Republican lawmakers were divided on Wednesday over whether to eject Donald Trump from the White House and prevent him from running for office in the future, as at least five GOP House members signalled they would vote to impeach the president.
Jim Jordan, a congressman from Ohio and staunch defender of the president, called for Liz Cheney — the most high-profile Republican to break ranks and support impeachment — to be sacked from her leadership post.
Mr Jordan said Ms Cheney, the most senior Republican woman on Capitol Hill and the third-highest ranking GOP House member, was “totally wrong” in voting to impeach the president and should step down from her position as Republican House conference chair.
Mr Jordan added that the Republican caucus should have a “second vote” on her appointment, just days after they unanimously voted to install her as chair of the House Republican conference.
His comments underscored the sharp divisions in the Republican party as GOP lawmakers grapple with how to manage the ignominious end of Mr Trump’s presidency. The party is trying to maintain unity while avoiding the ire of the outgoing president and his loyal support base ahead of midterm elections in 2022.
Ms Cheney sent shockwaves through Washington late on Tuesday when she announced she would vote to impeach Mr Trump for inciting an insurrection that left at least five people, including a Capitol police officer, dead.
“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Ms Cheney, the daughter of former vice-president Dick Cheney, said in a statement. “Everything that followed was his doing.”
Her comments came just hours after The New York Times reported that Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, was pleased that House Democrats were proceeding with impeaching Mr Trump for a second time, just days before he is due to leave the White House and Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US president.
The New York Times reported that Mr McConnell supported the impeachment proceedings in part because he believed they would make it easier for the GOP to purge Mr Trump from the Republican party. But it remains unclear whether Mr McConnell will personally vote to convict the president at any Senate trial or encourage his colleagues to do so.
Ms Cheney is one of five Republicans who have said they will vote to impeach Mr Trump when the House, which is controlled by Democrats, votes later on Wednesday.
While their votes are significant — no Republican voted to impeach Mr Trump when he was charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress last year — they nevertheless represent a small sliver of the House Republican caucus, which numbers 211 members.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll published on Wednesday showed Mr Trump’s approval rating had dived to an all-time low, with 34 per cent of voters approving of the job he was doing. However, the president remained Republican voters’ top choice to be the GOP presidential candidate in 2024, according to the survey.
Forty-two per cent of Republican voters said they would vote for Mr Trump in the next GOP primary, compared with 54 per cent when asked the same question in November.
Wednesday’s impeachment vote will be followed by a Senate trial, the timing of which is dependent on when Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, sends the article of impeachment to the Senate.
But a spokesperson for Mr McConnell on Wednesday confirmed that he did not intend to reconvene the Senate before January 19, one day before Mr Biden’s inauguration. That would set the stage for an impeachment trial in the early days of the Biden administration.
Mr Trump will only be removed from office if he is convicted by two-thirds of the Senate, which is currently in Republican hands but will soon flip to the Democrats following last week’s Senate run-offs in Georgia. The Senate will then be split, 50-50, with Kamala Harris, the incoming vice-president, able to cast a tiebreaking vote.