Republicans in disarray as GOP leadership fractures over Trump’s impeachment, removal

From the GOP rank and file to those in leadership roles, Republican lawmakers are placing their bets—about their own political futures, the future of the party, and even how history will reflect on this fraught moment for the country.

And while Democrats' resolve to hold Donald Trump to account for inciting violence has proven uniquely unifying for most of the country, the Republican party is dividing amongst itself between those who think Trump is culpable and even impeachable and those who have hitched their raft irrevocably to Trumptanic. And make no mistake, Trump's support is tanking, even among Republican voters. A Morning Consult poll of GOP voters released Wednesday found that just 42% of them said they would vote for Trump in a 2024 presidential primary. Given what Trump has done, that level of support still seems high, but it's slipped 12 points from a Nov. 21-23 survey when the outlet posed the same question. And it's a far cry from the high-80s/low-90s support Trump has enjoyed among Republican voters throughout his term.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the House GOP's No. 3, became the highest ranking Republican Tuesday to firmly plant her flag on the side of impeaching Trump, saying, "There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution."

Last Wednesday, Cheney was attempting to convince her GOP colleagues to vote for certification when she received a phone call from her father informing her that Trump had attacked her in his rally speech. In her statement Tuesday declaring she would vote to impeach Trump, she wrote, “The president could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not.”

Cheney's declaration marked a sharp break with her fellow GOP leaders, Reps. Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, both of whom echoed Trump's post-election fraud claims and then voted to reject the election results even after his cultists stormed the Capitol. 

Meanwhile in the upper chamber, soon-to-be Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, signaled his much squishier lean toward potentially convicting Trump through anonymous sources to several different outlets.

Among rank and file GOP members, a smaller anti-Trump cadre has emerged with some members faulting Trump and his GOP enablers for the siege and others even stepping up to back impeachment

“To allow the President of the United States to incite this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy. For that reason, I cannot sit by without taking action,” New York Rep. John Katko, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee and a former federal prosecutor, wrote in a statement. 

The reality is, many of these GOP members stepping forward also fear for their lives now that Trump has turned the party into a raging mob. CNN is reporting that many of Republican lawmakers are getting direct pressure from Trump not to defect on the impeachment vote, which isn't exactly surprising but certainly underscores the urgency of his removal from office. McCarthy has reportedly urged his pro-Trump members not to verbally attack pro-impeachment Republicans because their lives could be on the line.

But at the end of the day, impeachment is happening, with or without House Republicans. And momentum is clearly on the side of Democrats' strong stand against Trump as corporate titans, big tech, public opinion, military leadership, and other entities join the push to draw a line in the sand. 

The McCarthy's of the world have bet wrong. There's simply no way he can erase his fealty to Trump, and he also doesn't have the spine to disavow Trump. And as hard as it is to imagine a Trump loyalist losing his leadership role in the party, it's equally as hard to imagine having a GOP leader who can't fundraise because he's been shunned by corporate donors and polite society alike as a seditionist. That is simply an impossible position for a GOP congressional leader.  

And if there's one way to judge exactly how incomprehensible that posture is, it's by looking at the Republican leader of the Senate caucus. McConnell's lower-profile openness to potentially convicting Trump is both a seismic shift and a window into his vision for safeguarding the future existence of the party. And if McConnell ultimately supports conviction of Trump, some GOP sources are openly wondering if the 67 votes to convict might actually materialize. 

"If Mitch is a yes, he's done," said one Senate GOP source who asked not to be named, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, McCarthy has been running around pushing to censure Trump in an effort to ostensibly hold Trump accountable without actually holding him accountable. Safe to say McCarthy's political fortunes aren't particularly bright at this moment. Perhaps he can form a support group with Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri.