his first impeachment trial — have cast doubt on whether a former president can even face impeachment.
Schumer told the Buffalo News's Jerry Zremski on Monday that impeaching Trump was as much of a priority for a Democratically controlled Senate as pushing through the Biden administration's agenda.
- “It will live in the minds of Americans for centuries as one of the worst days in American history,” Schumer said of the riot Trump incited last week. “We have to punish those who did it. We have to make sure Donald Trump gets the full blame he deserves. And we have to make sure it never happens again.”
SOME HOUSE REPUBLICANS REMAIN FURIOUS AT TRUMP: Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), a newly sworn in freshman, told CNN he is “strongly considering” impeachment and that Trump “is no longer qualified to hold office.” Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) wrote in a Times op-ed that he is against impeachment, but would support exploring alternatives “that could allow Congress to bar Mr. Trump from holding federal office in the future."
At the White House
WHAT TRUMP DID DURING THE RIOT: “The six hours between when the Capitol was breached shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and when it was finally declared secure around 8 p.m. that evening reveal a president paralyzed — more passive viewer than resolute leader, repeatedly failing to perform even the basic duties of his job,” Ashley, Josh, and Phil report.
- A jaw dropping quote for the ages: "He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,” said one close Trump adviser. “If it’s TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.”
At first, the president "was busy enjoying the spectacle. Trump watched with interest, buoyed to see that his supporters were fighting so hard on his behalf,” one close adviser said. "It took him awhile to appreciate the gravity of the situation," Sen. Graham said.
- Aides struggled to get Trump to include “stay peaceful” at the end of his first tweet on riot: As for his video message about healing a day later, “the president said he wished he hadn’t done it, a senior White House official said, because he feared that the calming words made him look weak."
THE RIFT BETWEEN TRUMP AND PENCE: “The remarkable break between the two men — played out over a tense few days as the country convulsed from a riot spurred on by the president — is a startling capstone to a relationship long defined by Pence’s loyalty and subservience,” Josh and Ashley report.
So many people tried to convince Trump to speak out:
Trump never called to check if Pence was OK during the siege on the Capitol: Instead, the president attacked Pence again as the riot was unfolding, a message that did not go unnoticed by those in the violent mob. “Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, eventually called the White House to let them know that Pence and his team were okay, after receiving no outreach from the president or anyone else in the White House.”
- The two talked for the first time since the assault last night:
The pair had a heated meeting right before Trump left for the rally: “Pence met with Trump multiple times before Wednesday to talk him through the dynamic and explain why he couldn’t do what Trump wanted, advisers said. After Wednesday’s final pitch did not go well, Trump went to the Ellipse and gave a fiery, falsehood-laden speech, where, to a bloodthirsty crowd, he repeatedly pressured Pence to overturn the results.”
- So this is how it ends?: “The president could say, ‘Mike I want you to go fly to Asia,’ and he would do it, or ‘Mike, I want you take over the coronavirus task force,’ and he would do it; never questioned a thing," a former senior administration official said of how Pence used to do almost anything Trump asked.
SEVERAL CAPITOL POLICE OFFICERS SUSPENDED: “More than a dozen others are under investigation for suspected involvement with or inappropriate support for the demonstration last week that turned into a deadly riot at the Capitol, according to members of Congress, police officials and staff members briefed on the developments,” Aaron C. Davis, Rebecca Tan and Beth Reinhard report.
- Eight separate probes into officers' conduct are underway: One of those suspended is the officer from the viral photo where he appears to take a selfie with a rioter, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said. The other officer who was suspended was seen outside the complex wearing a red Make America Great Again baseball cap at the time rioters were surrounding the Capitol, Ryan said.
MORE THAN 150 SUSPECTS ARE BEING SOUGHT: “In the sprawling Justice Department criminal inquiry run out of the F.B.I.’s Washington field office — the country’s second largest, with about 1,600 employees — agents and support staff have established a nationwide dragnet to identify members of the mob,” the Times's Katie Benner and Adam Goldman report.
- There's a massive amount of information to sort through: “The F.B.I. has moved quickly to ease some bureaucratic hurdles to making arrests, and it has received more than 70,000 photographic and video tips after asking for the public’s help in identifying suspects. Agents were also scrubbing airline passenger manifests and video of air travelers to and from Washington to find potential suspects.”
THE FALLOUT CONTINUES: “Deutsche Bank, which has been Trump’s primary lender for two decades, has decided not to do business with Trump or his company in the future,” the Times's Eric Lipton, Ben Protess and Steve Eder report.
But the latest list goes far beyond that:
- Chad Wolf resigned as acting Homeland Security secretary: “Wolf, who was overseas in the Middle East last week during the siege, attributed his decision to “recent events” and court rulings that have challenged the legality of his appointment by the Trump administration to run the department,” Nick Miroff and Carol D. Leonnig report.
- More companies cut off donations to the 147 Republicans who tried to overturn the election: AT&T, Marriot and American Express were among the latest to pledge to cut off contributions from their political action committees. Hallmark went even further asking for asking Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) to return their contributions of $7,000 and $5,000 respectively, Todd C. Frankel, Jeff Stein and Tony Romm report.
- Bill Belichick won't accept Trump's Presidential Medal of Freedom: “[T]he tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award. Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation’s values, freedom and democracy,” the New England Patriots coach said in a statement.
- New York City is considering ending Trump Organization contracts worth $17 million per year, David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell report.
- Rudy Giuliani is facing a disbarment complaint and ouster from a lawyers group: “New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat who represents parts of Manhattan, filed a formal complaint to an appellate court related to ‘rampant and egregious violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct’ and Giuliani’s ‘complicity’ in inciting last week’s violence, he said in a statement,” Shayna Jacobs reports from New York.
At the Pentagon
MORE VIOLENCE COULD BE COMING: “The FBI warned that armed far-right extremist groups are planning to march on state capitals this weekend, triggering a rush to fortify government buildings amid concerns that the violence that erupted at the U.S. Capitol last week could spread throughout the country,” Tim Craig, Holly Bailey and Matt Zapotosky report.
- What this means: National Guard troops are being called to protect Wisconsin's capitol. Officials in Arizona have erected a double-layer chain-link fence around their Capitol. In Michigan, a state legislative committee voted to ban residents from carrying guns on their capital grounds.
Up to 15,000 troops could be deployed in D.C.: “Guardsmen will arrive in Washington with protective equipment and will provide security. They will report to Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commander of the D.C. National Guard, and be deployed under federal authorities that allow them to perform law enforcement missions if required.”
BIDEN'S CABINET IS COMPLETE: “If confirmed, his Cabinet will be more diverse than not only Trump’s Cabinet, but also Obama’s,” our colleagues report. The president-elect named career diplomat William Burns as his CIA director, though that post will not be at the Cabinet-level.
There is one major absence: “For the first time in 20 years, there will no Asian American or Pacific Islander secretary, something lawmakers have expressed repeated concerns about, though Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris, a daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, will be part of the Cabinet and first in the line of succession.”
- Some other differences: “While Biden’s Cabinet would include some appointees who have served in Republican administrations, it does not include a high-profile member of the opposite party — something he had discussed early on — or holdovers from the previous administration, as Trump and Obama’s Cabinets both did.”
THE TIDE KEEPS RISING: The Alabama Crimson Tide further cemented their dynasty with a 52-24 rout of Ohio State, capping off their sixth national championship in the last 12 seasons. They rewrote more than a few records along the way, Chuck Culpepper and Des Bieler report from Miami Gardens, Fla.
This run stands alone: