A Swift Impeachment PlanThe Daily
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- 12 Jan 2021
At the heart of the move to impeach President Trump is a relatively simple accusation: that he incited a violent insurrection against the government of the United States.We look at the efforts to punish the president for the attack on the Capitol and explain what the impeachment process might look like.Guest: Nicholas Fandos, a national reporter for The New York Times.For an exclusive look at how the biggest stories on our show come together, subscribe to our newsletter. You can read the latest edition here.Background reading: Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to strip President Trump of power and move to impeach the president if Mr. Pence refused.Here’s a closer look at what the president said at a rally of his supporters, which is a focus of the impeachment case.For more information on today’s episode, visit nytimes.com/thedaily
From a New York Times, I'm Michael Barbaro. This day. Today, House Democrats introduce an article of impeachment against President Trump for, quote, inciting violence against the government of the United States. My colleague, congressional reporter Nick Sandos on what happens next. It's Tuesday, January 12th.
Nic, the last time you and I spoke, it was Wednesday night, just a few hours after police had cleared rioters from the US capital, you had been locked down with members of Congress as they faced this threat. And now just a few days later, many of those lawmakers are preparing to impeach President Trump for conduct that they believe incited that attack.
Yeah, I mean, at the very time I was locked down with senators in this undisclosed secure location on Capitol Hill, it turns out that a couple of members of the House of Representatives who were veterans from the first impeachment of President Trump a little more than a year ago found themselves sheltering in place together in one of their offices.
Congressman. Yeah. It's Nick, how are you?
This is Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Representative Ted Lieu of California, somewhere around three, maybe a little before three, Ted chief contacted my chief to say they had been evacuated from Cannon. Could they take refuge in their offices? Of course. And we're friends.
And as they're sitting there with the Capitol literally still under siege from thousands of these Trump loyalist mob members, for lack of a better term, they start drawing up an article of impeachment.
What might it look like? Ted was at my conference table because we maintain really long distance as I was at my desk on my phone scribbling notes based on our conversation and talking to my two staffers. And they then took those ideas and contacted the Judiciary Committee staffers for some additional help and then got the draft back to me.
This conduct that's still playing out around them struck them. So immediately as the kind of thing that warrants impeachment, the Constitution's most extreme remedy for an officeholder, that they sit down and start sketching out ideas.
So we didn't kind of handwrite it with our kind of quill and pen or anything, but I was making notes of kind of what I thought it needed to include and sharing that with my two counsels.
They connected up with Jamie Raskin, another Democrat from Maryland and a former constitutional law professor, a veteran again, of that first impeachment push, and started really batting around language and putting together a draft of an impeachment charge against President Trump that they were, you know, hot enough on that. Later in the night, Sicily's he would go to the majority leader, Steny Hoyer, and say, hey, when we wrap up here tonight, when we finish certifying Joe Biden's Electoral College win, I want to go straight to the floor with this impeachment charge against the president.
I've got it ready.
The thing that I have to say that I thought a lot about throughout this period, which was weighing on me a lot, was my other committee. I serve on foreign affairs and I do a lot of work in international human rights and democracy building. And I just what I thought a lot about was, you know, how do we explain this to the world while Hoyer talked him down a little bit and said, wait.
But, you know, basically through that first night, Thursday into much of the day Friday, momentum built at a pretty incredible clip for drastic action by the House.
Good afternoon. I don't know if the word good is a way to describe it, because yesterday the president of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America.
Speaker Pelosi went out and addressing reporters, raised the idea herself. If the vice president, a cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment. That is the overwhelming sentiment of my caucus and the American people.
By the way, last time the House impeached, she took months to kind of come to the idea when he or she was saying, my phone is exploding, my cell phones lighting up, impeach, and the president must be held accountable again. He likes. So, you know, things were off to the races pretty quick, so what do we understand about how this is actually going to work in the time that's left of the Trump presidency?
So after spending the weekend trying to puzzle through many of these questions how this could all work, how you could safely actually get lawmakers back into a building where there was such a stunning security failure less than a week ago, House leaders announced today that they're actually going to hold not one but two different votes this week to try and effectuate this outcome. They want first on Tuesday, they're going to hold a vote on a resolution that would formally have the House ask Vice President Pence in the cabinet to invoke the Twenty Fifth Amendment, which is a kind of unwieldy constitutional power that gives him and the majority of the cabinet, if they act together, the ability to wrest away the powers of the presidency from Mr.
Trump and to assume kind of a role of acting president himself. This is actually, I think, Democrats what Speaker Pelosi views as the easiest option. If Vice President Pence would go ahead and do this, they could be sure that, you know, they could get to the end of Trump's term with no further violence incited or other unusual actions taking place. But knowing that, that's probably pretty unlikely. You know, there have been calls for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment basically since last Wednesday.
