On the Hill
JANUARY SURPRISE: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's decision to signal he is open to impeaching President Trump has dramatically shifted the endgame for the Twitterless man on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
McConnell's (R-Ky.) turnabout — he was reported by the New York Times to be pleased with the idea of impeaching the president after Trump incited a riot at the U.S. Capitol and Republicans lost the Senate majority — has changed the GOP calculus as the House will today likely vote to impeach the president for the second time.
The majority leader's move means, according to Senate Republican aides, White House staffers and GOP strategists we spoke to, it's no longer out of the realm of possibility the Senate could vote to convict the president even as Joe Biden is slated to be sworn in a week from now.
- “President Trump planned and incited a riot against our democracy to stay in power — that’s an impeachable offense,” a GOP Senate aide said point blank.
- McConnell's sway with his caucus? “Probably huge,” a White House staffer said of the difference it might make in pushing fence-sitters to consider voting to convict Trump, which would require two-thirds of the Senate.
- “Yes, if he really tried and wanted to get to 17 [Republican lawmakers], he probably could,” a former GOP Senate aide told Power Up.
- So which 17 Republican members might ultimately convict Trump? One GOP strategist speculated Trump's removal might be supported by “old, random members 96 percent of the country couldn't pick out of a lineup.”
Receipts, please: The Kentucky Republican has yet to make a personal commitment to vote to convict Trump. And some view his telegraphing a desire to “purge” Trump from the party and private conclusion that Trump has probably “committed impeachable offenses" to the Times's Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman, and Nick Fandos as the most expedient way to create an opening for Republicans to move away from Trump and embrace other GOP leaders.
- “I'm not really sure he wants to remove him… just wants to bring down Trump's popularity enough that it becomes okay again to criticize him,” the former GOP Senate aide added.
- A person who spoke with McConnell told our colleagues Josh Dawsey and Phil Rucker the soon-to-be minority leader still “wants to hear evidence.”
- The marriage of convenience between McConnell and Trump has essentially collapsed in recent weeks. They haven't spoken since Dec. 14 and "McConnell has told others he never plans to speak to Trump again and is furious with him,” Josh reports.
- TL;DR: "If Mitch is a yes, [Trump's] done," a Senate GOP source told CNN.
Yet McConnell's move has opened the floodgates for others Republicans to turn against Trump as the House prepares to vote this afternoon on a single article of impeachment charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection.” It's created a roller-coaster situation for Republicans who are hemming and hawing over how to proceed.
An unrepentant Trump did not help his own case: during a visit to Alamo, Tex. on Tuesday. During the president's first public appearance in six days, he denied any responsibility for the violent riot that resulted in several deaths.
- “He said his remarks encouraging throngs of supporters last Wednesday to march to the Capitol in a show of force to pressure and intimidate lawmakers to overturn the election results were ‘totally appropriate,’” per Josh and Phil.
- “The impeachment hoax is a continuation of the greatest and most vicious witch hunt in the history of our country and is causing tremendous anger and division and pain, far greater than most people will ever understand, which is very dangerous for the U.S.A., especially at this very tender time,” Trump told reporters.
Count 'em: At least five House Republicans are expected to join Democrats in impeaching Trump, making him the first president in American history to be impeached twice. The third ranking House Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who the president explicitly called “weak" and encouraged his supporters to “get rid of” during his pre-riot speech, has backed the impeachment effort, along with the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. John Katko (N.Y.).
- “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney said in a statement. “I will vote to impeach the president.”
- “Cheney’s historic decision Tuesday to vote to impeach President Trump had its roots in a dramatic phone call from her father, former vice president Richard B. Cheney, who was watching events unfold on television last week and warned that she was being verbally attacked by the president,” our colleague Michael Kranish reports.
The rest of 'em: Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) became the fourth House Republican to support impeaching Trump, according to our colleague Mike DeBonis.
- Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) yesterday signed on: “There is no doubt in my mind that the President of the United States broke his oath of office and incited this insurrection … I will vote in favor of impeachment.”
- Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) became the fifth to say she'll vote “yea”: “I believe President Trump acted against his oath of office, so I will vote to impeach him.”
- Our colleague J.M. Rieger is keeping track of the GOP defectors here. The number could very well rise throughout the day.
Alternative justice: Six House Republicans introduced a resolution censuring Trump for trying to overturn his defeat in the presidential race and “violating his oath of office,” according to our colleague Felicia Sonmez — an off-ramp of sorts.
“My Kevin” — Trump's fabled pet-name for the top House Republican Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — will not be whipping his members one way or the other. The minority leader, however, has been a source of frustration for members who believe he's not done enough to distance himself from the president in the wake of last week's riot.
