Impeachment Briefing: Republicans Divided

My colleague Catie Edmondson, who covers Congress, wrote today about Representative Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican and one of 10 in her party to vote to impeach the president. A group of Mr. Trump’s most strident allies in the House is now calling on her to resign from her leadership post.

Ms. Cheney has brushed aside calls to step down, saying she was “not going anywhere” and calling her break with Mr. Trump “a vote of conscience.” She issued a scathing statement the day before the impeachment vote in which she said, “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Catie wrote that Republicans are scrambling to determine the political consequences of breaking with Mr. Trump after four years of fealty, and whether they would pay a steeper political price for breaking with the president — or for failing to. A yes vote on Wednesday had little short-term political upside for Republicans, Catie told me.

“The House is where you find Trump’s most vocal defenders, and their contention is that they need to hang on with Trump and his brand,” she said. “These are the lawmakers who are now calling on Liz Cheney to resign from her leadership post. In the middle of the conference you have a whole lot of lawmakers who are unsure which way to turn.”

Catie described the fault lines in the House Republican caucus as more distinct than those among Senate Republicans, pitting establishment conservatives versus MAGA conservatives who see most political issues as up-or-down referendums on Mr. Trump. That contest became clearer this week. Some of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach were veterans who had “carved out a bipartisan, centrist brand in their districts, like Fred Upton and John Katko,” Catie said. Others, like the freshman conservatives Peter Meijer and Anthony Gonzalez, used the impeachment vote to make a point early in their careers.

“For a while they were able to cohabitate in harmony, even though there were always these tensions. Their stance was that Trump could defy political gravity and be a powerful enemy, and they didn’t have to question the strategy of total adherence,” Catie said of the dueling groups. “After the riot, it became a question of picking a lane, and there are a lot of lawmakers who don’t know what to pick because they don’t know what the most politically safe lane to be in is.”

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