Donald John Trump will be remembered as the only president in American history to be impeached on two separate occasions. He incited an insurrection that was in effect a frontal and physical assault on the constitutional order, the peaceful transfer of power, the vice president and the Congress itself. On top of an already shameful record, the events of January 6, 2021, will define Trump’s legacy forever and stain the pages of American history.
Under Trump, the GOP lost the House of Representatives in 2018 and the White House and the Senate in 2020. Even worse, the GOP may have lost its soul. It is now fractured between Trump supporters and those who want a clean break from him. While many House Republicans reportedly supported impeachment, only 10 courageous GOP members actually voted for it. If the Senate were to convict Trump and prohibit him from ever seeking high office again, many House Republicans would be most grateful and relieved. It’s called “hope yes, vote no.”
The GOP representatives who voted in favor of impeachment represent geographically diverse areas. They rejected the procedural arguments of many of their Republican colleagues and directly addressed in their arguments the substance of what occurred last week. These members are to be commended for their exemplary leadership. Explaining his vote in support of impeachment, Don Newhouse (R-Washington), with simple eloquence, said it best: “I will not use process as an excuse. There is no excuse for President Trump’s actions.”
Michigan GOP freshman Congressman Peter Meijer, a US Army veteran who fought in Iraq and part of a family that founded a highly successful retail chain, demonstrated real courage and genuine leadership with his affirmative impeachment vote on his eleventh day in the House. He was joined by my friends Fred Upton, John Katko, Adam Kinzinger, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Tom Rice and David Valadao, with whom I spent time as part of the Tuesday Group, a coalition of roughly 40 pragmatic, center-right Republicans I co-chaired for 12 years while serving in the House.
In fact, eight of the 10 affirmative GOP impeachment votes were Tuesday Group members. These members represent the governing wing of the Republican Party. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) also voted for impeachment.
Cheney, the third-highest ranking House Republican, released a powerful statement in support of her principled position. Consequently, a movement has been initiated by a few angry colleagues who want her removed from her leadership position.
No doubt an enraged and unhinged Trump will incite his supporters to challenge Cheney and the others who put loyalty to country and Constitution above party in future primaries. But the group does have influential backers. Defending Democracy Together, an organization led by Bill Kristol, has pledged to raise and spend $50 million to defend Republicans who hold President Trump accountable for inciting an attack on the US Capitol.
“We want to say to any Republican who votes to impeach or remove Trump: You will not be left alone,” said Kristol. We will help you against your primary challenges. And before the challenges emerge, we will help explain your vote to your constituents. So do the right thing. We will have your back.'”
The actions of these 10 brave congressmen should give greater confidence to seething, bitter GOP senators who justifiably blame Trump for the loss of the Georgia Senate seats, which delivered them to minority status in the upper chamber. The GOP senators are manifestly more hostile to the President than their GOP House counterparts.
A reckoning within the GOP has arrived. Will this fractured party brought to ruin continue to follow a twice-impeached former President who abused his office and violated Congress in such a hideous way? Or will it follow Sen. Mitch McConnell who has signaled he wants a clean break from the dark curse of Trump?
The lines are drawn. Let the battle begin.