- McCarthy has not publicly said whether he supports the impeachment process but is “personally opposed to impeachment,” per the Times.
- He previously supported the “extreme and ill-fated attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the Supreme Court last month,” our colleague Aaron Blake notes. McCarthy also “stood back as McConnell issued strong statements about the election being over, essentially foreclosing the idea that the Senate would comply with House Republicans’ attempt to overturn the result.”
- Since last Wednesday's attack, McCarthy has been all over the place, veering “from asking Republican colleagues if he should call on Mr. Trump to resign to privately floating impeachment to his current posture, opposed to impeachment but open to a censure. He even approached Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, about a censure vote, saying he could deliver a large number of Republican votes for a formal rebuke if Democrats backed off impeachment,” Martin and Haberman report.
- 👀: After four years with no daylight between the two, a Republican Hill staffer notes to Power Up: “It’s very interesting that Kevin McCarthy is now working to distance himself from Trump with everything his office is leaking about their conversations — and he can’t be on the receiving end of a mean Trump tweet.”
About last night: the House adopted a resolution officially calling on Vice President Pence to remove Trump from office by invoking the 25th Amendment. Kinzinger was the only Republican to vote for it.
- “Pence had informed the House he would not take such a step, calling it too divisive and saying ‘now is the time to heal.’"
Backdrop: Just before Pence left for the Capitol last week to oversee the electoral vote count, Trump called him to his residence to deliver him one final message, the Times's Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni report.
- “You can either go down in history as a patriot … or you can go down in history as [an expletive],” Trump told Pence in the phone call, according to two people briefed on the conversation, the Times said.
- “The blowup between the nation’s two highest elected officials then played out in dramatic fashion as the president publicly excoriated the vice president at an incendiary rally and sent agitated supporters to the Capitol where they stormed the building — some of them chanting ‘Hang Mike Pence.’”
FBI SENT WARNING BEFORE RIOT: “A day before rioters stormed Congress, an FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and ‘war,’ according to an internal document reviewed by The Washington Post that contradicts a senior official’s declaration the bureau had no intelligence indicating anyone at last week’s demonstrations planned to do harm,” Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky report.
- What it means: “The warning is the starkest evidence yet of the sizable intelligence failure that preceded the mayhem, which claimed the lives of five people, although one law enforcement official, said the failure was not one of intelligence but of acting on the intelligence.”
The entire Joint Chiefs of Staff released a statement condemning “sedition and insurrection”:
DOJ LOOKING INTO SEDITION CHARGES: “The investigation, one of the largest ever undertaken by the department, includes counterterrorism and counterintelligence facets and has led to charges against more than 70 people and identified 170 suspects to date, acting U.S. attorney Michael R. Sherwin of D.C. said. Those arrest figures are expected to increase into the hundreds, if not ‘exponentially,’” Spencer S. Hsu, Keith L. Alexander and Shayna Jacobs report.
- Key quote: “People are going to be shocked with egregious activity in the Capitol,” Sherwin said of video footage and witness accounts that are not yet public.
More harrowing accounts: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said she had a “very close encounter” on the day of the riot and said “I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive,” BuzzFeed News's Sarah Mimms reports. While the chief of staff to Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Sarah Groh, told the Boston Globe “every panic button in my office had been torn out — the whole unit.” Groh said had used the system before and couldn't explain what happened.
- Another lawmaker accused her colleagues of helping the would-be rioters:
SWEEPING SECURITY PLANNED FOR INAUGURATION: “[Today], the Secret Service will take command of security preparations at the U.S. Capitol and other federal buildings, backed by as many as 15,000 National Guard troops, thousands of police and tactical officers, and layers of eight-foot steel fencing,” Carol D. Leonnig, Karoun Demirjian, Justin Jouvenal and Nick Miroff report.
- Key quote: “Everyone can just rest assured they are throwing the kitchen sink at this event,” said one Secret Service official involved in protective planning. The Secret Service has sent out a call to all of its field offices to send agents to Washington.
- Between 3,000 and 4,000 local law enforcement officers will be deputized and— at the request of the D.C. police department — will come into Washington.
Veteran Secret Service and Homeland Security officials say they've never seen anything like this: “Threats they fear include a plot by armed groups to encircle the White House or the U.S. Capitol and the inauguration event, as well as the possibility that gunmen could stage coordinated attacks against less-fortified targets in the city.”
Outside the Beltway
FIRST WOMAN EXECUTED BY FEDS SINCE 1953: “Lisa Montgomery was executed in Indiana early this morning, becoming the first woman to die under the federal death penalty in nearly seven decades,” Ann E. Marimow and Robert Barnes report.
