Former GOP skeptics now support impeachment probe

Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced an impeachment inquiry without a full House vote, at a time when he didn’t appear to have the votes. Republicans have a four-seat House majority, and currently, more than four Republicans indicated that they didn’t see grounds for an inquiry. But McCarthy spoke the support he needed into existence. The kind of ostensibly moderate Republican who didn’t want to see an impeachment inquiry will nonetheless go along with leadership for the sake of partisan advantage.

See, for instance, Rep. Don Bacon. In August, Bacon told NBC News, “We should have more confidence that actual high crimes and misdemeanors occurred before starting a formal impeachment inquiry.” Last week, as McCarthy announced his voteless inquiry, Bacon said, “As of now I don't support” an inquiry, because it “should be based on evidence of a crime that points directly to President Biden, or if the President doesn't cooperate by not providing documents.”

Less than a week later, Bacon’s position has shifted to cautious support. “I don’t think it’s healthy or good for our country. So I wanted to set a high bar. I want to do it carefully. I want to do it conscientiously, do it meticulously," Bacon said. "But it’s been done. So, at this point, we’ll see what the facts are.”

Campaign Action

No person who has observed House Republicans over the past eight months could possibly believe that they will proceed carefully, conscientiously, or meticulously. But Bacon has shown how much his opposition is worth—and how much it will be worth if he ever has to decide how to vote on impeachment.

Similarly, Rep. David Joyce said in August, “You hear a lot of rumor and innuendo … but that’s not fact to me. As a former prosecutor, I think there has to be facts, and I think there has to be due process that we follow, and I’ve not seen any of that today.” Now? In a statement, Joyce said, “I support Speaker McCarthy’s decision to direct the House Committees on Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Means to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.” What’s more, he’s “confident” that the committee leaders conducting the inquiry—Oversight Chair James Comer, Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, and Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith—“will conduct thoughtful and thorough investigations into allegations against the President, which I will carefully review.”

Saying you’re confident Comer and Jordan will be “thoughtful and thorough” is kind of a tell that nothing you’re saying should be believed.

People like Bacon and Joyce know there’s no there there, but once McCarthy said the inquiry was happening, they fell in line. Because they’re Republicans, and the only principle in the Republican Party is power. The problem for them now is that if the inquiry wraps up quickly (not likely—Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is calling for it to be “long and excruciatingly painful”), they’ll have to take a vote on it. But if it doesn’t wrap up quickly, it runs the serious risk of alienating voters and showing that House Republicans are unserious about governing.

Strikingly, the House Republican who is speaking out against the impeachment inquiry most loudly is Rep. Ken Buck, a Freedom Caucus member who wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post calling the current inquiry a “flimsy excuse for an impeachment.” In the politics of today’s Republican Party, being a member of the far right entitles Buck to take that kind of stance, while Republicans who represent districts Biden won in 2020 have to regularly show their fealty to the party by supporting extreme positions.

And let’s be real—Buck is likely to end up voting for impeachment, too, if the House ever gets to that point rather than engaging in a dragged-out show trial.

What do you do if you're associated with one of the biggest election fraud scandals in recent memory? If you're Republican Mark Harris, you try running for office again! On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we revisit the absolutely wild story of Harris' 2018 campaign for Congress, when one of his consultants orchestrated a conspiracy to illegally collect blank absentee ballots from voters and then had his team fill them out before "casting" them. Officials wound up tossing the results of this almost-stolen election, but now Harris is back with a new bid for the House—and he won't shut up about his last race, even blaming Democrats for the debacle.

Republicans continue to fail the democracy test: Do they support Trump or the U.S. Constitution?

After three consecutive dismal election cycles, Republicans still can't bring themselves to break with perennial loser Donald Trump even after his rallying cry to terminate the U.S. Constitution.

On Tuesday, the House GOP's No. 2, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, became the latest Republican to fail the democracy test: Trump or the Constitution?

