“In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience – the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men – each man must decide for himself the course he will follow." -- John F. Kennedy
Welcome to the Countdown Journal. There are six days left until the Inauguration of Joe Biden.
Let’s start with the front pages:
Choose your adventure. On last night’s Bulwark+ livestream, I posed the question: Is the glass half full, or half empty?
The 10 GOP votes to impeach Donald Trump marked the largest bipartisan impeachment vote in history, and a significant break with the lock-step support he enjoyed the first time around.
But, but, but… it was just 10.
A week after Trump incited a violent and deadly attack on the Capitol, 93% of House Republicans voted against impeachment yesterday. And today we get a new Axios/Ipsos poll that shows even though a majority of Americans support removing Trump from office immediately, much of the GOP base is sticking with the Orange One.
64% of Republicans said they support Trump's recent behavior.
57% of Republicans said Trump should be the 2024 GOP candidate.
Only 17% think he should be removed from office.
The Four Caucuses of the GOP.
Here’s where we are: the GOP (at least in the House) broke down into four broad groups: The Profiles in Courage; the Sedition Caucus; the Mugwumps; and the Terrified.
I. The Profiles in Courage Caucus
The 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump:
Liz Cheney, WY; Anthony Gonzalez, OH; Jamie Herrera-Beutler, WA; John Katko, NY; Adam Kinzinger, Ill.; Peter Meijer, MI; Dan Newhouse, WA; Tom Rice, SC; Fred Upton, MI; David Valadao, CA.
How risky was the vote? Eight of the 10 represent districts that Trump won:
Cheney #WYAL (Trump+43)
Newhouse #WA04 (Trump+19)
Rice #SC07 (Trump+19)
Kinzinger #IL16 (Trump+16)
Gonzalez #OH16 (Trump+14)
Upton #MI06 (Trump+4)
Meijer #MI03 (Trump+4)
Beutler #WA03 (Trump+3)
Katko #NY24 (Biden+9)
Valadao #CA21 (Biden+10)
They were eloquent. They were principled. But the 10 courageous reps were greatly outnumbered by the number of craven colleagues who either embraced Trump’s disgrace, or lacked the will to hold him accountable.
II. The Mugwump Caucus
This consisted of representatives who seemed to fully understand the enormity of Trump’s conduct… but still voted against impeachment.
Yeats had these folks in mind when he wrote about the best lacking all conviction.
The group includes freshman Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who earlier had said that the spasm of violence had destroyed Trump’s legacy. “Everything that he’s worked for... all of that — his entire legacy — was wiped out yesterday,” she said.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) also declared: “Make no mistake: what happened last week at the U.S. Capitol was unlawful and unacceptable. President Trump showed a complete lack of leadership in the face of an attack on the U.S. government.”
She also admitted that too often, GOP support for Trump, “meant turning a blind eye to arrogant, prideful, and bullying behavior. We all need to take some responsibility, tone down the rhetoric….”
But, in the end, she voted no.
And then there was Wisconsin’s own Mike Gallagher, who said all the right things. "I strongly opposed the un-Constitutional and dangerous effort to overturn the election on January 6th, but I think impeachment accomplishes nothing.”
You might even remember him from last week:
And here is what he said yesterday:
First, let’s be candid. President Trump bears responsibility for the tragic events of January 6th, 2021. He lied to his supporters, insisted that his “sacred landslide” election was stolen, and suggested that Vice President Pence should or even could reverse the outcome. He then dithered for hours as the Vice President, the Congress, and its employees were in mortal danger, castigating Pence as a coward. Many of my colleagues carry a heavy share of blame as well, jumping into the fray for political advantage. And of course, those in the insurrectionist mob who chose to desecrate our seat of government, attack our police, and embarrass our country must face the full force of the law.
But, when it came to the moment of decision, he also voted no, arguing that "a swift and strong censure from Congress is the most prudent path forward.”
So close… but not enough.
III. The Sedition Caucus
We know their names: the 138 GOP reps who voted to overturn the presidential election, even after the failed insurrection attempt. Many of them had also signed a letter of support for the absurd and mendacious Texas lawsuit that sought to disenfranchise tens of millions of voters, and overturn the presidential election.
They make up nearly 2/3 of the House GOP Conference.
IV. The Terrified.
We don’t know how many Republicans were simply too afraid to vote yes, but fear was definitely a factor.
Politico’s Tim Alberta agreed. (I’ve unrolled his Twitter thread here.)
Crow is right. Numerous House Rs have received death threats in the past week, and I know for a fact several members *want* to impeach but fear casting that vote could get them or their families murdered. Not spinning or covering for anyone. Just stating the chilling reality.
This is why, as I’ve written/said before, Republicans should have asserted themselves and held Trump accountable from Day One. Their silence in the face of his manifest abuses contributed to the formation of a cult that now threatens their lives. Never should have come to this.