- A final plea before the Supreme Court was unsuccessful: “Her sentence was carried out after the Supreme Court lifted one stay and declined to grant another last-minute request for a delay from her attorneys. The court’s three liberals, Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, all said they would have granted the request for a stay.”
Her lawyers had begun an all-out effort to delay any decision by just a few days: “She knew Biden had promised to end the federal death penalty. ‘That’s how positive I’m being,' Montgomery told her sister Diane Mattingly during a December phone call,” the 19th's Ko Bragg reports.
- Background: “In 2004, she killed Bobbie Jo Stinnett, a pregnant woman, and kidnapped the child that she cut from Stinnett’s stomach. Montgomery’s attorneys and family say she was in the midst of a dissociative episode. A district court blocked the execution of two people later this week, which means Montgomery could be the 11th and final execution under the Trump administration, which resumed federal executions after a nearly two decade hiatus.”
- The New York Times's Elizabeth Bruenig has a must read on the Trump administration's push to execute federal death-row inmates before leaving office.
In the agencies
MAJOR REVERSAL ON VACCINES: “The Trump administration announced sweeping changes to its vaccination rollout, including making all of the coronavirus vaccine supply immediately available, urging states to provide shots to anyone 65 and older and warning states with lagging inoculations that they could lose some of their shots to speedier places,” Lena H. Sun, Laurie McGinley, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Amy Goldstein report.
- It's not clear how this will play out: “Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters in a briefing that in two weeks, the government would begin ‘redirecting’ shots to states based on the size of their 65-and-older population and the pace of their vaccinations.” Of course, Azar will not be the HHS secretary by that time.
Bidenworld has some concerns: “Officials said immediately including people 64 and under with a high-risk condition — which can mean everything from diabetes to obesity — would stretch supply and saddle states desperately in need of additional resources to augment their workforce and stand up mass vaccination sites,” Lena and Isaac report.
- Some officials are worried about more chaos and confusion: The moves “however, won’t fix the chaos and inequities that have marked the vaccine rollout so far, including low uptake in underprivileged communities hardest hit by the pandemic, public health experts and some officials representing state health departments told Politico's Alice Miranda Ollstein and Rachel Roubein.
POMPEO CANCELS FINAL FOREIGN TRIP: “The abrupt cancellation — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo phoned NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about the decision around noon Tuesday while some of his aides were already on the ground in Belgium — comes at a perilous time in U.S. politics,” John Hudson reports.
Behind the decision: “Some of the officials Pompeo planned to meet with have issued public statements of concern about the violence at the Capitol incited by Trump as Pompeo has tried to castigate those impugning the health of America’s democracy as committing ‘slander.’”
- The secretary's itinerary had already been shortened: State canceled “a planned stop in Luxembourg after its foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, called Trump a ‘criminal’ and a ‘political pyromaniac’ in an interview for feeding the rioting at the Capitol,” per the Times's David E. Sanger and Lara Jakes.
In the media
Some GOP lawmakers rail against metal detectors: “Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert (Texas), Steve Stivers (Ohio), Van Taylor (Texas), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Debbie Lesko (Ariz.) and Larry Bucshon (Indiana), among others, were seen not complying with police at checkpoints or complained about the measure's implementation …,” NBC News's Dartunorro Clark, Alex Moe and Haley Talbot report. The measures were implemented by the Capitol Police in the wake of last week's riot.
- A proposed $1,000 fine for not wearing masks isn't going over well either: “It is a move that comes as at least three Democratic House members — Reps. Brad Schneider (Ill.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.) — revealed within 24 hours that they had tested positive for the coronavirus after sheltering with dozens others in a committee room during the riot. Several Republicans in the room refused to wear a mask,” Paulina Firozi reports.
Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to face criminal charges over Flint water crisis: “The Associated Press could not determine the nature of the charges against Snyder, former health department director Nick Lyon and others who were in his administration, including Rich Baird, a friend who was the governor’s key troubleshooter while in office,” the AP's Ed White, David Eggert and Tammy Webber report.
Sheldon Adelson dead at 73: “Adelson, a billionaire casino tycoon and free-spending political donor who helped bankroll conservative candidates in the United States and Israel, and who pushed the governments of both countries to reject the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, died Jan. 11 in Malibu, Calif.," Donald Frazier writes in The Post's obit.
WHAT IS RELAX?: “Ken Jennings isn’t the only former ‘Jeopardy!’ winner given a chance to fill the shoes of the late Alex Trebek. Aaron Rodgers will also be posing the answers to panelists later this year,” Des Bieler reports of the Packers QB.