A friend messaged me after this news broke to say, “A Cheney will shoot you in the face and make you apologize.” Which is funny because it’s true!
Another Twitter comedian headlines this news, “CHENEY CALLS FOR REGIME CHANGE IN U.S.”
She’s the third-ranking Republican in the House behind McCarthy and Scalise. There aren’t many bigger Republican votes in all of Congress than this.
🚨🚨 LIZ CHENEY, the No. 3 House Republican, says she will vote to impeach Trump pic.twitter.com/Tjjgh7XYWi
— Melanie Zanona (@MZanona) January 12, 2021
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Reporters on social media are gasping over how bold that is, but if you’re going to do something gutsy like vote to impeach a president from your own party, you might as well own it. The mob’s not going to spare you if you vote to impeach but then try to be shy about it.
Besides, what are they going to do, kill her? They already tried that last week. This isn’t Congress being “disloyal.” This is self-defense. “Trump singled her out *by name* at the rally shortly before the attack on the Capitol,” a Times reporter remembered. She was already on the hit list. So she’s hitting back.
Cheney is one of three House Republicans who announced their support for impeachment today. Adam Kinzinger said a few days ago that he thinks impeachment is a bad idea because it’ll let Trump play the victim, but if he’s forced to vote up or down on the merits, he votes yes:
— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) January 12, 2021
If this wasn’t impeachable, what is? The third Republican is John Katko of New York, who was out of the gate today before Cheney and Kinzinger were. He has the distinction of being the first House Republican to declare his support for impeachment:
“To allow the president of the United States to incite this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy,” Katko said in a statement. “For that reason, I cannot sit by without taking action. I will vote to impeach this president…
“It cannot be ignored that President Trump encouraged this insurrection – both on social media ahead of January 6th, and in his speech that day,” Katko said. “By deliberately promoting baseless theories suggesting the election was somehow stolen, the president created a combustible environment of misinformation, disenfranchisement, and division. When this manifested in violent acts on January 6th, he refused to promptly and forcefully call it off, putting countless lives in danger.”
Right, and the part about what Trump did before January 6 is crucial. The MAGA rally didn’t happen in a vacuum. It wasn’t some campaign event that got out of hand. He spent months cultivating paranoia and rage among his fans over the claim that the election had been stolen, and instead of producing hard evidence or winning in court, he asked them to bet all of their chips on Mike Pence stopping the certification in Congress last Wednesday. Then he called them to Washington on that day to try to intimidate Congress. He filled the powder keg and then lit a match and handed it to the crowd. Saying that he didn’t explicitly call for violence at the rally is as dumb as saying, “Well, he didn’t touch the match to the powder keg himself.”
By the way, it’s not just Republicans in Congress who’ve turned on him because of last Wednesday. This is bleak:
The empty West Wing — A senior official described for MM the very strange scene inside the final days of the Trump White House. The president himself is rarely seen around the West Wing, only occasionally popping into the Oval Office and mostly ignoring any official duties. He is mostly just stewing in the residence, making phone calls, cut off from his Twitter addiction, facing another impeachment and finally resigned to leaving next week.
Official work still goes on, this person said, even as some high-level staff and Cabinet officials very publicly resign. Some who remain view the quitters as just show-boaters looking to score PR points after the Capitol attack disaster. If they were so righteous, this thinking goes, why didn’t they quit sooner? And why not stay around now and help those trying to wind things down with no more meltdowns?
Despite irritation with the quitters, pretty much everyone left now mostly loathes the president, especially for his treatment of Vice President Mike Pence, who spent four years as an unwaveringly loyal supporter before Trump jammed him under the bus and turned the VP into the ultimate villain to MAGA world.
Anyway, although there’ll be more votes against impeaching Trump within the House GOP caucus — many more — than in favor, Cheney’s vote is consequential because she’s in leadership. She’ll be the lightning rod for criticism, which will provide cover to backbenchers to vote with her. This morning there was an estimate that 20 Republicans might vote to impeach; I was skeptical, but now I’m curious to see how close they get to that.
I’m also curious to see the reporting tomorrow on what influenced her thinking here apart from the obvious “Trump incited a mob to try to murder me and my colleagues” angle. I noted in an earlier post that House Republicans are well aware that Cheney’s showed some nerve in criticizing Trump while her two superiors, McCarthy and Scalise, have cowered and backed him at every turn. Maybe this is Cheney’s play to position herself as McCarthy’s successor, a figure who’ll symbolize a clear break with the Trump era. Although, uh…
If Liz Cheney were to dislodge Kevin McCarthy, become the new House Minority Leader, she’s still got a problem: Most of her caucus voted for Trump’s electoral coup, and it’s also likely most will have voted against impeaching Trump for his insurrection. What would she be leading?
— Eric Kleefeld (@EricKleefeld) January 12, 2021
Yeah, that’s awkward, huh? Cheney and ~20 other Republicans will vote for impeachment and McCarthy and 190 others will vote against — and Cheney’s the big political winner? I guess it depends on how many secret anti-Trumpers there are in the caucus. There are some true MAGA diehards, like Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, etc, but there are doubtless scores of others who have toed the Trumpy line purely for selfish reasons of avoiding a primary in their district. That’s why they’ll vote against impeachment too. But would they seize an opportunity to try to put the Trump era behind them by crossing their base to make Cheney caucus leader? Hmmmm.
Apart from the political intrigue, I wonder if she and Kinzinger and Katko were also moved by Trump’s comments this morning claiming that his comments at the rally were “totally appropriate” and that impeachment would be “dangerous.” Conceivably Cheney et al. were waiting to see how he’d respond to the attack on the Capitol and the fallout once he started talking to reporters again. If he had been uncharacteristically conciliatory, would that have convinced the pro-impeachment Republicans to deescalate as well?
Either way, would they have had the guts to do this if not for Twitter banning Trump, denying him his main tool to generate an insta-backlash? His fans will still be angry once they hear of Cheney’s “betrayal” but the outrage won’t be quite as quick or electric when it’s not being driven by some official presidential denunciation from on high.
I’ll leave you with this point, which captures the significance of Cheney’s (and Kinzinger’s and Katko’s) vote to the messaging war. People who insist that it’s a betrayal to impeach Trump will simply massage the message so that it’s the “radical left Trump-haters” *and* the RINOs who are to blame, but that line never has as much bite as a clean partisan conflict does. It’s why Romney is so reviled by righties for his impeachment vote last year. He screwed up the argument that the Ukraine matter was just another left-wing hit job on Trump for partisan gain. He stood alone that time. Not this time.
The whole ecosystem is premised on defining certain information sources as the enemy, therefore ignorable. Which is one reason internal deviation is so fiercely punished: If that layer of defense is breached, there’s not much of an information immune response on the other side.
— Julian Sanchez (@normative) January 12, 2021