WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump is poised to become the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, as the House on Wednesday took up a measure charging him with inciting last week’s insurrection by supporters who stormed the Capitol to block ratification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
As the House began its momentous debate, the articles were on track to be approved with unanimous Democratic support — and with the support of No. 3 GOP leader Rep. Liz Cheney and at least four other Republicans. To be seen by day’s end: whether the trickle of GOP support for impeachment becomes a wider stream.
“The president of the United States incited this insurrection and this armed rebellion,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaking in a Capitol still reeling from last week’s siege, now safeguarded by more military troops than are currently stationed in Afghanistan. “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation we all love.”
In a major break with the president he has loyally served for four years, a furious Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is considering supporting Trump’s conviction when it comes to a trial in the Senate, according to sources familiar with his thinking.
That could open a path for other Republicans to seize an opportunity to make a clean break with an increasingly unpopular and erratic president. Senior Republicans estimated that no more than 10 to 12 members would vote for impeachment.
Some House Republicans were still visibly shaken by the insurrection in their workplace only one week ago.
“If you work in this building every day, [Wednesday’s attack] is much more difficult to process. given the nature of this building and the deep respect for it, the deep love. That’s the jarring part for members,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., a member of leadership.
Still, he said most Republicans will oppose because of what they perceive to be an impeachment based on politics, pointing to speculation that House Democrats would hold the articles of impeachment until some of Biden’s Cabinet can be approved.
That “tells me they’ve thought through the threat of imminent dangers and this is now political calculation they’ve made on the impeachment vote. That really belies the political nature of it,” he said.
It is a fast-moving scene of political tumult, an appropriate coda for a Trump career that has broken precedent, norms and laws at every turn. Even in the Senate, Republicans are beginning to envision what was unthinkable just days ago: that there might be enough votes to produce the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump, although most likely not until he is out of office.