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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Trump’s potential impeachment

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including the violence at the U.S. Capitol, efforts to impeach President Trump, and Trump’s influence on the Republican Party.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Last week's violence at the Capitol has fully recast the final days of Donald Trump's presidency, including the potential for a second impeachment.

    Our Politics Monday analysts are here to break down what comes next. That's Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Hello to both of you.

    So much has happened since we last spoke. The world has shifted.

    First thing I want to ask about, though, Amy, is the Democrats moving full speed ahead with an effort to punish the president. If they can't remove him from office or get him to step down, before is he going to leave anyway, they are determined to impeach him. Is there any political downside to their doing that, do you think?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, look, for the last four years Judy, one thing seems to be true, that big, major events, events that not that long ago would have been just like political earthquakes don't seem to move opinions of anything, right, opinions of the president, opinions of political leaders, et cetera.

    So, in some ways, it feels like we have been here before. And at the same time, I don't know that we have fully processed this moment. And as we're starting to see more and more of the videos come out, especially those videos that were taken inside the Capitol, the level of violence and destruction there, it's clear that the story of the Capitol is going to continue to unfold.

    And so votes and conversations that we're having today may look very different three months from now, six months from now. And so I think that is really important for us try to keep in mind, because we have been living in this sort of bubble for the last four or so years of so many things happening, and yet nothing really moving the political sort of dynamic.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tam, what about that?

    Amy is right. We are living in the last four years and living in the moment. It's been such a horrible last several days. How do you see the thinking on the part of Democrats as they push ahead to do this?

  • Tamara Keith:

    They seem to be driven by a couple of things.

    One, they are downright angry about what happened. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle were concerned for their safety, were concerned for the safety of their families. And, certainly, the Democrats who have signed on to this — and we don't know how many Republicans might ultimately sign on. Whether it is a couple or a dozen, it's not clear yet.

    But the members who are signing on to this are wanting to send a message that this is not OK, that a violent insurrection in the U.S. Capitol is not OK, that a political leader essentially refusing a peaceful transfer of power, a president unwilling to admit what was clearly the outcome of the election, and telling his supporters to go to the Capitol, that — that that is not acceptable.

    And that is the message that they want to send, even if it requires impeaching a president who has 10 days left in office, and you probably can't remove him.

    There is also the thought of, if it were to show get to conviction in the Senate, they could also pass a resolution making it so that he couldn't run for office again. So, that is the thought process.

    But then, on the other side of it, there is also a concern that this whole process, impeachment, isn't easy, and there's a reason for that, that it could gum up the works for the first 100 days of president-elect Joe Biden.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right. No question.

    And, Amy, even before we get to that, I mean, the prospect for the first time ever a president would be impeached for a second time. Even if you do end up where some — with the trial in the Senate taking place after President Trump has left office, which I think that would also make some kind of — some kind of history.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

    I mean, this is a president who, from the very beginning, has busted all sorts of norms and procedures and things that we thought of as sort of normal as part of the presidency.

    But, you know, I want to get also to Tam's point about the fact that the clock starts ticking for then President Biden on January 20. You know, every president likes to have this 100-day schedule. Well, there is a lot that he wants to get done between January 20 and the end of April.

    But the one thing he has this time around that he didn't before last week and the Georgia election is Democrats in control of the Senate, which means they control — they don't have major control, right? They only have 50 seats, plus a tie breaking vote.

    But they do have control of the most important thing, which is the schedule and the rules and the floor. And so, unlike in the previous debate in the Senate about impeachment back at the beginning of 2020, it's Democrats who are going to set the rules now, and they can set them in a way that is going to make it easier for Biden to, say, get many of his appointees through, do other things, do other business, while this trial is taking place.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that is what we are hearing, Tam, some reporting earlier from Yamiche, Lisa, then with Senator Coons, that maybe that is something that could work out.

    They would spend half the day talking about whether President Trump should be convicted for these crimes, inciting insurrection, and — and they could move on pandemic relief at the same time.

    Is that — I mean, you have covered Washington for awhile. Does that sound like something that is realistic?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, or also confirming nominees.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For sure.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Biden has made it clear — and all presidents want this — that he wants his national security team in place. He needs an HHS, a health care secretary, in place.

    That is a lot for Congress to do. Anything is possible. Sometimes, magic happens. But that is — that is a lot.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, I mean, Amy, is it something that — they're talking about it now, but is this the kind of thing that gets talked about, but can't really happen?

  • Amy Walter:

    You know, Judy, I think a lot too is going to depend on what this vote looks like in the House.

    As Tam pointed out, we don't know how many Republicans may join Democrats at this point. And if it is more than five or six — again, that doesn't seem like a very big number, but it's significant, in that it is showing some cracks within the Republican sort of defense here and suggests that moving on to the Senate is very important.

    The other thing that we — I think a lot of Republicans are assuming, and even some Democrats are assuming, that what we have even over these last four years, these things that seem to continue to be true, that opinions of the president really aren't going to change, and/or that he is still such a huge influence for the Republican Party, that may not be true as we move along, again, as we get more information about the Capitol attack, as more information comes out about others and what they have talked about leading up to it.

    But I do think that, by 2022, many of the votes that are being cast at this moment could look very different, and the president's influence could look very different. Republicans are hoping that Democrats will overreach, which is what the party in charge usually does. That is why they lose midterm elections.

    But, if that is not the case, then this is going to be a bigger challenge potentially for Republicans, who have been used to having Donald Trump's influence driving everything.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So many questions about how this is going to play out, what it is going to mean for both political parties, what is going to happen to the president, what we're going to see in a divided — evenly divided Senate, and so on. So much to look at and to talk about.

    Thank you both, Amy Walter, Tamara Keith.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    You're welcome.

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