Fast-moving developments in the run-up to the vote have left Trump more politically vulnerable than he has ever been.
At least a handful of House Republicans plan to vote with Democrats to impeach.
The sole article of impeachment that the House is expected to pass Wednesday charging Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors is damning. Its simple clarity explains why this impeachment is no mere futile partisan ritual in the waning days of the most aberrant presidency in history.
“Donald John Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law,” the article reads
In a poetic twist, the vote will take place in the very same chamber that lawmakers fled a week ago in fear of their lives from an invading mob seeking to harm Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and to thwart the transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden.
In time, the events of this disorienting week will take their place alongside milestones — including the Declaration of Independence, the abolition of slavery, Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President John Kennedy — that make up America’s sweeping narrative. But history is experienced in retrospect. Current events are lived forward in all their alarming intensity and are frightening because no one knows how they will end. And the country’s nerves were already at a breaking point nearly a year into a once-in-a-century pandemic that has brought death and sickness and further deepened stark political divides.
‘Armed combat’ in the Capitol
The formal impeachment vote in the House is far from the only barely believable twist leading up to Biden’s inauguration in seven days.
The horror of last week’s events and their grave implications are becoming even clearer as more details emerge about the day when a sitting President incited partisans to assault another branch of government in the act of finalizing his election defeat.
The idea that the rampage in which five people died was just a political outburst that got out of control was debunked Tuesday by the serious tone of a news conference held by the acting district attorney in Washington.
One federal law enforcement official said the videos and other information viewed by investigators paint a scary picture of events inside the Capitol as police and federal agents battled to save lawmakers and staff.
“It was armed combat in that building,” the official said.
Some of the hardening of opinion among lawmakers against Trump may be attributed to briefings on those events and the pending threats to the inauguration.
After emerging from an all-senators briefing on inauguration security, Sen. Chris Van Hollen raised the specter of a “million militia march” on Washington.
“We have no idea how many will come. We need to be prepared,” the Maryland Democrat said.
A warning to the troops
In a simultaneous political earthquake, McConnell, who tethered his now-destroyed Republican majority to the bucking bronco of Trump’s presidency, made it known he was glad the President would be impeached.
McConnell didn’t say how he would vote in a Senate trial. But his shift keeps open the long-shot chance that sufficient Republicans could join a two-thirds majority to secure the first-ever conviction in a presidential impeachment.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney said.
Two other Republicans, Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and John Katko of New York, also said they would vote to impeach, with a number of their GOP colleagues expected to follow suit in a vote that will echo through history, sources told CNN.
“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution,” Pence wrote, after Democratic leaders had warned that an intervention by the vice president would be the only step that could hold off Wednesday’s impeachment vote.
Trump delivers an ominous warning
Action inside the Capitol came as security forces poured into Washington to secure Biden’s inauguration and Trump noticeably dodged an opportunity to cool tensions.
While he said he never wants violence, the President used a trip to his border wall in Texas on Tuesday to reinforce the falsehoods and inflammatory language that ultimately led to his second impeachment.
He branded the process “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics” and warned it was “causing tremendous anger” and was “dangerous” for America at a “very tender time.”
In more ominous comments, Trump said talk of using the 25th Amendment to oust him from office bore no peril for him but could come back to haunt Biden.
“Be careful what you wish for,” the President warned.
Trump also defended his remarks last week at a rally close to the White House that ended with his crowd marching on the Capitol.
With only seven days left in office, the President’s mind is also turning again to a controversial raft of pardons that would constitute yet another abuse of power.
Such a move by the President would be seen in the United States and around the world as yet another insult to democracy. The historic damage that Trump has already inflicted upon America’s reputation in this regard is incalculable.
But the stakes surrounding Wednesday’s vote and what will be a prolonged struggle during the Biden administration to bolster US political institutions can be seen in remarks coming out of authoritarian Russia — the American adversary that interfered in the 2016 election in a bid to help Trump.
“Following the events that unfolded after the presidential elections, it is meaningless to refer to America as the example of democracy,” said Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of the Russian Parliament and a supporter of President Vladimir Putin.
“We are on the verge of reevaluating the standards that are being promoted by the United States of America, that is exporting its vision of democracy and political systems around the world. Those in our country who love to cite their example as leading will also have to reconsider their views.”
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