Senator Mitch McConnell has told associates he is open to the impeachment process unfurling against Donald Trump over the Capitol riot, according to several news reports published Tuesday evening. It is not clear from the reports what, exactly, McConnell — a famously slippery political operator — thinks.
McConnell told associates he believes Trump “committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party,” the New York Times reported. The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey confirmed the report, adding that McConnell told people he wants to hear the case against Trump before making a final decision on the matter. The Senate majority leader supposedly said he would not whip votes for or against conviction in the Senate. CNN reports McConnell has not spoken to Trump since December 14 and “hates” the president for how he behaved after a mob of his supporters attacked the Capitol and sent McConnell and lawmakers scrambling for their lives.
McConnell famously stuck by Trump throughout the president’s four years in office, when they jointly pursued the most conservative agenda in living memory, topped off with the confirmation of three Supreme Court justices. Their relationship was shattered after Trump lost reelection though, with the president screwing up negotiations for more coronavirus stimulus and pressuring McConnell’s caucus to nullify Joe Biden’s election. Last week, Republicans blamed Trump’s crusade to overturn the election for costing the party two Senate seats in Georgia — and with them McConnell’s majority.
Their mutual anger boiled over last Wednesday, the day of the riot. That morning, Trump declared war on the “weak Republicans” such as McConnell during a speech from the White House grounds to thousands of supporters who were called to Washington to protest the counting of electoral votes for Biden. If that wasn’t enough, Trump encouraged his fans to go to the Capitol where they then rioted. When the attack ended, McConnell emotionally addressed the reconvened Senate and blasted Trump’s supporters as an “unhinged crowd” who launched a “failed insurrection.” (McConnell then voted to confirm Biden’s victory, as he planned.) The following day, his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, became the first member of Trump’s Cabinet to resign in protest over the president’s conduct.
Republican opposition to Trump is bubbling up in the House, where on Wednesday, it will vote on a single article of impeachment accusing Trump of committing an “act of insurrection” with the Capitol riot. So far, Republican representatives John Katko, Adam Kinzinger, and Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican said they would vote to impeach Trump. In 2019, no House Republicans voted to impeach Trump. (“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney said in a statement.) Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, has apparently decided not to formally ask Republicans to vote no, according to the Times, though he is personally opposed to impeachment (he favors censure). The Times reports McCarthy has in recent days asked Republicans if he should call on Trump to resign.