For 2nd Time In His Presidency, Trump Faces Impeachment Vote
TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:
For the second time in his presidency, President Trump faces impeachment today. The House of Representatives approved a measure last night urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president. But Pence said in a statement he does not think Trump's removal is in the best interest of the nation. That's only set House Democrats on a determined course to impeach Trump. And if the article is approved, which it is expected to, Trump would become the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. And this time, some key Republicans are on board. Congressional reporter Claudia Grisales joins us now with the latest. And Claudia, what do you know about today's vote?
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: The House will kick off at 9 a.m., and we're expecting fiery debates that could extend for several hours today. The article of impeachment is just four pages. It charges Trump with gravely endangering the country and interfering with a peaceful transfer of power and that he remains a threat to national security. Democrats say while his second impeachment was triggered by this deadly insurrection, it's a buildup of a pattern for this president. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already named her impeachment managers. It's a diverse group, which includes a lot of these key players in this push for impeachment. They're being led by Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin and include Rhode Island's David Cicilline and Joaquin Castro of Texas.
MOSLEY: And there are some other Republicans now breaking ranks to support impeachment. Where does that stand now?
GRISALES: Right. Just in the last 12 hours, we saw a handful of House Republicans jump on board with impeachment. But today remains a real test of how many more may join them. It started with John Katko of New York, and he was quickly followed by Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, as well as Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Fred Upton of Michigan. Cheney, in particular, issued a scathing statement. She said the insurrection caused injury, death and destruction in the most sacred place in our republic. The president summoned this mob and lit the flame of this attack and quote, "Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president." She also said Trump could have intervened to stop the violence and didn't and, quote, "There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution." But we should note, this represents a minority of the party so far speaking out, and today will mark a big test on who will join them.
MOSLEY: So that's the House. What about support on the Senate side?
GRISALES: The New York Times reported last night that the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, could actually be on board with this process. That would mark a dramatic turning point here. And we've also heard from a few other Senate GOP members who support Trump's resignation or removal. And we should note that the Senate remains in limbo right now as it transitions from a Republican-controlled chamber to one run by Democrats following the Georgia runoff elections. And while there are some Democrats concerned a trial could eclipse a President Joe Biden agenda, some say they don't think that will be the case. I talked to Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia about this. Let's take a listen.
TIM KAINE: So I think in some ways, America will be hungry to return to competence and compassion and character from the chaos, division and death that we've seen, especially in the last year.
GRISALES: So that's a sentiment among many Democrats, and we heard this from Biden himself - that their hope is the Senate can take up impeachment and get going on this new administration's agenda at the same time.
MOSLEY: Last night, many of us watched as lawmakers were fired up on a floor debate. And we expect more of that today. What stood out to you last night?
GRISALES: It really revealed how divided Congress is right now. One week after this horrific event, there were huge differences on how to respond, along a party line mostly, and how to move forward. Some were still reeling from the trauma. Here's Representative Norma Torres of California.
NORMA TORRES: I answered my phone to my son Christopher. The call lasted 27 seconds. All I could say, sweetheart, I'm OK; I'm running for my life. And I hung up.
GRISALES: So you can really hear the sentiment here, and Democratic members came to the floor angrier than ever at Trump, saying someone needs to be held accountable. Steve Cohen of Tennessee also went there. Let's take a listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
STEVE COHEN: It was attempt to murder the Congress and our processes to elect our president of the United States. It is the political equivalent of shooting somebody on Fifth Avenue and getting away with it.
GRISALES: But Trump supporters stuck to their script. Most said last night the Democrats' push to oust Trump would set a dangerous precedent and further divide the country. Here's Jim Jordan of Ohio.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JIM JORDAN: I do not know where this takes us. I fear for the First Amendment. I fear for the Second Amendment. I fear for the Bill of Rights. I fear for the Constitution. I do not know where this takes us. But it is scary what they are throwing in a bill that we're going to debate for less than an hour.
GRISALES: Of course, Democrats rejected those arguments, saying the division has already been sown by Trump and his enablers and he should face the consequences because of it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last night that, quote, "A gleeful desecration of the Capitol and violence against the Congress, our staff and our workers are horrors that will forever stay in our nation's history."
MOSLEY: Before we go, Claudia, there have already been some changes to security at the Capitol. What's happening there?
GRISALES: Right. There are new security measures in place on the House side, including new metal detectors, the requirement of masks. These detectors especially caused quite of a pushback among Republicans who say they weren't consulted. Lawmakers called them stupid, and they waited to go through security. So this is something that has to be sorted out.
MOSLEY: NPR's Claudia Grisales.
GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.