Trump Is Likely To Be Impeached Again : The NPR Politics Podcast Vice President Mike Pence the top cabinet officials are unlikely to remove President Trump from power via the 25th amendment. That means House Democrats will move ahead with a second impeachment as soon as Wednesday.

This episode: White House correspondent Tamara Keith, congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell, and national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Connect:
Subscribe to the NPR Politics Podcast here.
Email the show at nprpolitics@npr.org.
Join the NPR Politics Podcast Facebook Group.
Listen to our playlist The NPR Politics Daily Workout.
Subscribe to the NPR Politics Newsletter.
Find and support your local public radio station.
NPR logo

Trump Is Likely To Be Impeached Again

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/955733432/955740047" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Trump Is Likely To Be Impeached Again

Trump Is Likely To Be Impeached Again

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/955733432/955740047" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MASON CASH: Hi. This is Mason Cash (ph). I'm originally from Gisborne, New Zealand. I'm now sitting in the parking lot of the Citizenship and Immigration Services in Orlando, Fla., after just having completed the ceremonial oath of allegiance to become a citizen of the United States. This podcast was recorded at...

TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

2:07 p.m. on Monday, the 11 of January, 2021.

CASH: Some things may have changed by the time you hear this. Enjoy the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: What a time to become a citizen of the United States.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: I love when people celebrate such big things with us. That's really heartwarming.

Congratulations.

KEITH: Hey there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.

SNELL: I'm Kelsey Snell. I cover Congress.

LIASSON: And I'm Mara Liasson, national political correspondent.

KEITH: The House of Representatives is forging ahead with plans to try to remove President Trump from office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to pass by unanimous consent a resolution asking the vice president and Cabinet to declare him unfit to serve and to remove him via the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. That didn't work because a Republican congressman objected. And also, there's no indication Pence is moving in that direction.

So, Kelsey, what now?

SNELL: Well, first, we're going to go through a little bit of the House trying to drive home the point that they tried. The House is going to vote on that resolution, we expect, sometime tomorrow. House Speaker Pelosi told Democrats in a letter over the weekend that she was going to give Pence a 24-hour - essentially an ultimatum, saying, you have 24 hours now to either do the 25th or we move ahead with a vote telling you to do the 25th, and then we'll vote on impeachment, which - that may seem like a lot of steps. It may seem, like, overly complicated, but what Democrats really want to do is they want to be able to say that they demonstrated that they take the process of impeachment seriously and that they gave the administration every opportunity possible before they move to that step of Congress, taking steps to remove the president.

KEITH: But, Mara, to be clear, Pence has been radio silent, except for over the weekend, an aide indicated that he is planning to attend Joe Biden's inauguration.

LIASSON: Yes, impeachment is almost like censure. It's the only recourse the House has for what they feel is a president who violated the article of impeachment that they're drawing up, which is that he willfully incited violent insurrection against the U.S. government. There's nothing else they can do. If they don't think censure is sufficient, all they can do is impeach. They know he won't be removed - convicted and removed by the Senate. He's also - only has about 10 days left in office, but this is the only way they see to hold him accountable.

SNELL: And it's not just about holding him accountable in the sense that they feel like they have to do it, you know, to send a message to voters. I talked to a lot of genuinely angry and, you know, just hurt and disturbed and traumatized members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, who feel like they have to do something from, you know, from that perspective as well of expressing that Congress will stand up to the president.

LIASSON: Do you think Republicans will join them, Kelsey?

SNELL: We do know that Democrats say they are aware of some Republicans who plan to vote for that article. We don't know how many. We know that there aren't any Republican co-sponsors of the impeachment resolution, so we're kind of just waiting to see who stands up and raises their hand when this comes up for a vote probably Wednesday.

KEITH: So at this point, there will be some motions and some activity today and tomorrow and then Wednesday. And this is shockingly fast even compared to the last impeachment, you know?

SNELL: Right.

KEITH: And that was just a year ago. This is shockingly fast. Wednesday, the House of Representatives could vote to impeach the president of the United States for the second time.

SNELL: Yeah, and it's on a single article, Incitement of Insurrection. The - you know, the article itself is only four pages long, so people can go and read it in its entirety. It details Trump's actions, rallying his supporters, spreading misinformation about the election. And they specifically name his call with the Georgia secretary of state as an attempt to overturn the election. Democrats say that it kind of all amounts to an attempt to interfere with the constitutional duty of Congress and to subvert Trump's duties as president.

LIASSON: How much of the proceedings in the House is going to focus on the speech that the president made on the Ellipse to his supporters, telling them to march to the Capitol, telling them not to show weakness, saying - suggesting that January 6 was somehow the real election day and that they needed to go up to the Capitol to overturn it? - because that's the incitement. That's the specific incitement that a lot of members talk about.

SNELL: So it's really hard to say exactly how this will shake out because this is coming together so fast. But the article does have specific quotes from that speech. It quotes the part where he says, we'll fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore. They quote pretty specifically from that speech. And it is clearly laid out the events of that day as part of the justification for this action.

KEITH: You said that some unknown number of Republicans in the House would - are expected to join Democrats in this. I mean, one question about this process is the last impeachment, President Trump was able to keep House Republicans in line so that it was a purely partisan exercise coming out of the House, which took a lot of pressure off of Senate Republicans who maybe were concerned about the president's behavior but didn't feel like they had to do anything because the House had sort of held together. And you ended up with only one Republican, Mitt Romney, voting for one of the articles of impeachment. This time, it seems quite possible that you're not going to have Republicans completely stick together in the House.

