Republican lawmakers who, based on lies alleging widespread fraud, objected to Joe Biden’s clear 2020 election victory are now calling for “healing” and “unity” as the House prepares to impeach President Donald Trump over his incitement of a deadly mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol and endangered members of Congress, their staff and police.
Eight senators and 139 House members voted to overturn Biden’s election hours after white supremacists stormed into and ransacked the Capitol last Wednesday, resulting in the deaths of five people. Some of those same lawmakers are opposing Trump’s impeachment because, they assert, it would be divisive.
The House is expected to begin voting as early as Wednesday on impeaching Trump for his role in inciting the riot. With near-unanimous support from the chamber’s Democratic majority, approval of the charge is expected, making Trump the first president to be impeached twice.
“Rushing this resolution to the floor will do nothing to unify or heal the country,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said at a House Rules Committee hearing on Tuesday. “These actions, again, will only continue to divide the nation.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a staunch Trump ally who in the wake of the riot has tried to put some distance between himself and the president, similarly warned that the second impeachment would “only divide our country more.”
Some of Trump’s top Senate allies are also standing by him even as the president continues to deny he did anything wrong by continuing last Wednesday to falsely claim the election was rigged and urging his supporters at a huge rally outside the White House to march to the Capitol to pressure lawmakers to overturn Biden’s win. Thousands did so, and the riot ensued.
Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who was among the GOP senators pushing to throw out Pennsylvania’s election results, is calling Biden a “hypocrite” for refusing to tell House Democrats to stand down. Appearing on Fox News on Monday, Scott urged the president-elect to stick to a “positive message” in the wake of the terror attack on the Capitol, which was inspired by the words of the sitting president Scott aided in disputing the outcome of November’s vote.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a leader in the push to decertify Biden’s victories in several key states, said in a Fox News interview on Monday that it was time to “rally around the things that unite us as Americans.” He spotlighted free speech under the First Amendment, which he said, “has to be at the top of the list.”
Hawley’s focus in the wake of the Capitol siege has been bemoaning that Simon & Schuster ― a private company free to choose its clients ― canceled a book deal with him as part of a massive backlash to his actions that helped fuel Wednesday’s violence.
“I don’t want to read in history books we didn’t have time to hold (Trump) accountable. It’s vitally important he is never able to run for office in this country again, we have to look at how to realize that goal.”
Prior to the Electoral College’s Dec. 14 confirmation of the election results, the vast majority of Republican lawmakers enabled Trump’s denialism and conspiracy theories of a rigged vote by refusing to acknowledge Biden’s victory. And even then, many maintained that stance while others echoed Trump’s baseless allegations, setting the stage for the Capitol riot.
Democrats view the GOP’s current calls for unity as hollow excuses for their own actions, pledging to push forward with impeaching Trump even if it means some delay to Biden’s agenda and Cabinet confirmations once he takes office on Jan. 20.
“I don’t want to read in history books we didn’t have time to hold (Trump) accountable. It’s vitally important he is never able to run for office in this country again, we have to look at how to realize that goal,” Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) told HuffPost on Tuesday.
A Senate conviction of Trump would set the stage for a separate vote to bar him from again seeking the presidency.
Smith added that in the names of unity, a full investigation of the attack on the Capitol is needed, including a probe of whether Capitol police officers and even some members of Congress may have been “potentially actively working with the leaders” of the riot. She also pledged not to work with any GOP lawmakers who persist in denying Biden’s victory.
“I will not do any work with those members of their caucus who continue to be enablers and collaborators to overturn our election,” Smith said.
Hawley and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), another key figure in the effort to halt the electoral vote certification process last Wednesday, are facing growing calls for their resignation, including from many of their Democratic colleagues. Some say they should face censure, and possibly expulsion.
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), a longtime member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested the two GOP senators should step down from the panel after helping stoke the insurrection at the Capitol.
“The fact that both of them... wanted to subvert the will of the people, wanted to tell the whole world and the United States that we did not have an honest election ― I can’t imagine any senator doing that, and then serving on Judiciary,” Leahy told reporters on Tuesday.
Those who died included a Capitol police officer assaulted by rioters and an insurrectionist shot by a law officer as she joined those laying siege to the House chamber.
The House impeached Trump in December 2019 for pressuring the president of Ukraine to smear Biden; the Senate voted against convicting Trump and ousting him from office.