The uprising brought the country to a crossroads. House Democrats could start another round of impeachment proceedings this week, this time over Trump’s role in inciting the deadly insurrection. If they move forward, Republicans could face another public test of their loyalty. That so few seem willing to speak out, let alone commit, to crackdown on the president suggests that the Capitol siege is less likely to mark the bloody end of Trumpism than the opening of a more dangerous chapter.
Because of their gold-plated bladder, top Republicans have mixed convictions – mostly Trump and his key allies in the electoral college stunt, Sens. Ted Cruz from Texas and Josh Hawley from Missouri – with a familiar refrain: that any meaningful reprimand on this one terrible account would only serve to “politicize” it and “further divide” the country. Plans to re-indict Trump, and even Twitter’s de-platforming of the president, should, as many Republicans have said, be viewed as political moves rather than rational, overdue measures to combat a vicious attack on democracy. But those who would deny the scope of the threat were on Wednesday with no fig leaves – or delusions – an exciting race will start through January 20, when Pence – but not Trump – will attend the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Republicans aren’t too far from Trump
But if Pence relies on the support of his old colleagues on Capitol Hill in his quest to keep Trump informed, he will be disappointed. Just before CNN reported that the Vice President had the 25th amendment on the table, Texas MP Kevin Brady turned it down – en route to impeachment – and ridiculously suggested that it was no different from Trump’s instigation.
“Those who are calling for impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment in response to President Trump’s rhetoric this week are dealing with moderate and inflammatory language themselves,” Brady tweeted, “calling for action that is equally irresponsible and trigger further violence. “
Meanwhile, Hawley, looking to co-opt Trump’s movement to pursue his own lofty ambitions, has spent more time grumbling on Twitter about a canceled book deal than dealing with his role in Wednesday’s affair. Cruz also evades responsibility and even makes the comically implausible argument that he was in fact a consistent critic of the president. For the most part, the Republican leadership was calm and went through the motions to condemn the violence while refusing to support meaningful action in response.
The party’s base has shown little inclination to take a clean break from Trump. On Friday, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, a Trump loyalist who was careful not to take a full break from the president, was re-elected to her post despite the GOP losing control of the house, the White House, in 2018 2020 and the Senate in 2021.
Even Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania who criticized efforts to upgrade the electoral college and told Fox News on Saturday that Trump had “committed criminal acts”, opposed moving the process forward.
“I don’t know if it’s really logistically possible or practical, and I’m not sure if it’s desirable to push him out, what a day or two or three before the day he’ll be finished anyway . ” “Said Toomey.” So I’m not sure this is the best way to go. “
A day later, CNN’s Toomey Jake Tapper told State of the Union that Trump could resign and face “prosecution” after the Capitol uprising. He became the second US Republican Senator to call for the president to resign.
Republicans’ refusal in Congress to have meaningful conversation about what’s next has compelled Democrats to show the way forward. But they have their own political weights to balance.
Biden showed little enthusiasm for impeachment, knowing that a Senate trial would suck the oxygen from his early days in office and provide a high-profile forum for Republicans to argue that his demands for unity and his pledge would meet the passions of the world Partisans to cool were lip service.
“I’m focused on the virus, vaccine and economic growth,” Biden said when asked about the impeachment on Friday. “What Congress decides is that you choose. But I will have to do it, and you have to be ready to start right away.”
Concerns about what impeachment might mean for the early days of Biden’s presidency were raised on Sunday by Whip James Clyburn, the tapper said House Democrats could wait until after the first 100 days of Biden’s tenure to send impeachment articles to the Senate Attempt.
And the new president’s aides are also working hard behind the scenes to find a way to prevent impeachment from being carried out after Biden’s launch, CNN has learned.
The president-elect won’t stand in the way of the House moving forward with impeachment proceedings, but officials have told CNN that its advisors are recommending other solutions to punish Trump without overtaking the start of Biden’s presidency. Delaying the delivery of the impeachment articles to the Senate is one option and another is to blame Trump – a move that could potentially gain more bilateral support than impeachment.
Preparing for what’s to come
The political calculations that are now consuming the brass of both parties are played out against the backdrop of looming threats. Security concerns are mounting before Biden’s opening on January 20th. The chatter in right-wing pro-Trump social media forums has become increasingly virulent – and it is unclear whether the president, even if he so wishes, could curb it.
John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, told CNN that his group saw evidence that the inauguration could become another focal point.
“While the general public was appalled by what happened (Wednesday) at the Capitol, in certain corners of the sort of right-wing conversation what happened is viewed as a success,” he said.
After failing to protect the Capitol last week, some Democrats have raised concerns that the safety of Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris may be at risk. Even a brief rundown of the better-known pro-Trump right-wing online hubs makes the severity of the threat clear – one that has been dismissed as anonymous noise for too long.
Concerns about future violence extend beyond the Capitol and its immediate vicinity. American and United Airlines, with the support of two cabin crew unions, have taken steps to improve safety in the air and on the ground. Both airlines have added staff to airports in the DC area, which also operate the Capitol Police prior to Inauguration Day, and American Airlines has discontinued alcohol service on flights to and from the area.
Members of Congress are getting heightened security – in coordinated efforts by the Capitol Police, the Sergeant at Arms office, and the U.S. Marshals Service – as they travel through airports, according to several Senators, including South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, broke down last week with the President – were harassed by other travelers.
On the hill, Democratic lawmakers are starting to ponder their options and understand this, but without the insurgent bumblebee and the actions of some Capitol police officers, the casualty count could have been much worse. Some have begun planting the seeds for a security review at the Capitol, examining not only the logistics but also the makeup of the security personnel.
New York MP Jamaal Bowman is drafting a bill to set up a commission to investigate the Capitol Police, which in some cases has been accused of either too easily resigning or even welcoming – as in the case of an officer he appeared to be posing for Selfie with an insurgent – the mob entered the building on Wednesday.
“Why was a fascist white supremacist mob able to overwhelm the Capitol Police? Are there links between the white supremacists who launched this attack and members of the police?” Bowman tweeted. “We need answers.”
House Appropriations Committee member Rep. Grace Meng, also from New York, publicly endorsed the legislation and governance of the Democratic Committee, and noted his role in funding the force. A statement said: “The Capitol breach raises serious questions about what law enforcement did and what they should have done differently.”
The Democrats also praised the bravery of some officers, including Brian Sicknick, who, according to officials, died “from injuries on duty”.
US prosecutors are planning a federal homicide investigation into his death, a law enforcement agency told CNN on Friday.
Trump did not personally comment on his death.
This story was updated with additional details on Sunday.
CNN’s Devan Cole, Chandelis Duster and Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.