And he hasn't done it and he hasn't said anything. Democrats have now set themselves on this kind of parallel course towards impeachment, essentially giving Pence an ultimatum and saying either you do this or we make Trump the first president in American history who's ever been impeached twice.
Well, before we move on to the House impeachment process, are we entirely sure that Mike Pence won't invoke the 25th Amendment?
The reason I ask that is because of reporting by our colleagues on the line that Pence has drawn between himself and the president in recent days, a line that began on Thursday morning in the early hours of that day when he indicated that he would break from the president's demands and carry out his duties in confirming the Electoral College vote and formalizing Biden's win. And there's the reality that during the storming of the Capitol, the president was provocatively tweeting in a way that seemed to direct his supporters to potentially go after Mike Pence.
And so isn't there a possibility that a very perhaps justifiably angry Mike Pence could decide to invoke the 25th Amendment? There's always the possibility.
You know, people close to Pence have made no secret of the fact that he is very angry that not only did he certified Biden's win, but he, unlike President Trump, plans to attend the inauguration. But I think the reasonable hopes of any Democrat or Republican who would like to see him step in are waning pretty quickly here in Washington. You know, Pelosi is giving him an ultimatum, but she's been trying for days now. She and Chuck Schumer, her counterpart in the Senate, actually tried to call pense in the aftermath of what happened after being certified, the vote to talk to him about this.
And they were left on hold on the line for twenty five minutes. Oh, wow. The speaker said she was doing laundry and dishes while she waited. And at the end of it, they were told the vice president was not going to come to the phone. So I think that is the overriding reason that there's not a lot of confidence. I think Democrats hope in the meantime, perhaps if they stretch this out a little bit, if they slowly escalate, they could kind of flush more Republicans out of their quietude to call on the president to resign or otherwise put pressure on him.
And in some cases, that's work. There's been two Republican senators so far. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who have called on the president to resign immediately.
I think the best way for our country, Jack, is for the president to resign and go away as soon as possible. There are some members of the House as well.
I think yesterday it became clear that the president is unmoored from reality and from his own. And I think the vice president taking over and ensuring that the next couple of weeks are a peaceful transfer is essential right now to the continuation of this strong union.
So, you know, there is some benefit to waiting, but you can only wait so long. Mm hmm. So let's assume you're right. And Vice President Pence doesn't invoke the 25th Amendment. So instead, that second vote you mentioned comes into play, which is a House vote to begin the impeachment process of President Trump. What exactly is the case that House Democrats are bringing? What do we know about what's actually in the article of impeachment that these lawmakers began drafting while still in lockdown?
The articles of impeachment that was introduced on Monday is relatively narrow. It's only four pages. And its central charge is that the president incited violent insurrection against the government of the United States. And it actually quotes from the president's remarks that day.
Now you have the article. I wonder if you could read from it. Yeah, OK, here.
Here it is. This is from Article one, Incitement of Insurrection. The drafters of the article, right.
Shortly before the joint session commenced, President Trump addressed a crowd at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. There he reiterated false claims that, quote, We won this election and we won it by a landslide, unquote. He also willfully made statements that in context encouraged and forcibly resulted in lawless action of the Capitol, such as this is a quote, if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.
Thus, the article continues incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he addressed in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the joint session, solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 20 20 presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the capital, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced members of Congress, the vice president and congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive and seditious acts.
You know, impeachment in the past, I mean, even a year ago when they were impeaching President Trump was a fairly convoluted process, an argument. It took months to put together interviews and and evidence. And the case even was somewhat abstracted here. It's very plain and it's very simple.
The president created the reason for this event to be happening, and then he instigated the violence that would follow. And for that, he needs to be impeached, convicted and removed from office and not allowed to hold office again. So what will the process of bringing this article, bringing this case actually look like in the House of Representatives, will it at all resemble the last impeachment, which, Nick, we talked about with you because you covered it? It was very elaborate.
There were hearings, there was testimony. It's hard to picture all that happening in the span of just a few days.
It is. And the truth is, most of it won't happen. You know, unlike then where we got used to this kind of slow drip of information, a crescendo of public hearings with different people involved. The House is prepared to move starting Wednesday morning to directly impeach the president without any of that. So there will be a debate on the floor of the House where Republicans and Democrats will have a chance to say their piece. And then assuming that Pence doesn't act or Trump doesn't resign, which no one thinks is likely, there will be an up or down vote on this article of impeachment.
