- After standing by President Donald Trump through the highs and lows of the last four years, many in the GOP have now had it with him.
- Several White House staffers and Cabinet officials have resigned in the days since the violent attack at the Capitol by Trump supporters egged on by the president. And many of his defenders aren’t backing him this time.
- “What you’re seeing now is what the guy would have been like the entire time if he’d been left to his own devices,” said one former senior Trump administration official.
- Trump did not apologize to Vice President Mike Pence at a meeting Monday, and Pence’s advisors are not counting on the president doing so. Pence also has no plans to pardon Trump in the remote case the president resigned to make such a move possible before January 20.
- Republicans still say they think Trump will finish out the final days of his term. “The president isn’t going anywhere,” Steven Groves, a former White House spokesman, told Insider. “He’s not resigning. He’ll stick it out.”
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With just eight days left in office, the “adults in the room” who had been keeping President Donald Trump from flying off the rails are leaving him to fend for himself after he spurred his supporters to violently attack the Capitol.
Sure, most Republicans aren’t joining the charge to oust Trump. But they’re not standing in the way of those efforts either. And they’re not rushing to his defense as they’ve done for the last four years, even in the face of a rapidly moving plan in the House to impeach him again, this time for inciting an “insurrection.”
There’s no serious effort either involving Vice President Mike Pence or other Republicans to send the president out the door via the 25th Amendment. Pence made that clear in a Tuesday night letter on White House stationary to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Instead, Trump’s No. 2 and his team are instead counting the hours until the president leaves office.
Pence’s team has also rebuffed any talk that he would pardon Trump should the president resign from office or temporarily step down in his final days to allow that move to happen, according to Republicans close to the outgoing vice president.
“It’d be an investigation-worthy thing for sure,” one of the GOP sources said of the legal pickle Pence would end up in should he pardon Trump. “I don’t know that he’s going to want to take it on, especially after the guy treated him like s—.”
Adding to the building acrimony between the two men whose political careers will forever be inextricably linked, Trump has yet to apologize to his vice president for the rioters threatening him and his family, said one Pence advisor, despite their meeting in private in the Oval Office Monday.
The threats to the Trump presidency in the final hours are indeed very real.
House Republican leaders signaled to their rank-and-file members on Tuesday that they would not be lobbied to oppose impeachment. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has privately told others that he would welcome an impeachment of Trump after last week’s deadly attack on the Capitol, according to the New York Times and a Republican close to the White House.
Now it’s a question of whether the flood gates really open. On Tuesday, the third-ranking Republican in the House, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, announced in dramatic fashion she would vote to impeach Trump.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Cheney said in a statement. “I will vote to impeach the President.”
Asked Tuesday if the Republicans were kicking Trump to the curb, one Republican close to the White House replied: “Big time.”
‘He’s not resigning.’
Trump in the meantime has continued trying to deflect blame for the rioters who marched to the Capitol last Wednesday bearing assault rifles, body armor, and military-style tactical gear. They broke into the Capitol after he implored them to march there in protest of the Electoral College ceremony cementing Joe Biden’s place as the next US president. Someone dropped off suspected explosive devices at the nearby headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee.
“The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration,” Trump said Tuesday in Reynosa-McAllen, Texas, as he toured his much-hyped border fence one last time before leaving office.
A few hours later, Pence told Pelosi he had no plans to invoke the 25th Amendment and instead cited biblical verse in urging the Democratic leader to work with him on the January 20th handover to Biden.
Steven Groves, a former Trump White House spokesman, said in an interview he expected Trump will finish out his term that ends at noon on January 20 when Biden takes the oath.
“The president isn’t going anywhere. He’s not resigning. He’ll stick it out,” said Groves, who served in the press office and other roles for the president from 2017 until last year.
But even Trump’s staunchest defenders in the past are keeping him at arm’s length.
Alan Dershowitz, the famed Harvard law professor and defense attorney, told Insider he has not been contacted about representing Trump in a Senate impeachment trial and has no plans to defend him. “This is all political theater, and I’m not an actor,” Dershowitz said of the second impeachment effort.
Dershowitz, who played a role on the Senate floor backing Trump during his first impeachment trial last January, said he would continue to defend the president’s First Amendment rights if asked. That’s something he’s done throughout his own career, often in the face of significant scrutiny. Dershowitz added that Trump’s January 6 speech at the Ellipse that spurred the rioters on amounted to protected speech under the Constitution.
He also praised Pence for upholding the Constitution by not following House Democratic leaders and even some Republicans who want him to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump, as well as finalizing the electoral count which certified Biden as the president-elect.
Trump may try to pardon himself
As the prospect of post-presidency prosecution rises, Trump has been talking more recently about pardoning himself, according to two Republicans close to the White House.
That’s against the advice of Trump’s own White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and other lawyers urging him against pardoning himself because it could invite further legal jeopardy.
“They’re telling him he can’t,” one of the GOP sources close to the White House said. “But he can do it. It won’t stop him.”
The expectation among Trump lawyers is that if he pardons himself he’s just inviting an investigation and federal charges from the Justice Department on any number of areas — and where it’d be up to the Biden administration to challenge the legal argument a president can pardon themselves all the way up to the Supreme Court.
“There’s no reason not to test it,” the source said of a potential decision by Trump to press ahead on something no president has ever tried before.
Spokespeople for Trump and Pence did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Meanwhile, administration officials have been fleeing Trump’s team since last week’s failed attempt at an insurrection. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos both resigned citing the violent attack. National security officials including deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf resigned. And a wave of recent departures also came from top White House staffers citing the attack on the Capitol..
Fewer and fewer people are getting through to Trump too. And the president has grown angry at his own family, including son-in-law Jared Kushner. That ire came after Ivanka Trump, Kushner’s wife, announced she wanted to attend Biden’s inauguration next week. The rift means the president’s adult sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. are some of the only people still talking with their father, said a Republican close to the White House.
“This is him by himself and it is something that has never happened before,” said one former senior Trump administration official. “To me, it’s a window into what the whole administration could have been like if real people hadn’t served their country and worked in the executive branch for the last four years doing good work and stopping the crazy.”
“What you’re seeing now is what the guy would have been like the entire time if he’d been left to his own devices,” the former official added.
The rapidly evolving situation comes as the Justice Department continues its hunt for insurrectionists who breached the Capitol. Democrats and a growing number of GOP lawmakers and pundits are also eyeing every available option to remove Trump, right down to the 14th Amendment.
House Democrats and historians floated the idea after noticing an oft-missed section of the 14th Amendment ratified in 1868 that bars elected officials from holding office if they support an insurrection. The language got added to the Constitution during Reconstruction as a way to block former Confederate soldiers from serving in the reconstituted nation, and some Republicans aren’t so sure it can be used now to apply to Trump.
In fact, a former Trump administration official said Democrats may find a different way to keep the president out of office in the future that involves seeing the impeachment process all the way through to a Senate trial. If two-thirds of the Senate voted to convict Trump, a simple majority vote would follow that would ban him from ever holding a US government position again.
“I’m not sure that crazy a– speech on the Ellipse is the same thing as organized Confederate militias besieging Fort Sumter. I just think that’s a goofy theory,” said the former Trump administration official. “The impeachment provision empowering Congress to disqualify someone from future office for high crimes and misdemeanors seems like a much more natural fit for what happened here.”