And yes: Trump’s rhetoric the last 5 years has stirred constant threats of violence against immigrants, journalists, Democratic lawmakers and others. Republicans are not the only ones being terrorized here. All the more reason for Americans to band together and say never again.
The bottom-line: threats and intimidation have become — and are likely to remain — an essential feature of Republican politics.
A reminder that the Senate is not the House. “McConnell breaks with Trump, says he’ll consider convicting him in Senate trial.”
The most striking position came from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said Wednesday that he will consider convicting Trump on inciting the attempted insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 — a remarkable break between the two men who worked in lockstep for four years, even as the majority leader continually deflected questions about Trump’s untoward conduct and rhetoric.
It was also a dramatic shift from his position during Trump’s first impeachment a year ago, when he publicly stressed that he was “not an impartial juror” and privately worked in concert with White House officials to map out the president’s eventual acquittal in the Senate.
Spare me the “new tone” bullshit. Despite the boilerplate denunciations of violence and an animatronic appeal for “unity,” Trump did not back off from the Big Lie that the election had been stolen. He didn’t concede. he didn’t even mention his successor’s name.
The president offered no note of humility, regret or self-reflection about his two months of false claims that the election was stolen from him….
Mr. Trump did not mention the name of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., he did not concede the election and he did not talk about Mr. Biden’s inauguration, which is to take place next week under extraordinary security because of the threats inspired by the Capitol breach. He also made no mention of the impeachment vote.
1. Make Them Testify
But even if these denunciations and late conversions are more about self-preservation than conscience, they can still have value. And that value is this:
Every single one of these former officials should be forced to testify, under oath, at the Senate’s impeachment trial. Their testimonies should be part of the official government record. And their words should follow Donald Trump for all time.
In a perfect world, these people would step forward and volunteer their testimony. This world is not perfect, so they probably won’t. And in that case, the Senate should demand it.
Because it is difficult to imagine the impact of seeing former Attorney General Bill Barr swearing to Trump’s “betrayal of his office” at the impeachment trial.
We’ll be finished with President Donald Trump on January 20, at the latest. Finding our way to truth and national reconciliation will take a good deal longer.
“Unity” cannot happen until the citizenry understands the truth about Donald Trump. And the people who served under this man have a duty to tell it, again and again.
2. Trump’s Defenders Get Orwell Backwards
Sonny Bunch explains why the soon-to-be ex-president president is more like Big Brother than Twitter ever can be.
Donald Trump wasn’t stripped of his prestigious spot on the microblogging platform because of a disagreement over tax rates or a spat with The Squad. He wasn’t deplatformed because he is pushing for a foreign policy that would harm Twitter or campaigning for GOP officials or shitposting about a hot-button social issue like trans rights.
He had his account taken away because he has lied, repeatedly, about the election. He has lied about fraud. He has lied about the integrity of absentee and mail-in ballots. He has lied about vote counts. He has lied about the courts. He has lied about Mike Pence being able to magically overturn the results of the election. And every time he lied—every time he told his supporters that the democratic process has failed, that every avenue has been exhausted, that despite his best efforts to follow the rules the corrupt elites have stolen the election and perverted our electoral system—he increased the chance of violence. Because his lies and his adamant refusal to properly concede implied that there was only one recourse left.
3. Here’s How To Treat A Disgraced Ex-President
Thomas J. Balcerski asks: Should Donald Trump receive a lifelong salary, a government-funded office, and a presidential library? A look back at past failed presidents.
Whatever happens in Trump’s remaining days in office and in the Senate trial that presumably will ensue, he will most likely be among the presidents ranked worst in surveys, such as those conducted by C-SPAN in 2000, 2009, and 2017. If so, Trump will join the list of other failed presidents, including the man at the bottom of all three of those lists: James Buchanan.
Widely considered the worst president in American history, Buchanan was also the first president to retire in disgrace. His four years in office were exceedingly tumultuous, with the low point being the secession of seven Southern states—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas—from the Union.
Donald Trump’s America.
Aged quite poorly.
No unity until his morally bankrupt defenders get over him and repent
The president’s supporters, however, now plead for understanding and inclusion, for lowering the temperature, for moving on. In speech after speech Wednesday on the floor of the House, the same Republicans who had no objections to the president’s incitement to insurrection now have deep concerns about parliamentary process, the rule of law and national unity.
This is moral charlatanism and I say to hell with it.
It is almost impossible to comprehend the sheer moral poverty of the people calling now for unity. Elected Republicans now admit they fear for their physical safety from their own constituents, but instead of thunderous defenses of the Constitution, we have soft mewling from people like Sen. Marco Rubio and his Bible-Verse-A-Day tweets, or the head-spinning duplicity of Sen. Lindsey Graham, who within days of saying “count me out” of any further sedition was jollying it up with the president on Air Force One.