President Donald Trump’s impeachment firewall has begun to crack.
A day before the House is set to charge Trump with ‘willful incitement of insurrection’ — the gravest allegation ever lodged against a sitting president — fissures in the Republican Party Tuesday threatened to transform the vote into a resounding bipartisan rebuke.
And after Vice President Mike Pence officially rejected Democrats’ demands he forcibly remove Trump by using the 25th Amendment, the House will move forward with impeachment Wednesday, this time with key Republican support.
“The facts are very clear — the president called for this seditious attack,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday night. “Removal of the president is an unprecedented action but it is required because it is an unprecedented moment in history.”
Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, punctuated the GOP defections Tuesday night with a statement announcing her support for impeachment and accusing Trump of being singularly responsible for the mob that led a deadly and destructive march to the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“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 in a statement. “The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.”
In another significant turn of events, the top two congressional Republicans — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — have privately signaled they too are furious and open to punishing Trump in some way for his role inciting the violence that led to five deaths, including one police officer.
McConnell has indicated Trump’s actions qualify him for removal from office, according to a source familiar with his thinking. McCarthy, perhaps Trump’s most loyal ally on the Hill, has privately said he remains opposed to impeachment but has asked GOP lawmakers whether he should pressure the president to resign, according to a Republican lawmaker.
Cheney’s public support was quickly interpreted across Capitol Hill as a sign that more GOP lawmakers could break ranks and back impeachment — and potentially foreshadowed a splinter in a Republican Party that has become nearly solely defined by its fealty to Trump. It also offers further evidence of the fury that’s been intensifying among lawmakers of both parties, who were in personal danger on Wednesday in the Capitol.
The House passed a resolution by a 223-205 margin late Tuesday calling on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment despite the vice president formally rejecting the idea in a letter to Pelosi hours earlier.
“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our nation or consistent with the Constitution,” Pence said in a letter to Pelosi.