A live blog covering the day’s impeachment news and developments for Wednesday, Jan. 13.
5:20 p.m.: McConnell Releases Statement
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement confirming that Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial will not happen until after Joe Biden is inaugurated. McConnell seeks to justify this by arguing that a Senate impeachment trial deserves a full and thorough process, which of course McConnell was chief in blocking during the last impeachment. Perhaps more facts will emerge in the coming days that will push 17 Senate Republicans—the number of members of his conference needed to join Democrats in order to convict—to vote for conviction, vindicating McConnell’s decision not to move forward with a trial in the week ahead. Perhaps there will be no more right-wing violence perpetrated by Trump supporters in Washington D.C. and around the country backed by the president in the days ahead. I guess we’re about to find out. Here is the full statement:
4:40 p.m.: Trump Impeached Again
Donald Trump has become the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice after 10 Republicans joined a united Democratic caucus to impeach the president for incitement of insurrection, with four Republicans abstaining. The final vote was 232–197 to impeach. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier in the day that he would not be returning the Senate from pro forma session for a trial, and so it is almost certain that Trump will finish out his term and that a trial will only begin once Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president. While Trump cannot be removed from office without a Senate trial before Jan. 20, he can still be barred from federal office if he’s convicted on a two-thirds vote and then if a simple majority votes to ban him from running again once the trial begins. As it stands, such a trial is not likely to start until Inauguration Day at the earliest. Here is the list of Republicans who voted to impeach:
3:45 p.m.: Remembering What’s in the Impeachment Article
One of the things that stands out in the 74-page House Judiciary Committee report supporting impeachment is the fact that Trump not only allegedly incited the mob that eventually stormed the Capitol as it was in session, but then did nothing for many hours to quell it. As the report notes, “although the insurrection began immediately following the conclusion of his speech, President Trump did not swiftly denounce the violence, or order his supporters to lay down their arms.” To the contrary, as he watched the violence unfold on television, he was reportedly “borderline enthusiastic because it meant the certification was being derailed.”
His aides and staff looked on in horror as he used the precious time he could have spent supporting law enforcement instead telephoning Sen. Tommy Tuberville “to object and delay further the counting of electoral votes.” Similarly, Trump’s initial public statements began with a retweet at 1:49 p.m. of a video of the rally, which included his previous statements that “our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. To use a favorite term that all of you came up with, we will stop the steal. … You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.” As video surfaced of legislators fleeing for their lives and crouching under benches, at 2:24 p.m. the president tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
The report goes on to note that “just minutes after the Sergeant at Arms announced that the Capitol had been reclaimed from the mob, and much of the destruction had occurred, [Trump] tweeted: ‘These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.’ ” The report adds that “as Senator Sasse relayed from a conversation with senior White House officials, President Trump was ‘walking around the White House confused about why other people on his team weren’t as excited as he was as you had rioters pushing against Capitol Police trying to get into the building.’ ”
As the House gathered today to debate impeachment, Trump was no doubt watching the last chapter of this yearslong reality show, taking notes and taking names about who among the speakers is evincing loyalty to him, and who is parroting his false claims about stolen elections, Marxists, and leftist false flags. He is watching because in his version of reality, this event is yet more proof of the “witch hunt” and “hoax” of which he is a persistent victim. It’s not an accident that Trump’s most ardent, unhinged supporters in the House are citing Madonna, Robert De Niro, and Kathy Griffin as the real causes of last week’s insurrection—the line between politics and entertainment doesn’t exist for any of them.
Donald Trump must be at least dimly aware of the legal peril that awaits him after next week. His next act will doubtless be pardons for himself, his family, and various others, in what he believes will be the season finale of this monstrous era. There is no more dangerous time than the moment in which this made-for-television coup becomes real for the president. It’s not clear it’s yet happened. It may happen after today.
1:55 p.m.: Mitch McConnell Refuses to Bring Back Senate for Trial
On Tuesday, it was widely reported that outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was privately supportive of impeaching Donald J. Trump a second time. What was unclear from the reporting was whether or not McConnell would actually support the effort to convict and remove Trump before his term ends in one week.
On Wednesday, as the House debated making Trump the first president in history to be impeached twice, McConnell gave his answer. McConnell press secretary Doug Andres confirmed on Twitter reporting from the Washington Post’s Seung Min Kim that the majority leader “would not consent to reconvening immediately under the 2004 emergency authorities.” Because the Senate is in pro forma session and McConnell refuses to join Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in calling it back based on emergency powers, Min Kim reported, “the Senate won’t reconvene Friday, or almost certainly before Jan. 19. Trial in Biden term.”
This means that—barring further catastrophic events that force McConnell’s hands—the Senate will not hold a trial before Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, Trump will not in the coming days become the first president to be removed from office, and Vice President Mike Pence will not become the 46th president of the United States.
Members of the House Republican caucus who opposed impeachment immediately took advantage of the statement from McConnell’s office to say the urgency of the current impeachment vote was now unnecessary.
“What’s more, the Senate has confirmed that no trial will begin until President-elect Biden is sworn in,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said while explaining his vote against impeachment and arguing that the current effort was too rushed.
