The House Prepares to Vote: The Impeachment Briefing

Read more on Trump and Pence’s blowup

This is the Impeachment Briefing, The Times’s newsletter about the impeachment investigation. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

  • The House is poised to pass a resolution late tonight formally calling on Vice President Mike Pence to strip President Trump of his duties by invoking the 25th Amendment, a complicated and difficult process. The measure asks the vice president to declare Mr. Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office and to immediately exercise powers as acting president.”

  • Mr. Pence is unlikely to do so, and Democrats plan to begin a debate on their impeachment resolution tomorrow morning, marching toward a vote late in the day unless Mr. Pence intervenes.

  • Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has told associates that he believes Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses. He also said that he was pleased that Democrats were moving to impeach him, believing that it would make it easier to purge him from the party, according to people familiar with his thinking.

  • At least three Republicans in the House have already announced they would vote to impeach Mr. Trump. “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” one of those Republicans, Representative Liz Cheney, said. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

  • Advisers to Mr. McConnell have privately speculated that a dozen Republican senators — and possibly more — could ultimately vote to convict the president in a Senate trial. To find Mr. Trump guilty, 17 Republicans would need to join Democrats in voting against him.

  • Far from contrite, Mr. Trump said on Tuesday that his remarks to a rally before the Capitol riot last week were “totally appropriate.” Mr. Trump also suggested that “danger” could follow the Democrats’ decision to impeach him a second time.

  • In a lengthy report to accompany their article of impeachment, House Democrats wrote: “The president’s remaining term is limited — but a president capable of fomenting a violent insurrection in the Capitol is capable of greater dangers still. He must be removed from office as swiftly as the Constitution allows.”


The relationship between the president and the vice president has become increasingly strained. My colleague Peter Baker, who covers the White House, wrote today about a dramatic sequence of confrontations last week in which Mr. Trump lashed out at Mr. Pence for refusing to go along with his attempts to overturn the election.

I asked Peter more about how their relationship collapsed in the waning days.

Lawmakers seem to be latching onto the idea that Mr. Trump effectively unleashed a mob on his own vice president. Is that how you see it?

That’s the view from Penceworld. Trump sicced the mob on him. He may not have imagined Trump supporters were going to march through the Capitol chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.” But that was a foreseeable outcome of the incendiary language he used against not just his political opponents but his own vice president. It boggles the mind.

What kind of drama does the 25th Amendment resolution bring to this?

It puts Trump a little bit on his back legs. Yes, he’s mad at Pence, but he has to realize Pence holds his fate in his hands. Pence has a vehicle, an instrument, to respond if Trump completely shoves him to the side.

Unlike with his ceremonial role certifying the election, the 25th Amendment for Pence is a subjective choice. What he’s been telling people is that the mechanism is unwieldy and it might not work the way people want. You would have a situation where two people could be claiming to be president at the same time. There are factors there that go beyond personal loyalty.

What did last Wednesday represent in a Trump-Pence relationship typically marked by fealty?

Pence finally met a juncture that he couldn’t finesse. He finally met a potential breaking point with Trump he couldn’t get out of. For three years and 11 months he had managed to sidestep every possible blowup by saying things to make Trump just happy enough to manage Trump’s red line. This was finally one he couldn’t do that with.

What does it say about Trump’s presidency that it’s ending in an impeachment so convulsive that it’ll carry over to the next president’s term?

It’s completely unthinkable and wholly predictable.


Mr. Trump’s refusal to condemn his own words was part of a decades-long Trump playbook, my colleague Maggie Haberman, who also covers the White House, told me today. She referenced a video Mr. Trump recorded last week acknowledging there would be a transition of power — the closest he has come to a formal concession.

“This is always what he does. This was inevitable,” she said of Mr. Trump’s comments today. “When he gives some kind of concession, as he did in that video last week, he doesn’t get the praise he thought he would for it and worries he looks weak.”

Maggie walked me through two other unusual dynamics to help explain how Mr. Trump and the White House are girding for this round of impeachment.

1. The legal team won’t be the same.

For the last impeachment, Mr. Trump was represented by Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, and two other top White House lawyers. Outside lawyers — Jay Sekulow and Marty and Jane Raskin, who defended him in the Mueller investigation — also joined the effort. This time around, Mr. Trump won’t have any help from that group.

“My sense is that people don’t want to do this,” Maggie said. “There is just widespread anger at him over what took place, internally.”

In the last impeachment, Maggie added, “a majority of them genuinely believed that there was an overreach even if they were uncomfortable with the language of the call,” referring to Mr. Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s president. “Enough of them didn’t believe it was an impeachable offense.”

2. Rudy Giuliani, implicated in the riot, could be Mr. Trump’s lead lawyer in a trial.

Rudy Giuliani, who has spent months fanning baseless voter fraud accusations, arguably helped lead Mr. Trump to his first impeachment. He also played a role in the events leading up to last Wednesday’s riot, telling the gathering of Trump supporters that it was time for “trial by combat.” That would put him in the unusual position of defending his client against charges he arguably influenced with his own actions.

That Mr. Giuliani is still at Mr. Trump’s side is an indication of their long history, Maggie said.

“There are a couple of people who will have this grand pass with Donald Trump,” she said, “and he’s one of them.”


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