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
It is an extraordinary mark of turbulent times and a lawless term that Trump will become the first president to be impeached twice — only 13 months after
the House first resolved that his abuses of power merited removal from office.
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.
“I think people are going to be shocked with some of the egregious contact that happened within the Capitol,” Michael Sherwin said
, referencing “mind-blowing” cases and charges including sedition and conspiracy. He said that some of those charged had military backgrounds.
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 another unfathomable moment on Tuesday, America’s most senior military leaders
warned there was no place for extremism in the ranks and that the troops must support and defend the Constitution. The statement was remarkable in itself. But that the Joint Chiefs decided it needed to be issued in the first place was one of the more frightening events of recent days.
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’s unexpected move, first reported
by The New York Times, came amid his disgust at the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters and in the belief that another impeachment would help Republicans purge the stain of this presidency from the party.
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.