McCarthy is right that the impeachment will now stretch into the early days of the Biden presidency, perhaps distracting from his agenda and ability to confirm nominees (which maybe is the point of McConnell’s decision). If and when Trump and his supporters inspire violence in the American capital, or throughout the United States, in the weeks ahead, the House can say it did its duty to try to stop him. Mitch McConnell and the U.S. Senate will not be able to say the same thing.
12:50 p.m.: Lindsey Graham Says Pro-Impeachment Republicans Are Damaging the Party
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham came out strongly against impeachment in a statement arguing that it “will do great damage to the institutions of government and could invite further violence at a time the President is calling for calm.” He characterized Democrats as trying to have a “do-over” of Trump’s first impeachment and accused Republicans who support the effort of damaging the party and the country. “The president, who will be leaving office in less than a week, has committed to an orderly transfer of power, encouraging calm and rejecting violence,” Graham said. Vanity Fair has reported that the senator was key in convincing the president to release a video on Thursday night assuring a smooth transition of power after warning him about the threat of impeachment. Graham also flew with Trump on Air Force One to Texas on Tuesday, where the president gave a speech touting his immigration policies and refused to accept any responsibility for the Capitol riot.
11:30 a.m.: Airbnb Cancels All D.C. Reservations for Inauguration Week
Airbnb announced Wednesday morning that it will be canceling all reservations in the D.C. area for inauguration week in response to travel advisories from local officials and reports that armed militias and hate groups are planning to disrupt the proceedings. The home-rental company specifically cited requests from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan that people not travel to the area for the inauguration and instead participate virtually. Airbnb says it will reimburse both guests and hosts for the cancellations, and users will not be able to book new D.C. reservations for that week. Reports emerged last week that members of the Proud Boys and other violent extremist groups were staying at Airbnbs in the city. The company has said it has banned a number of people who were involved in the Capitol riot from its platform.
A statement from Airbnb reads, “We are continuing our work to ensure hate group members are not part of the Airbnb community. As we’ve learned through media or law enforcement sources the names of individuals confirmed to have been responsible for the violent criminal activity at the United States Capitol on January 6, we’ve investigated whether the named individuals have an account on Airbnb.”
11:02 a.m.: Unpacking the Republican Argument Against Impeachment
It’s Groundhog Day on the floor of the House of Representatives. As they do after every mass shooting, after every violent domestic terror attack, and as they did at the last impeachment process in the House, Republicans are arguing that it is too soon for politics, and instead it is time for “healing.” “Healing,” in each of those contexts, is code for doing nothing. “Healing” means accepting what happened peacefully and prayerfully while making vague gestures at things that should be done in the political realm only later.
There is never a prescription for what that healing should look like, short of total capitulation to doing nothing. Ironically, as the Republicans in the House call for a brief pause to heal, they simultaneously urge that, since Donald Trump has agreed to leave office in seven days, it’s too late to act. We are back in the loop of every mass tragedy in America, in which it is too soon for politics to intrude on national grief, and it is also too late. One wonders, as we did after Sandy Hook, the Gilroy shooting, the Parkland shooting, the Charleston shooting, and every other, when that mystical nanosecond occurs in which it’s neither too soon to talk about consequences nor too late. What we have learned in these four years is that it is always too soon to call out this president, and we should instead always wait to see if it gets worse. But when it gets worse, it’s not time to do anything; it is always instead time to heal.
We will hear a lot of repurposed outrage today about a “rush to judgment” and the absence of “due process” for the president—something he is guaranteed in the Senate proceedings, not the House. The real argument Republicans are making is that the party of victims’ rights, the party of law and order, the party of “blue lives matter,” believes that there is no role for law or politics to play in healing a nation.
10:05 a.m.: National Guard Sleeps on the Capitol Floor
Multiple journalists took pictures of what appear to be armed members of the National Guard sleeping on the floor of the U.S. Capitol as Congress met to vote on impeachment Wednesday morning.
The Department of Defense has authorized the deployment of about 15,000 National Guard members to Washington in the run-up to the inauguration. The Capitol has dramatically ratcheted up its security measures in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot. The perimeter of the complex has been sealed off with 7-foot nonscalable barriers, and members of Congress now have to go through metal detectors.
9:14 a.m.: Where Does McConnell Stand on Impeachment? Wherever Serves Him Best.
The Senate majority leader is perhaps the most important figure in any potential impeachment proceeding because, while Democrats in Congress will surely vote in favor of impeachment, McConnell has the ability to galvanize Republicans in the Senate to vote to convict the president. We’re certainly not there yet, and a lot of previously Trumpy Republicans would have to sign on to get to 67 votes in the Senate to convict. As things currently stand, any such GOP effort to get a conviction would likely cause a rupture in the party, but McConnell didn’t get to where he is by not being able to read his party and his party’s voters. “If Mitch is a ‘yes,’ ” a Senate GOP source told CNN, “[Trump’s] done.” That’s still a big if, even if the New York Times is reporting he’s “pleased” with impeachment rumblings out of the House.
Wherever McConnell ultimately comes down on impeachment, you can be sure, first and foremost, it will serve his own self-interest.