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Brooks and Capehart on the Capitol attack and Trump’s impeachment

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the rampage at the Capitol, President Trump's potential impeachment, and the future of the Republican Party.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We mark this momentous week with the next chapter in a "NewsHour" tradition. That is Brooks and Capehart.

    Joining our longtime Friday analyst, David Brooks, New York Times columnist, is Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post and anchor of "The Sunday Show" on MSNBC, and successor, I should add, to Mark Shields.

    Jonathan Capehart, welcome to the "NewsHour," to Friday nights. And it is a long tradition.

    And you join us, we are sad to say, on a week that's probably one of the worst, certainly in Washington history, and American history, with this assault on the Capitol.

    And I want to start with you, Jonathan. How are you processing what happened?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, first, Judy, thank you very much for the welcome.

    And I also want to thank Mark Shields for setting an incredible example that I hope to meet every Friday.

    This has been an incredible week. I am still processing what happened. I'm not surprised by what happened, given who the president of the United States is and his track record over the last four years, in terms of inciting passions in people that go way beyond what they should be.

    But I will admit that I was shocked to see a marauding band of — and I will use this phrasing — domestic terrorists storming the citadel of American democracy, brazenly breaking into the United States Capitol, breaking into the Senate chamber, and then that iconic photo that was on the front page of The Washington Post, and I'm sure other papers around the country, of law enforcement officers inside the House of Representatives pointing their guns at the doors, and seeing the faces of the people trying to burst inside.

    These are images and pictures that the American people never thought they would see in their country and in their nation's capital.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, David Brooks, as you're reflecting on this, what are you thinking?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, it felt like a desecration to me. I mean, this is our holy of the holies. This is where America comes, usually in awe.

    You go in that building. I remember the first time I went in, 14, and I was in awe. And you go in there with a sense of reverence and respect. And to see it just trashed, both physically and morally, is just — it produces a — sort of a bone-wearying sadness, as desecration tends to.

    And I — Jonathan's right to pick up on the images, the images of the guns on the floor, the images of that wolf man shaman guy, people scaling the walls in the chamber, the Confederate Flag being carried down the hallways of the U.S. Capitol.

    These are just shocking images, the result of four years of what has been a — four years of moral degradation for the country and humiliation.

    And I only end on the upbeat note that one of the reporters saw some National Guardsmen in the Rotunda today. And this one had been their first time in the Capitol. And these guys were in awe. They were young men, and they'd never been there. And they were just so proud of their democracy.

    And so that's what America really is, I hope, I hope.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it's good to be able to pick out something to — as you say, that's uplifting, as we move on from this.

    But the repercussions, Jonathan, are enormous, condemnation raining down on President Trump for calling for his supporters to come to Washington, for urging them to take on the Capitol, to turn over the — reject the election results.

    I will just say quickly, we had a — we joined with Marist in a poll, and NPR. We asked people if President Trump is to blame. Among national adults, the result, is he to blame, a great deal, a good amount, 63 percent, not very much, not at all, 35 percent.

    And I should say, even 30 percent of Republicans agreed that the president is to blame.

    Where do we go from here? As you know, there's talk of impeachment, serious talk, starting in just a couple of days, invoking the 25th Amendment. What should happen?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Something should happen. The president needs to be held accountable.

    It does not matter that he has 12 days left in office. He needs to be held accountable for what he incited on Wednesday. He needs to be — and if that means removing him from office using the 25th Amendment, so be it. It doesn't look like that that's going to happen. The vice president has sort of made it clear, from reports I have seen, that he's not terribly interested in that.

    So, then you remove him or try to remove him by impeachment. But, as House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said in the interview with you, the emphasis, at least in the House is on impeachment.

    And impeaching President Trump for the second time in his first term, I think, is a humiliation and a branding, a negative branding of his administration that would be well-deserved, precisely because of what he did to trash the United States Capitol, trash our American democracy, and once again show that he has neither reverence for or respect for the Constitution or the office of the presidency.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David, how do you see this question of what should happen with the president?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I don't support the 25th Amendment. That's for incapacitation. The problem is, he's not incapacitated.

    I would, I think, on the merits completely support impeachment. If interfering with an election certification by sending an invading force is not an impeachable offense, I don't know what is. And so I do support that.

    I think it would be very useful. Even if the House did it, and the Senate was deliberating, it would be an act of discipline. It'd be a sword hanging over his head, which may restrain him in his final 12 days of office. I think it's highly unlikely the Senate would ever convict.

