There’s the high level of physical danger surrounding the whole of the Capitol complex after the attack and for Biden’s inauguration. There’re the two Democratic senators from Georgia, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, whose election still hasn’t been certified; the deadline for that is Jan. 22, though it could happen on Jan. 19, the same day the Senate comes back. This process in these circumstances is entirely new: “Everything we are talking about is being invented out of whole cloth,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told The New York Times. “We have never tried a president after they left office. We’ve never had an insurrection against the Capitol. We’ve never held a trial while we are confirming a cabinet. All of this is first impression.”
But Democrats remain committed to figuring it out. “I can see no reason we cannot find a way with our archaic rules,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Working that out, at this moment, seems to look like splitting the Senate sessions, the Times reports. Schumer and McConnell met Thursday, with a “goal … to divide the Senate’s days so the chamber could work on confirming members of Mr. Biden’s cabinet and considering his stimulus package in the morning and then take up the impeachment trial in the afternoon.” Until that is nailed down, it’s not clear that Pelosi would initiate the process by formally sending the article over to the Senate.
The outcome there is also unclear, and again it depends a lot on McConnell. He’s reportedly told associates that he’s sick of Trump, supports the impeachment, wants him expunged from the Republican Party, and sees his impeachment as a way to do that. But that’s hearsay right now; McConnell hasn’t made those statements public. Maybe he’s waiting to see if Trump does anything else between now and Wednesday, his last day in Washington. Maybe he’s genuinely undecided. But if McConnell votes for conviction, there will very likely be 16 other Republicans joining him.
As of now, Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is the closest to declaring her intent. On Thursday, she said that Trump’s words on Jan. 6 “incited violence,” which “briefly interfered with the government’s ability to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.” She continued: “Such unlawful actions cannot go without consequence and the House has responded swiftly, and I believe, appropriately, with impeachment.” Others who have suggested they would vote to convince include Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Mitt Romney of Utah. If you had that many, surely Maine’s Susan Collins would jump on, unless she’s too bitter that Democrats had the effrontery to mount a challenge to her reelection. Again, whether enough decide that Trump has to be cut out of the body politic like a cancer depends much on McConnell.
All those Republicans need to heed Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer, one of the 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach, even at potential physical harm to himself and his family. “I have colleagues who are now traveling with armed escorts, out of the fear for their safety. Many of us are altering our routines, working to get body armor, which is a reimbursable purchase that we can make. … It’s sad that we have to get to that point,” he said. “But, you know, our expectation is that someone may try to kill us.”
However, “I think you have to set that aside,” he said. “I don’t believe in giving an assassin’s veto, an insurrectionist’s veto, a heckler’s veto. If we let that guide decisions, then you’re cowering to the mob. I mean, that’s the definition of terrorism—is trying to achieve a political end using violence.” How many senators will have that courage?