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Impeachment: Second Time Around
One of the weirder sentiments expressed by Donald Trump’s Republican defenders during today’s debate on the impeachment resolution was that the Democrats had the chutzpah to impeach Trump twice. It wasn’t enough to have impeached him for conditioning aid to a foreign country on that country’s willingness to defame Joe Biden (then his likely Democratic opponent), but now, the Democrats were coming for him twice! Imagine that!
It’s an interesting argument, which, if followed to its logical conclusion, would mean that no career criminal could ever be charged for any but his or her first offense. But this was hardly the most ridiculous argument that Trump’s distinguished lady and gentlemen goons made on the floor of Congress today.
The most nauseating, and commonly voiced, was that the nation needed unity and that Democrats were thus unsettling the cosmic calm. That was largely the substance of Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s presentation. This was the same Kevin McCarthy who voted to overturn the popular and electoral votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania last week; the same Kevin McCarthy who himself had insisted that Trump had won the election when he plainly and decisively had lost it; the same Kevin McCarthy who thereby helped create the political space for his Republican colleagues to persist in spouting such falsehoods to the point that they also incited the mob that attacked the Capitol last week. Trump, of course, was not alone in his incitement; he was joined by hundreds of Republican elected officials at all levels of government, and a critical mass of Rupert Murdoch’s broadcasting thugs and their voluble, seditious ilk.
Republicans also objected to the speed of the proceedings, to the absence of witnesses called before committees, as if the telecast of Trump’s speech last Wednesday to his followers charging them to go to the Capitol didn’t exist. But Republicans may be thankful that no witnesses were called, for if they had been, McCarthy would have been called by the prosecution. It’s been reported that he and Trump engaged in a screaming phone call as the mob coursed through the Capitol; McCarthy begging Trump to tell them to stop; Trump refusing to do so. It would have been interesting to hear McCarthy’s testimony about that call. One of the House Republicans who voted for impeachment today cited Trump’s refusal to call off his mob as the decisive factor in his vote. If anything, Trump’s declining to tell his supporters to stop attacking Congress is even more of a prima facie violation of his oath than his incitement to attack in the first place.
The one aspect of the past 24 hours’ events that lends itself to delicious speculation is the conduct of Mitch McConnell, who has been hinting that he might well vote to convict Trump when the Senate takes up impeachment. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that McConnell holds Trump responsible for the Republican defeats in Georgia’s senatorial elections and thus for the Republicans’ loss of the Senate majority and his own demotion to minority leader. It’s also reasonable to suspect that McConnell believes Trump will continue to drag the Republicans down in 2022, 2024, and who knows how long after that if he continues to loom over the party, much less if he’s its presidential nominee in 2024. Should Trump be convicted by the Senate, of course, he can’t be that nominee—a consummation, McConnell must hope, devoutly to be wished.
Republicans, as my colleague Bob Kuttner has written, will doubtless reunite in opposition to anything President Biden proposes, but the rip that has now opened in the party won’t be easy to mend, particularly if Trumpites mount primary challenges to Republicans who’ve jumped off the Trump ship, and if the Republicans who stuck with Trump lose re-election in competitive states and districts. Which would be wonderful; this is a party that deserves to tear itself to pieces.
~ HAROLD MEYERSON