    The fallback position could be censuring him under Article 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prevents someone who's taken part in an insurrection against the United States from ever running for federal office.

    And that's important, I think, because it would reduce his role as an intimidator in the Republican Party and reduce the possibility that he runs for office in 2024, which I do not think he has — deserves the standing to do right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I should add that the social media platform Twitter has already stepped in tonight. We have just learned that they have permanently blocked President Trump. He will not be able to use Twitter anymore.

    I know some people are asking, why now, after four years? But this is a step that Twitter has taken.

    And, Jonathan, I mean, it leads us to asking about the other Republicans. So many Republicans in the House of Representatives, 138 of them, voted to block election — electoral vote results that had Joe Biden winning the election, in other words, rejecting Biden's win.

    This is part of the fallout from all this. Where does this leave the Republican Party? Where does it leave the Biden presidency with this kind of rejection of him as he takes office?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Well, where it leaves the Republican Party is destroyed

    Yes, 138 House Republicans voted in — voted for the objection. But the key thing is, they voted for that objection after the Capitol was invaded by seditionists. And so that tells me a lot about those people who are sitting in the House.

    And then there are the, I believe, it's eight senators who voted for the objections after what happened earlier that day on Wednesday. And Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley especially should be ashamed of what they did to that chamber and to — and to our democracy by doing what they're — doing what they did, and doing what they're doing.

    So, when it comes to the Republican Party, they have a lot of soul-searching to do.

    When it comes to President Biden, or now still president-elect Biden, regardless of what happened — let's say Wednesday had not happened — he still would be dealing with a 50/50 Senate, with his vice president, Kamala Harris, casting the tie breaking vote, the smallest majority, Democratic majority in the House in a very, very long time.

    So, his governing ability was already going to be constrained. But if there's one possible silver lining that could come out of what happened on Wednesday, is that what happened on January 6 was so shocking to the conscience of more than a few Republicans on Capitol Hill, that it will shock them into getting back to work, because this nation has a lot of issues that need to be attended to, least among them — actually, top of mind, the coronavirus pandemic, as we keep breaking…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    … death toll averages every day, including today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, David, touching on what Jonathan just said, Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska, saying today she's considering whether she should even stay in the party.

    But what about where this leaves the Republican Party and where our government, as Joe Biden prepares to take office?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, here, Jonathan and I are going to have our first disagreement.

    I don't think the party is destroyed. I think it's a 50/50 country. There are going to be 50 senators. There were — an extremely narrow minority in the House.

    And I — my hope is that we break the fever here. This is a couple days in which Lisa Murkowski, Chris Christie, a bunch, three Republican governors have called for the resignation. We had The Wall Street Journal editorial page calling for the resignation of a Republican president.

    There's — John Thune is coming out. Mitt Romney was heroic Wednesday. Ben Sasse is coming out.

    I think, finally, at this late hour, after having their offices invaded, a lot of Republicans, not all, but a lot of Republicans are saying, this has gone crazy.

    And I do think, finally, at this late hour — and they will get no praise and courage from this — but they are saying, we have got to redirect our party.

    And the number of people who are even thinking about cooperating with an impeachment hearing on the Republican side surprises me. I think I read correctly in our PBS poll 80 percent of Republicans opposed what happened on Wednesday, which is at least good news.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • David Brooks:

    And so I do think this is not the end of the Republican Party, but I hope it's the moment when the Trumpist fever broke.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will see.

    And, Jonathan, I'm going to give you the last word on that in about 30 seconds, because I just keep thinking back to what Jim Clyburn, the House majority whip, said, one of his enduring memories from Wednesday is seeing Nancy Pelosi and Mitt Romney huddled together talking about what to do to get back to work.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Yes.

    And I hope they do get back to work. Again, this country has a lot of issues and a lot of problems that need to be worked on. And from the coronavirus pandemic, to the economy, to infrastructure, to the climate — to climate change, there's a lot of work to do.

    And so, if Nancy Pelosi and Mitt Romney can sit and talk with each other, then I hope that that's something that happens with more frequency and more publicly, so that there is a signal that is sent to the entire nation that we're going to work together and we're going to get through this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right.

    And I'm being told that I misheard Congressman Clyburn, that he actually said, Nancy Pelosi is talking with Mitch McConnell, and not with Mitt Romney.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Even better.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, that's my bad. And I misheard it.

    But thank you. I think — I think the point is pretty much the same.

    But thank you both very much, Jonathan Capehart, David Brooks.

    Thank you.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thanks.

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