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What Trump's impeachment accomplished — and what it didn't

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.
Image: Kevin McCarthy
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during a press conference on the steps of the Capitol, on Dec. 10, 2020.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — With the House’s impeachment vote on Wednesday, we got the start of a GOP debate on President Trump, his behavior and Trumpism.

But that debate turned into a rout — 197 House Republicans opposing Trump’s impeachment, versus 10 voting for it.

Now 10 House Republicans supporting their president’s impeachment wasn’t insignificant: It’s more than the House Democratic defections in Bill Clinton’s impeachment (five) and House GOP defections in Trump’s first impeachment (zero).

Still, even without his Twitter account, even with just six days left in office, even after last week’s violence and even with U.S. troops in the U.S. Capitol, an overwhelming majority of House Republicans stood by Trump.

But while the impeachment vote didn’t upend GOP views of Trump — at least in the House — it did result in:

  • Republicans admitting that Joe Biden won, which was something many were still fighting a week ago (“Let’s be clear: Joe Biden will be sworn in as the president of the United States in one week because he won the election,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy);
  • Some Republicans also acknowledging Trump’s responsibility for last week’s insurrection (“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress,” McCarthy added);
  • Trump releasing a video condemning political violence (do you think he releases that video if he wasn’t worried about a Senate conviction?);
  • And Trump becoming the first American president to be impeached twice — in just a single term.

One other observation from yesterday: With a few exceptions — like McCarthy and Steve Scalise — the House Republicans who were defending Trump and opposing his impeachment on the House floor were members of the House Freedom Caucus.

The House GOP’s other party leaders and many of their committee chairs didn’t speak, suggesting a sizable gap between leadership and the rank-and-file.

Will it be a different ballgame in the Senate?

But as impeachment moves to a Senate trial, the question we have: Are 10 House GOP defections worth 20 Senate GOP defections?

Or just five or six?

The answer will determine if Trump gets convicted or if he escapes it again.

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told his GOP colleagues in a note Wednesday afternoon that he remains undecided whether he'll vote to convict President Donald Trump at his coming impeachment trial,” per NBC News.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

10: The number of House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump on Wednesday

Less than one percentage point: The closest margin of victory in 2020 for any of those 10, for Rep. David Valadao, who won his California seat back from Democrat TJ Cox after being defeated by a narrow margin in 2018.

44 percentage points: The widest margin of victory in the 2020 general election for any of those ten, for Wyoming at-large Rep. Liz Cheney.

Eight out of 10: The number of House Republicans voting for impeachment who won their 2020 general election by more than 10 percentage points.

Eight out of 10: The number of House Republicans voting for impeachment whose congressional districts were won by Donald Trump.

Three out of 10: The number of House Republicans voting for impeachment whose states (Washington and California) have a nonpartisan top-two primary process.

1: The number of House Republicans voting for impeachment who also objected to certification of the electoral votes last week.

23,184,222: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 257,795 more than yesterday morning.)

385,698: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 4,309 more than yesterday morning.)

130,383: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus.

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

At least 10.3 million: The number of people in the U.S. who have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

6: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

Walking and chewing gum at the same time

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear on Wednesday that he would not call the Senate back to hear a trial on President Trump’s impeachment until Jan. 19.

That’s the same day four Senate confirmation hearings are scheduled for Biden Cabinet nominees.

“Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office. This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact,” McConnell said in a statement.

On Wednesday night, Biden drew his own line: Find a way to hear the trial and keep up regular order.

“I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation,” Biden said.

Essentially: Lawmakers often joke about being able to walk and chew gum at the same time. The beginning of Biden’s term may be the chance to prove it.

By the way, here are the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings, per NBC’s Geoff Bennett:

Jan. 15

Avril Haines (Director of National Intelligence) – 2 p.m., Senate Intelligence

Jan. 19

Janet Yellen (Treasury) – 10 a.m., Senate Finance

Alejandro Mayorkas (DHS) – 10 a.m., Senate Homeland Security

Lloyd Austin (Defense) – 3 a.m., Senate Armed Services

Tony Blinken (State) – 2 p.m., Senate Foreign Relations

Tweet of the day

The Lid: The Ten

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at what the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach the president do and don’t have in common.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

What happens next in the Senate? It looks like a heavy lift.

Joe Biden says he wants to take up Covid relief and confirmations while also allowing lawmakers to fulfill their “Constitutional responsibilities” on impeachment.

And Biden plans to include a major new benefit for kids in poor and middle class households.

Trump condemned violence in a new video — but didn’t mention the impeachment vote.

The Capitol riot may be the start — not the end — of a new evolution of the QAnon movement.

The New York Times profiles Lauren Boebert.

Here’s what former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has been charged with in the Flint water crisis.