(As I was writing this, Nancy Pelosi let it be known that another impeachment is on the table. Keep reading for details.)
Today, Trump is holed up in the White House, largely cut off from the world. His social media accounts have all been suspended, at least for a while. There have been no official White House press releases for a couple of days. All we’ve heard from Trump in several hours is this:
…fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”
— Dan Scavino??? (@DanScavino) January 7, 2021
Dan Scavino is White House deputy chief of staff.
At Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley writes We’ve Lost Contact With the President.
The assumption underneath all of this, seemingly confirmed by a leaked Wednesday email in which Jared Kushner’s father told a friend that Trump’s actions are “beyond our control,” is that the president has gotten untethered; there is no longer anyone at all to mediate, even in a craven or enabling way, between his impulses and those of his most delusional, violent supporters. And with his social media accounts shut down, we lack even the usual level of awful access to the pattern of his thoughts. The man who is nothing but performance has been cut off from the audience that gives him shape and meaning.
What is the president doing? Is there a president right now, really? The safety line has gone slack in the cave, and we are all waiting to see what kind of thing will come back out.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported that Trump’s enthusiasm about the attack on Congress disturbed even his own staff. Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman writes that staffers were actually warned to stay away from Trump.
“What do I do? Resign?” one nervous White House staffer asked a friend on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after news broke that a woman had been shot and killed inside the Capitol. The West Wing staffer told the friend that White House Counsel Pat Cipollone was urging White House officials not to speak to Trump or enable his coup attempt in any way, so they could reduce the chance they could be prosecuted for treason under the Sedition Act. “They’re being told to stay away from Trump,” the friend said. The White House declined to comment.
Cipollone’s purported concern that Trump was committing treason—a federal crime—illustrates the chaos and fear of Wednesday’s unprecedented events. At least one staffer isn’t waiting to flee the ship. On Wednesday night, CNN reported that Stephanie Grisham, the former White House communications director and Melania Trump’s current chief of staff, resigned over the Trump-inspired riot. As staff quit or steer clear, Trump is increasingly isolated and alone. According to a person close to the White House, Trump refused to take calls on Wednesday from business leaders who wanted him to call off the insurrectionists. A former West Wing staffer said Republicans were texting and calling Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to lobby him to intervene, but Meadows wasn’t answering.
Gabriel also says Trump wanted David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler (our guys won! hurray!) to lose the Georgia runoff elections. Trump wanted to hurt Mitch McConnell for not supporting his attempt to overturn the election, and he believes that he will be the most dominant force in the Republican Party if McConnell loses party leadership. However, if anything, the events of yesterday supported McConnell’s continued leadership, even if it’s as Minority Leader. Trump is political kryptonite now.
Today there are resignations. The most significant of these, so far, is Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. I take it the break between Trump and Chao’s husband Mitch McConnell is irrevocable.
Today Chuck Schumer called for Trump to be removed from office immediately. I emailed my senators to let them know I support Schumer in this. And since one of my senators is Josh Hawley, I also told Hawley he was a disgrace and should resign. The Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch have not been kind to Hawley today, either.
And now I see Nancy Pelosi is calling for Trump to be removed from office immediately, too. I’ll come back to this in a bit.
The person who might do the job is Mike Pence, who has sole power to initiate removal procedures under the 25th Amendment. And Pence would be justified. I almost feel sorry for him now. See CNN’s Jim Acosta, Trump pressured Pence to engineer a coup, then put the VP in danger, source says.
On Tuesday, Pence came under intense pressure from Trump to toss out the election results during a meeting that lasted hours in the Oval Office. The vice president’s chief of staff, Marc Short, was banned by Trump from entering the West Wing, the source said, as the President repeatedly warned with “thinly veiled threats” to Pence that he would suffer major political consequences if he refused to cooperate.
And then Trump sic’d the mob on Pence.
Pence was joined by his wife Karen Pence, daughter Charlotte and brother, Rep. Greg Pence, R-Indiana, for the ceremonial counting of the electoral votes in Congress Wednesday. Several of the violent Trump supporters who were rampaging the US Capitol were heard screaming “where’s Mike Pence,” the source said, frightening the vice president and his family.
Yet, the President and his top aides barely lifted a finger to check in on Pence to make sure he and his family were unharmed, the source added.
If Pence refuses to act, another impeachment isn’t out of the question. Greg Sargent reports that Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are circulating new articles of impeachment. And this is what Nancy Pelosi said about it:
I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the Vice President to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th amendment. If the vice president and the cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment.
And there’s still time; as I recall, Andrew Johnson’s impeachment from start to acquittal in the Senate only took about a week. Sargeant says the position to just leave Trump alone until January 20 is becoming increasingly untenable.
Elsewhere: Anger that the Capitol was so easily broken into is growing. Chuck Schumer has promised to fire the Senate Sargeant-at-Arms as soon as he becomes Majority Leader. The House Sargeant-at Arms is under pressure to resign. There are multiple calls to thoroughly investigate the Capitol Police. The whole topic of how Capitol security failed, and how it almost certainly was compromised, requires a whole ‘nother post.