I can’t tell if his motives here are good or bad. Watch.
“I’m calling on President-elect Biden to pick up the phone to call Nancy Pelosi and the Squad to end the second impeachment” — Lindsey Graham, who says he was with Trump today, just went on Hannity for an interview that had a hostage video quality pic.twitter.com/yx9IrXCVqZ
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 9, 2021
Bad motives: Is he actually encouraging Republicans to blame Joe Biden, who has no role in impeachment, if Pelosi insists on proceeding? Trump and his allies just spent two months relentlessly brainwashing people into believing that Biden stole the presidential election, which led directly to an attack on the U.S. Capitol three days ago, and now here’s Graham giving them a new phony reason to hate him. Is he insane?
Good motives: Graham’s not trying to get anyone to blame Biden. He genuinely believes that impeachment will make a hot political crisis hotter and recognizes that Biden’s the one person who might be able to convince Pelosi to stand down. She’s reportedly “irate” about the attack and telling her caucus that Trump’s guilty of treason. They’re going to impeach him — unless, perhaps, Biden dials her up and reminds her that impeachment will make the task of rebuilding national unity that he’s spent the past nine months extolling harder.
That point is being made opportunistically this morning by other Republicans, none of whom gave a wet sh*t about unity and healing during the many weeks Trump was trying to stage a coup by overturning the election:
Impeaching the President with just 12 days left will only divide our country more. I’ve reached out to President-elect Biden today & plan to speak to him about how we must work together to lower the temperature & unite the country to solve America’s challenges.
My full statement pic.twitter.com/EkkmOAkb7i
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) January 8, 2021
No. 2 House Republican Rep. Steve Scalise: “I don’t think anybody can look and say an impeachment of this president is the thing that’s going to help unite and bring our country together.”
— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) January 9, 2021
“Unity and healing” doesn’t happen with cancel culture and impeachment.
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) January 9, 2021
The unnerving subtext of the clip is that Graham may be honestly worried about Trump’s stability and thinks that further confrontation could spiral. Remember that, according to Vanity Fair, he’s the one who prevailed upon Trump to post that conciliatory video on Thursday night, something the president now reportedly and predictably regrets. Graham may be trying to get both sides to deescalate with an informal bargain: If Dems drop impeachment, Trump will be quiet for the next 11 days and run out the clock. If so, it’s unclear why he expects the president to hold up his end of it.
Or, more ominously, Graham might believe that there’ll be more violence by hardcore “stop the steal” nuts over the next month or two and knows that Trump may be the only person capable of dissuading copycats. The president’s not going to do that out of the goodness of his heart, though, not after allegedly having been “delighted” upon seeing his fans breach the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon. To the extent that he can be prevailed upon to do the right thing, it’ll be easier to lean on him to do that if Congress isn’t busily working to impeach him a second time when it happens.
But what’s Pelosi supposed to do, realistically? “Don’t impeach him, he’s unhinged and might freak out!” is the logic of appeasement. If he didn’t want to get impeached, the time to reflect on that was before he stood in front of an angry mob and told them to head for the Capitol.
Let’s be very clear.
The officials urging for no serious consequences after Wednesday’s attack on our country – including the impeachment, removal, expulsion, and/or indictment of officials who aided, abetted, or incited the attack – are opening the door for it to happen again.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 9, 2021
Here’s where I think this may end up: Pelosi introduces the articles of impeachment next week in the House but doesn’t schedule a vote right away. Whether they vote or not depends on Trump. If he says or does anything nutty before January 20, they vote immediately. If he’s quiet and leaves without incident, they hold off. They can’t just let him slide after inciting a mob attack against their own branch; at the bare minimum, impeachment articles need to be introduced into the record as a warning to posterity that this was an impeachable offense. But if declining to hold a vote would calm the country somewhat as it moves past Trump, then don’t hold it.
Besides, if he goes off the rails after leaving office by encouraging his fans to get violent, presumably the House can hold a vote on the articles of impeachment at that time. Senate Republicans might even be eager to see them do it, as that would give them a chance to formally bar Trump from running again in 2024. Granted, it’s surreal to imagine him actively inciting terrorism and then contending for the GOP presidential nomination in four years, but look at the state of this party.
In fact, that’s the strongest argument for Pelosi to proceed immediately with impeachment, come what may. Make the House GOP show their cards by voting on it. See how many of them are willing to “betray” Trump by agreeing with Democrats that a president who incites a mob to attack the legislature is unfit for office. Force them to take moral ownership of this one way or another. If they want “unity,” it’s readily available: All they need to do is join Democrats in unanimously impeaching him. Instant unity. As Silver says:
If there’s a significant political backlash for impeaching Trump for **inciting an insurrection** then we’re probably completely fucked no matter what. https://t.co/oCF7wq3rzm
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) January 9, 2021
There may well be a backlash. More than 70 percent of Republicans oppose impeaching Trump or using the 25th Amendment, according to Morning Consult, and 41 percent say he should continue to have a “major role” in the GOP despite what happened on Wednesday. His job approval is down six points among GOPers since the Capitol attack but still stands at a robust 78/21. On the other hand, two-thirds of Republicans called the Capitol mob “criminals” or “fools” in a poll taken by Reuters. Only a small number are defending what happened. They’re just not blaming the president for it.
What’s notable in both polls is how low support for impeachment is. Although a combined 57 percent told Reuters they wanted Trump to leave office early, 30 percent wanted it to be via the 25th Amendment versus just 14 percent who want him impeached. (Another 13 percent want him to resign.) Morning Consult’s poll also found a greater share in favor of the 25th Amendment, 49/37, than impeachment, 44/43. That surprises me because impeachment is a more familiar procedure. Maybe people who want Trump out think it’ll take too long to go through another song and dance in the House, preferring quick action by the cabinet instead. Either way, the public clearly isn’t gung ho to see him impeached again with 11 days left, which is probably all McConnell and his caucus need to know. Even if Pelosi impeaches, the Senate will probably run out the clock until January 20 and then declare that the issue is moot because he’s left office.
In lieu of an exit question, read this Politico story about Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise coming under fire from members of their own caucus for being so weak-kneed towards Trump, even after he sent a mob to their workplace. Exit quotation from one GOP lawmaker, remembering who opposed the effort to block certification and who didn’t: “People are going to be looking at this moment when they look at who is going to lead the party. [Liz Cheney’s] political capital has risen significantly. She had the courage of her convictions.”