I wonder if you think that the first impeachment in any way paves the way for this version. Is it only possible, I guess I'm saying, to pursue this kind of rapid fire impeachment after having carried out a much longer, more formal version against the same president?
I've been thinking about this a lot over the last several days, and in part because I'm kind of cycling through my own memories of covering that last one and talking to a lot of the same lawmakers and their advisors and lawyers who drew up that process. And there's definitely a sense or an accumulated expertise that I think is making this possible. I'm not sure if they had an impeachment back then, if they'd be able to move as quickly as they are, because they kind of know, you know, impeachment happens so rarely in American history that it kind of had to be relearned almost every time by the people involved.
But this is the rare case where they know what they're doing. You know, they know where all the doors and cupboards are. I think the other thing that is different, though, that is guiding this whole process is the awareness that the president only has so little time left in office that he's going to be leaving one way or another. So, you know, though they wouldn't readily admit it, it kind of changes the burdens of the process.
But I think everybody understands that they can move with less deliberateness, perhaps, than they would have under different circumstances if this were, say, six months ago, sooner.
Correct me if I'm wrong. We expect impeachment to pass the House, which just requires a simple majority vote and Democrats control the House. And then under normal circumstances, that would prompt a Senate trial that would begin pretty much immediately after the House takes its action. But that has not necessarily been the plan, according to Democrats. So tell us about the thinking there.
Well, actually, Michael, the thinking on this seems to be evolving pretty quickly and now seems to be tending back towards a speedy trial. But the issue of when to try this case is a tricky one because we've been talking so much about the end of President Trump's term. But this is also going to be the beginning of Joe Biden's term. The incoming president, he has a cabinet he wants to fill. He wants to pass legislation addressing the coronavirus crisis.
And an all consuming impeachment trial of the last president stomps all over that, not to mention Biden's kind of overarching political message, which is trying to draw the country together. So there's been a kind of intense debate playing out among Democrats behind the scenes of like how do we get around this? Could we impeach him and never have a trial at all? Never send the charges over, could we?
As one of Biden's allies, Jim Clyburn, the number three House Democrat, was suggesting, let's give President elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running, and maybe we'll send the articles sometimes after that. All right.
Wait 100 days, let Biden clear the decks and then we go to trial. But the thinking now seems to be to go quickly to trial and President elect Biden himself seems to have reconciled himself to that happening.
My priority is to get, first of all, foremost the stimulus bill passed and secondly, begin to rebuild the economy and is now arguing maybe we could split the days and half a half day on dealing with would it have to be my people nominated and confirmed by the Senate as well as we have. So that's very important.
So half the day we work on my agenda, we work on confirming my cabinet nominees and half the day we hold the trial, but we get on with it. I think we're headed in that direction because Democrats feel that they can't legitimately argue to the country that this is so urgent that they have to act in six or seven days and then say, oh, wait, but actually we'll wait 100 more days to put on a trial. Now that that's just too difficult a case to make.
Regardless of timing, that is the goal to ultimately get the Senate through a trial to convict Trump for inciting a mob, because where is the House only needs a majority of votes. The Senate requires two thirds majority. And even with Democrats winning those two races in Georgia, it does not have two thirds control of the Senate.
Right. Winning control in Georgia is significant. It might help give Democrats the ability to set the rules of a Senate trial. But the Constitution sets a very high bar for conviction and potential removal from office. As many as 17 Republican senators would have to join Democrats to convict the president. Now, there's this added layer of complexity here, because when he goes on trial, he may not be president anymore. You know, he may be a former president.
So removal from office is not an issue. But the Constitution under the impeachment clauses provides for something else, which is if you can win a conviction against an officer or the president or somebody else, you can then proceed to have another vote to potentially bar them from ever holding federal office again. And this is something that is very attractive potentially to Republicans and Democrats for different reasons. The politics of it are exceedingly complicated because you could imagine a scenario where in the short term, many of these Republican officials take that tantalizing option and say we're going to sure he can't loom over our party, ever win our nomination again to never become the president of the United States again.
And we think that's the best thing for the country. Well, they then have to turn around and contend with seventy four million people who voted for him, some subset of which are uniquely devoted to Donald Trump as a politician. So there may be political consequences for them in terms of losing their seats next time they're in front of those voters. There may be practical or immediate consequences in igniting more violence or a significant backlash not just against Republicans, but against Congress, again, against the government.
I mean, they could unlock a series of kind of unintended consequences that I don't think anybody can fully fathom from where we're sitting now. On the other hand, if they were to think about this and not take the action, they potentially, you know, leave Trump basically on the playing field to rebuild himself and his brand and potentially continue to dominate the Republican Party in American politics and lock in place a dynamic that gave rise to this violence and the extreme atmosphere of division in the country.
