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With another impeachment vote, Republicans finally reckon with Trumpism

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell heads to his office from the floor of the Senate on Dec. 20, 2020 in Washington.Samuel Corum / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — With seven full days left in Donald Trump’s presidency, the Republican Party is finally starting an honest debate about Trumpism and whether it should remain the party’s driving force.

It just took a second round of impeachment proceedings that begin today — as well as a siege on the Capitol, losing the Senate, and a majority of the caucus voting to object to the Electoral College results — to arrive here.

On Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the No. 3 figure in the House GOP leadership, announced she would vote to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the insurrection at the Capitol that took place exactly one week ago.

“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said in a statement declaring her position. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Cheney’s comments followed a New York Times report that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and that the impeachment effort “will make it easier to purge Mr. Trump from the party.”

So on one hand, you have the pre-Trump GOP establishment striking back (McConnell, Cheney, Romney), and on the other, you have the GOP that’s been created largely in Trump’s image.

Freshmen members like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.

An Arizona state GOP that’s voting on whether to censure Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake.

And a National Republican Senatorial Committee now chaired by a senator — Florida’s Rick Scott — who voted to object to Pennsylvania’s election results.

This debate over Trumpism isn’t about policy or cultural issues. Instead, it’s about the rule of law and democracy.

And it’s a debate where the opponents to Trump over the last four years had largely remained silent and tried to accommodate him.

Until he finally forced their hand.

Tweet of the day

How we got here

It’s worth repeating how we got to the point where a not-insignificant number of House Republicans (20 or more?) could vote to impeach Trump.

  • Joe Biden winning the Democratic nomination and the presidency
  • A global pandemic that’s on track to kill 400,000 Americans by Inauguration Day, that’s been politicized and mismanaged
  • The blossoming of a preposterous conspiracy theory about pedophilia and blood sacrifice
  • Republicans losing — in overtime — the Georgia Senate runoffs and their Senate majority
  • More than 140 GOP senators and House members voting to object to the Electoral College count
  • A violent mob – fanned by the president – overrunning poorly-prepared law enforcement at the Capitol, miraculously not ending in mass deaths
  • And finally Trump failing — even yesterday — to account for his behavior leading up to the siege on the Capitol.

Had any of the above not occurred, we’re in a different place on Trump’s impeachment and the current GOP debate over Trumpism.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

3: Rep. Liz Cheney’s ranking among House Republicans, a level of seniority that made her announcement that she’ll vote to impeach the president all the more significant

223: The number of House members who voted for a symbolic resolution calling on Mike Pence to move forward with 25th Amendment proceedings against the president

160: The number of case files related to the Capitol breach opened so far by the FBI.

$218 million: The amount of money that the recently deceased Sheldon Adelson – along with his wife – donated in the 2020 cycle, all to Republicans and mostly to GOP outside groups.

Almost 70 years: The length of time between yesterday’s execution of Lisa Montgomery and the last previous federal execution of a woman in the United States.

22,926,427: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 226,209 more than yesterday morning.)

381,389: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 4,375 more than yesterday morning.)

131,326: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus

271.96 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

7: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

The Lid: “People are saying”

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at what early public opinion data says about views of Trump after Wednesday’s violence.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

There are now metal detectors outside the House chamber. Republicans aren’t happy about it.

The FBI never distributed an intelligence bulletin about its findings leading up to Wednesday’s violence, in part because of concerns about free speech protections.

YouTube is the latest online company to slap restrictions on Trump.

Corporations, banks and even sports are starting to flee the Trump brand.

Keep an eye out for Biden’s covid relief plan, coming later this week.

Team Biden is already thinking about how to avoid a rough 2022 cycle.

The New York Times goes inside Mike Pence’s relationship with Trump.

Biden is tapping Samantha Power to lead US AID.

Health officials now recommend that states should start giving Covid vaccines to anyone 65 and over.