SNELL: Yeah. I mean, it does seem like it's a question of not if there will be Republican support but how much. And I think there is a really significant difference between, like, one or two Republicans and, you know, 10 to 12. The party is really split. They're also getting a lot of pressure from, you know, not just the public over what happened last week but also from donors. They're getting serious political pressure from donors who are saying they won't give money to Republicans who, you know, voted not to certify election results. They don't want to give money to any Republicans that are supporting the president. And money is something that's really important if you're a person running for office again, so I'll be interested to see how that becomes a part of this pressure process of getting Republicans either to support this measure or whether or not they still are - you know, if they still believe that a large portion of their base are Trump supporters.

KEITH: All right. Well, we are going to take a quick break. And when we come back, more about what comes next.

And we're back. And we were talking before - we don't really know how many Republicans might ultimately end up supporting an impeachment or an effort to remove President Trump from office, but we have seen some calling for him to resign, particularly on the Senate side.

SNELL: Yeah. There are some calls for that. This is one of those things where we're waiting to see what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has to say, because he has, up until this point, had a pretty tight control over his members. Though I did think it was interesting that the person who - the highest-ranking Senate Republican in leadership on TV this weekend was Roy Blunt. He's from Missouri, so same state as Josh Hawley, who started much of the push to reject the Electoral College votes.

He was on TV, and he said that the president should just kind of be quiet and ride out the next several days. He said it was his personal view that the president touched a hot stove and was unlikely to do it again. And, you know, if that's how Blunt is talking about it, there's a pretty good chance that that is reflective of many other Republicans in the Senate.

LIASSON: Well, that's really interesting that he's unlikely to do it again. He'll have an opportunity pretty soon. The president has a choice to make. He can remain silent, or he can come out in public - yes, his social media megaphones have been muted, but he still has the bully pulpit of the presidency - and tell his supporters not to come to Washington to have more of these protests at the Capitol. He can do that, or he can remain silent.

KEITH: In terms of the Senate dynamics, the other thing is that - and, you know, married couples can have different views - but Mitch McConnell's wife resigned from the Trump administration after the insurrection. Elaine Chao was the transportation secretary. She resigned. So, you know, they can have different views, but arguably, the McConnell-Chao household is not happy with the way things have gone down in the last week.

SNELL: Being unhappy with the way things have gone down in the last week is different than being willing to stand up and say that something has to change.

KEITH: Right.

SNELL: And there are different political costs to saying that you're unhappy and leaving in the last two weeks of an administration and saying that you're willing to vote to impeach a president, bar that person from future federal office and tell a whole swath of voters who support you that you're not with them.

LIASSON: This is the question about what do Republicans think is in the best interests of their political futures and their party's political futures? Is it to be complicit or silent with a president who incited insurrection or not? I mean, this is a huge clarifying moment for the Republican Party.

They've managed to kind of elide this question for the last four years. You know, they didn't - privately, they would criticize Trump. They didn't like him. They were horrified by some of the things he did. But the bargain was pretty good deal. He motivated the base, gave them a lot of conservative judges, tax cuts and deregulation. You know, now they have to decide, was that bargain worth it?

KEITH: In terms of the impeachment - we're now talking about the Senate - obviously, it would go from the House to the Senate - do we have a sense of the timeline? I feel like there have been a lot of mixed messages on that. And also, what that means for President-elect Joe Biden's nominees. Like, he starts - he becomes president January 20 at noon, and he probably would like to have a defense secretary and a treasury secretary. I mean, he's already called for the Senate to hurry up and confirm his nominees for these top positions.

SNELL: Well, the House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, has said that he expects, you know, that they want to move this article of impeachment to the Senate rather quickly. We don't know exactly when that would be, though it does take a while from the moment that the Senate receives the articles of impeachment to when the part of the trial where they're all sitting on the Senate floor for six days a week happens. There are motions, and there are memos. And they have to pass, like, organizing rules, and that stuff takes time. So really, we could see a trial start in several weeks after this passes, which would coincide with the start of the Biden administration.

But, you know, Biden has raised today the possibility of splitting the days between, you know, I guess, impeachment in the morning and, you know, nominees in the afternoon or the other way around or something like that. That is technically possible. And we're still kind of working through exactly how that would work. It seems like they would need to have some sort of consent agreement there. So it could potentially require Republicans to agree that that's the way that you move forward with the process.

KEITH: Mara, can we just step back here? - because, I mean, the last weeks - I don't know - this is all mind-blowing. This is - it is just so not normal, and it is so appalling. And it is...

LIASSON: Yes, it's all of those things, but it's also what a lot of people said would happen. Look; the four worst words in the English language are I told you so. But every step of the way with Donald Trump, we've had a failure of imagination. The Republican Party had a failure of imagination. He could never be nominated.

You know, the country had a failure of imagination. He would never make a call to an elected official - the elections officials in Georgia, and ask them to find, you know, 11,000 votes for him. He would never stand before a crowd and encourage them to go up to Capitol Hill to overturn the results of an election that dozens of judges - including ones he's appointed - had found without substantial evidence of fraud, I mean, at every step of the way.

So, yes, we're in a crisis of democracy here in America. This is a really fraught moment. And how both parties handle themselves going forward will determine if what we saw at the Capitol is the beginning of a trend or if it's a clarifying moment that, you know, brings us all to our senses and prevents it from happening again.

KEITH: All right. We will leave it there for now. We will be back tomorrow, probably a bit later than usual as we watch what Congress does considering the next steps in the process.

I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.

SNELL: I'm Kelsey Snell. I cover Congress.

LIASSON: And I'm Mara Liasson, national political correspondent.

KEITH: And thank you for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.