This became clear on Wednesday as the US House of Representatives began proceedings on Wednesday to impeach Donald Trump for a second time in an unprecedented move in US Presidential history.
Democrats pushed ahead with the impeachment process after vice-president Mike Pence rejected a House resolution asking him to fire Trump by invoking the 25th amendment, which allows a majority of the cabinet to remove an incapacitated President.
Live updates: Trump’s impeachment
Despite Pence’s repudiation of what many Republicans consider a precipitate and unnecessary move given that less than a week remains of the Trump Presidency, some GOP legislators are expected to vote for the impeachment or abstain amid mounting evidence that Trump and his extremist supporters, including some lawmakers, incited a MAGA mob into storming the US Capitol.
Emboldened by the imminence of Trump’s departure, the Department of Justice and the FBI is coming down on the extremists with a heavy hand. Moderate Republicans are also finding their nerve.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President… I will vote to impeach the President,” Liz Cheney, the third ranking Republican in the House and one of several GOP stalwarts breaking from Trump, said. Cheney is the daughter of former vice-president Dick Cheney, who last week initiated a letter signed for ten former defence secretaries warning the US military against becoming tools in any attempted Trump coup.
Following up on that stern message, eight senior Joint Chiefs of Staff led by Gen Mark Milley issued an unusual missive to the entire American armed forces reminding them that their job is to support and defend the Constitution, and to reject extremism.
“As we have done throughout our history, the US military will obey lawful orders from civilian leadership, support civil authorities to protect lives and property, ensure public safety in accordance with the law, and remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” they said in a memo forestalling any coup attempt, amid reports of several former and current men and women in uniform joining the Trump insurgency.
The GOP leadership itself is signaling it is fine with Trump’s second impeachment, in part because they want to put the volatile President, who has “hijacked” the party, out of the 2024 Presidential race and bring the party back to moderation.
Pence, himself a 2024 aspirant, rejected only the invocation of the 25th amendment on constitutional grounds, without any reference to the impeachment. Despite the White House statement claiming they had a “good meeting” on Tuesday, their rift is now public with Trump reportedly exploding at him in one phone call for not supporting his effort to steal the election, telling him, “You can either go down in history as a patriot or you can go down in history as a pussy.”
Who are the patriots and who are not will play out in the political arena over the next few days and weeks. In a terrifying signal for MAGA extremists, including Republican lawmakers who incited the mob, FBI and Department of Justice officials asserted on Wednesday that they are looking at “significant felony cases tied to sedition and conspiracy” involving prison terms of up to 20 years for those involved in the storming of the Capitol.
Democrats are pointing to several incendiary speeches by Trump, his sons, and their minions as evidence of incitement. One congresswoman said she saw a GOP lawmaker conducting MAGA extremists on a tour of the capital the day before the attack that some legislators said caused them to fear death at the hands of the fanatics.
Ending Trump’s political future will be in the hands of Republicans the US Senate. While the House impeachment will have no consequences beyond the indictment, the Senate can effectively debar him from running for office with a conviction, which requires a 2/3rd majority of those present and voting. This means that even if some GOP Senators absent themselves, if not vote for the conviction, Trump will be done in terms of another shot at the White House.
However, Trump still retains some grassroots support of his so-called “base” and it is unlikely GOP Senators who are up for re-election in 2022 mid term polls (when a third of the Senate will be up for grabs) will vote to convict him.