Pressed by PBS Newshour reporter Lisa Desjardins on Trump's latest call to suspend "all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution," Scalise simply couldn't bring himself to condemn Trump.

"Rep. @SteveScalise told me a few minutes ago that he has not seen former Pres. Trump's words about the Constitution," tweeted Desjardins, in regard to Trump's Truth Social rant.

Desjardins proceeded to educate Scalise: "As he sees the election, from 2020, it allows for the termination of all rules and articles, including the Constitution. What do you make of that?"

Campaign Action

Steering clear of Trump, Scalise responded, "The Constitution is never subject to being waived or suspended. Obviously, the Constitution's our enduring document that protects our freedoms."  

Desjardins followed up by asking Scalise if it's "dangerous to talk about the termination of things like that?" In other words, is it dangerous to suspend the very document that "protects our freedoms," as Scalise himself put it.

The response, according to Desjardins' tweet thread: "Scalise: *enters office, does not respond*"

So if it's Trump or the Constitution, it's still Trump for Republicans, which is the exact same message Rep. David Joyce of Ohio, who chairs the Republican Governance Group, sent Sunday on ABC's This Week.

Host George Stephanopoulos asked Joyce directly, "Can you support a candidate in 2024 who's for suspending the Constitution?"

Joyce equivocated at first, offering, "It's early, I think there's going to be a lot people in the primary."

But he ultimately admitted that he would back Trump if he won the nomination. "At the end of the day, whoever the Republicans end up picking, I think I'll fall behind."

"Even if it's Donald Trump and he's called for suspending the Constitution?" Stephanopoulos interjected.

Joyce retreated to his earlier contention that it would be a "big field" in 2024, suggesting that Trump might not win.

"That's not what I'm asking," Stephanopoulos clarified, "I'm asking you, if he's the nominee, will you support him?"

"I will support whoever the Republican nominee is," Joyce restated, adding another dash of fairy dust, "I just don't think at this point he will be able to get there."

Stephanopoulos proceeded to call Joyce's statement both "extraordinary" and "remarkable."

But the truth is, it isn't remarkable in the least from today's Republican Party—it's just more of the same from a party that has routinely capitulated to Donald Trump no matter what the circumstance. Even after Trump inspired the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. seat of government, 197 House Republicans—93% of the caucus—voted against impeaching him.

The entire Jan. 6 attack was an assault on the Constitution, the peaceful transfer of power, and the will of the people.

The brother of fallen Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick put it best on Tuesday when he explained why the Sicknick family refused to shake the hands of GOP leaders Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell at a congressional gold medal ceremony for officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6.

"Unlike Liz Cheney, they have no idea what integrity is," Ken Sicknick said. "They can't stand up for what's right and wrong—with them, it's party first."

On Tuesday, McConnell had yet another opportunity to defend U.S. democracy when CNN’s Manu Raju asked if he would “categorically” refuse to support Trump. 

"What I’m saying is, it would be pretty hard to be sworn in to the presidency if you’re not willing to uphold the Constitution,” McConnell offered. 

Again, given the choice of Trump or the Constitution, McConnell demurs.

Republicans have proven over and over again their fealty to party, and personal gain supersedes their fealty to the republic. Their continued refusal to condemn a man who is calling for the "termination" of the U.S. Constitution is just a continuation of their treachery.

FLASH: Family of officer Brian Sicknick refuses to shake hands with Sen McConnell and Rep McCarthy at Congressional gold medal ceremony. Brian’s brother Ken Sicknick tells me why ====>

— Scott MacFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews) December 6, 2022

Asked McConnell - in aftermath of his criticism of Trump in the past two weeks - if he could categorically say he wouldn't support him as GOP nominee. "What I’m saying is it would be pretty hard to be sworn in to the presidency if you’re not willing to uphold the Constitution"

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) December 6, 2022

This is the state of the authoritarian Republican Party: willing to back an aspiring despot who *explicitly* says he wants to terminate the US Constitution, so long as he’s got an (R) by his name. We’re in trouble.

— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) December 4, 2022