In a scripted, stilted video, Trump condemned the mayhem unleashed by his supporters in the US Capitol and admitted unequivocally — more than two months after his election loss — that he will no longer be president in 12 days.
But presidents don’t get credit for pledging a “smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power” after encouraging their mobs to punish another branch of government and doing everything possible to destabilize the nascent administrations of their successors.
They can’t get away with lurching into an “address on national healing,” as the White House called his remarks, after spending two months subverting democracy by denying their election losses and spending four years shredding truth and inflaming cultural and racial divides for political gain.
Given multiple reports about Trump’s true, defiant state of mind, there is every reason to doubt the sentiments behind a prerecorded video message in which he never mentioned President-elect Joe Biden. In the past, the President has often used formal addresses to extricate himself from tough spots before revealing his true feelings on Twitter.
There is also little doubt that Trump’s video message was a desperate attempt to salvage his fast-declining political position after a disastrous day filled with outrage about his conduct and growing concerns about whether he is psychologically fit for office.
‘A very flawed human being’
“He’s a very, very flawed human being,” Kelly told Tapper, after days in which the President’s demagoguery, autocratic instincts, lack of compassion, assaults on truth and vanity have driven the nation to a breaking point.
In another barely believable move in the fast-escalating implosion of the presidency, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, issued a statement revealing that they had called Pence to discuss the 25th Amendment but had not yet heard back.
“The President’s dangerous and seditious acts necessitate his immediate removal from office,” they said.
Even the staunchly conservative editorial page of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal told Trump he should take personal responsibility and resign — a sign of his fracturing political power base.
The Journal argued that it would be in everyone’s interest, and preferable to impeachment or removal, if Trump “simply goes quietly” but left no doubt that it considered his actions on Wednesday impeachable.
Chances rise of end days’ impeachment
A second, unprecedented impeachment of a living president would normally be inconceivable. But in a way, such a scenario would be a fitting finale for the most lawless, turbulent presidency in history.
The drama comes amid fury and trauma on Capitol Hill over Trump’s incitement of a mob that breached the Capitol for the first time since 1814 in rioting that left five people dead.
The events of the past two days have spurred bipartisan concerns about Trump’s increasingly vengeful mood and the damage he could wreak as he contemplates the end of his presidency and a transition to civilian life in which a flurry of legal challenges awaits.
What, for example, could be more contrary to Trump’s oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States than inciting supporters who then sought to disrupt the lawful ceremony finalizing his successor’s election?
But a new impeachment push would face huge practical and political challenges with a high bar of convincing the country that ousting a President so close to the end of his term was in the national interest.
And despite the widespread outrage across party lines over Trump’s behavior, it still seems a stretch that proponents of impeachment would reach the necessary two-thirds majority in the Republican-led Senate to secure a conviction and ouster of the President.
Then there are the logistical challenges built into compressing a process that normally takes months — includes long committee hearings, debates and a trial in the Senate — into a few days.
There is the question of whether a final-days impeachment — which would serve as a warning to future presidents about the limits of their power — would only deepen the venomous divides that have been ripped open by Trump’s presidency.
Biden is already facing multiple crises, including a murderous pandemic that has never been worse and on Thursday killed more than 4,000 Americans in one day — a record. The aftermath of an impeachment would likely make his all-but-impossible task of unifying the country even tougher.
A person close to Biden told CNN’s Jeff Zeleny that the President-elect has no appetite for opening an impeachment proceeding against the President.
“Impeachment would not help unify this country,” the person said, while stressing that the matter was one for Congress to decide.
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