So I think Democrats don't know how it's going to end up. They don't know if Republicans in the Senate are going to join them or not. Many are fuming, but it's a complex political question. And so I think they're basically resigning themselves to say, look, we can control our part of this. We can make the charge. And what happens in the Senate trial happens in the Senate trial. But the president will go down in history forever as twice impeached.
And that's the best we can control at the moment. And we'll worry about the rest of it down the line. I keep thinking back to the last impeachment when a single Republican senator voted to convict Trump and another Republican, Susan Collins, at the time famously justified her decision not to convict the president, not to remove him from the office of president by arguing that Trump had learned his lesson from that episode and understood what was acceptable presidential conduct. But here we are.
And Trump now faces impeachment again for this incredibly grave conduct. And is that weighing on these Republicans in Congress, the road not taken back then what it is led to now, which amounted essentially to a threat to their own lives?
I think the question is whether or not they think about it in those terms or whether they get blinded by the remarkably different circumstances of these two impeachments.
The last was at the beginning of an election year. They were able to say, and I think many of them legitimately believed we can leave this to the voters to decide. This is ultimately a case about President Trump's character and conduct. That's what you what voters decide. And that gave them justification not to try and remove him from office. In this case, you have kind of like the Converse situation where they can say, well, he's on his way out of office.
Why should we be spending time trying to bury him further? Why don't we move, you know, immediately instead of a trial that could be, you know, more inflammatory? Why don't we move to try and put on a good model and work with Joe Biden and work to move the country forward? You know, I find myself asking similar questions, wanting to to press Republicans to account for their views of him over over time. And it's often a frustrating experience, I think, those who have come out in recent days.
Republicans and called for him to resign Tsim. They're either constant critics of him or seem unwilling to fully, you know, reckon with their their earlier positions. So what you see over these next few weeks from Republicans in Congress may not look like logical or linear thinking. I mean, I spoke last week when we talked, Michael, about that brief moment after the Capitol was under siege and had been reclaimed where senators came together and locked arms to certify Biden's victory.
The United States Senate will not be intimidated. We will not be kept out of this chamber by thugs, mobs or threats.
They gave stirring speeches on the floor of the Senate and talked about the need to pull together.
Talk about interesting times. I associate myself with Rand Paul. How many times will you hear that the mob has done something nobody else could do to get me and Rand agree? Rand is right.
If you're a conservative, this is the most offensive concept in the world that a single person could disenfranchise a hundred and fifty five million people and here we are, not even a week later.
But now tonight I'm calling on Vice President Biden to pick up the phone and call Nancy Pelosi and the squad to end the second impeachment.
And that's already started to disappear. Republicans obviously are saying, you know, Democrats are just out for retribution and let's forget about it and try and forget about Donald Trump.
President Trump gave a statement last night that was helpful. It hit the mark. He wants to move on to a peaceful transfer of power. He wants this to end.
Democrats would say, well, it's because Republicans are now closing their mouths and reneging on their promise. And the only way for us to heal is to hold those who are accountable, accountable. And we do that together. And that's how we move on.
And perhaps this is one of Trump's parting gift from his first term, is that it certainly feels like the country is doomed to keep living and fighting out this divide for months and maybe years to come. Thank you, Nick, we appreciate it. Thank you, Michael. Good to be back. Back. Here's what else you need to generate. The Times reports that in the days since the riot at the Capitol, federal and local authorities have arrested almost 100 people who they say were involved in the attack.
Among those arrested so far were 60 year old Richard Barnett of Crayford, Arkansas, who was photographed sitting with his feet on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office and 36 year old Adam Johnson of Parrish, Florida, who was photographed waving as he carried one of Pelosi's lecterns across the Capitol Rotunda.
We had a photograph of our client in a building or authorized to be there with what appears to be a podium or electrodynamics on Monday night.
A lawyer for Johnson was asked about the evidence against him.
Obviously, that presents a problem for you as a defense attorney in that you have your client in the building at the time of breaking. Yeah, yeah. I don't know how else to explain that, but yeah, that's that's that would be a problem. Not a magician. And the political fallout for congressional Republicans intensified on Monday when several of the country's largest companies said they would suspend campaign donations to lawmakers who objected to certifying Joe Biden's win in the Electoral College, citing the assault on the capital, AT&T, Morgan Stanley, Marriott and Dow, among others, said that their political action committees would stop contributing to those congressmen and senators immediately.
Today's episode was produced by Nina Puttock and Jessica Chung. It was edited by Lisa Tobin and engineered by Chris Wood.
That's it for the day, I'm Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.