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The Morning: Bipartisan impeachment

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The Morning: Bipartisan impeachment
Trump is the first U.S. president to be impeached twice.

Good morning. Donald Trump has become the first U.S. president to be impeached twice.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the impeachment debate yesterday.Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

‘The most bipartisan impeachment’

Even during a scandal, a president’s own party members usually defend him. Decades later, people tend to forget how overwhelming the partisan support was and exaggerate the degree of conscience among politicians of the past.

  • In 1999, no Senate Democrats voted to convict Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial. Many Democrats made excuses for his affair with a 22-year-old White House intern, and some went so far as to smear her.
  • In the 1970s, Republican leaders spent months casting the investigations into the Nixon administration as partisan overreach. Gerald Ford, while still the Republicans’ House leader, called the Watergate investigation a “political witch hunt.” Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush defended both Nixon and his bribetaking vice president, Spiro Agnew.
  • In the 1860s, Andrew Johnson’s fellow Democrats stood solidly by him during his impeachment and kept him from conviction.

All of which helps puts yesterday’s second impeachment of President Trump into perspective: It was both a strikingly partisan affair — and an unusually bipartisan one.

On the one hand, dozens of members of Congress refused to break with a president who tried to overturn an election result and incited a mob that attacked Congress, killing a police officer. Only 10 House Republicans voted for impeachment, and the final tally was 232 to 197.

“The political penalties for encouraging extremism and attacking democratic norms are dangerously weak,” the political scientist Brendan Nyhan wrote yesterday.

On the other hand, Trump has suffered more defections from his party than any previous president besides Nixon, who ultimately lost Republican support and resigned before the House could impeach him. Yesterday’s vote, Daniel Nichanian of The Appeal wrote, was “the most bipartisan impeachment of a president in U.S. history.”

By comparison, only five House Democrats voted to impeach Clinton, The Times’s Carl Hulse noted — three of whom later became Republicans, while a fourth joined the George W. Bush administration. In 2019, not a single House Republican voted to impeach Trump. Only one Republican senator, Mitt Romney, voted to convict, and other Republicans disdained the process from the start.

This time, they are sending a more nuanced message. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, has put out word that he is glad impeachment is happening, and he issued a statement yesterday saying he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote” in the Senate trial.

Of course, McConnell is a crafty politician who would like both to be rid of Trump and to prevent President-elect Joe Biden from passing much legislation. So McConnell also signaled yesterday that he would not start a Senate trial before Biden took office, effectively forcing Democrats to choose between trying Trump and focusing on Biden’s agenda.

The delay seems to make conviction less likely. “People’s outrage levels recede,” my colleague Maggie Haberman wrote yesterday. “Memories fade. And I do wonder if there will be as much Senate Republican anger next month as there is now.”

Still, the existence of that anger underscores the historic nature of yesterday. Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice — and only the second to have a meaningful number of his party members in Congress deem him unfit to be president.

The 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment included Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 ranking Republican in the House; four others from safely Republican seats; and five from more competitive districts.

“I’m not afraid of losing my job, but I am afraid that my country will fail,” Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, who’s in her sixth term, said. “My vote to impeach our sitting president is not a fear-based decision. I am not choosing a side. I’m choosing truth.”

John Katko of New York, one of the Republicans who voted to impeach.Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times


National Guard troops near the entrance to Pelosi’s office.Erin Schaff/The New York Times
  • As legislators gathered for the vote, National Guard troops lined the halls of the Capitol.
  • Members of Congress had to walk through metal detectors — generally reserved for guests — out of concern that some Republicans would bring guns to the House floor.
  • “Not since the dark days of the Civil War and its aftermath has Washington seen a day quite like Wednesday,” The Times’s Peter Baker writes.
  • As Congress debated, Trump issued a statement: “I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking.” Representative Jim Jordan, a Trump ally, read the statement aloud during the debate. Trump issued a similar statement by video after being impeached.
  • Here’s how the rest of the process works.
The article of impeachment.Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times
  • Many House Democrats labeled Trump a danger to the country. “The idea that our election was fraudulent is a lie. Our president used this lie to incite a violent mob to attack the Capitol,” said Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia, who flipped a Republican-held seat in November.
  • “Every one of us in this room right now could have died,” Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, said.
  • Republicans’ arguments were more varied. Some blamed Trump for the violence but said impeachment would “fan the flames of partisan division,” as Kevin McCarthy, the House G.O.P. leader, put it.
  • Others praised Trump’s accomplishments or noted he had since promised a peaceful transition of power. Some Republicans accused Democrats of excusing left-wing violence.
  • Two of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump spoke: Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse, also of Washington. “These articles of impeachment are flawed, but I will not use process as an excuse,” Newhouse said. “There is no excuse for President Trump’s actions.”
A protester outside the Capitol.Brandon Bell/Reuters


  • A team from the World Health Organization arrived in Wuhan to investigate the source of the virus. Chinese authorities barred two scientists because of positive antibody tests.
  • U.S. states are scrambling to meet the skyrocketing demand for vaccinations. Here’s the new guidance about who gets a shot.
  • Prosecutors charged Rick Snyder, the former governor of Michigan, with willful neglect of duty over the crisis in Flint that left thousands of residents drinking lead-tainted water.
  • Gunmen killed at least 80 people in an ethnically driven massacre in Ethiopia.

Letter of Recommendation: Eat chips, The Times’s Sam Anderson writes. “A bag of chips is a way to defeat time. It brings temporary infinity: a feeling that it will never end. A chip. A chip. A chip. Another chip.”

From Opinion: Farhad Manjoo, Nicholas Kristof and Thomas B. Edsall have columns.

Lives Lived: Adolfo Quiñones, better known as Shabba-Doo, grew up in a public-housing project in Chicago and became a pioneer of street dance. He called it “a valid art form, on the same level as jazz or ballet.” He died at 65.

This newsletter is free, but you can go deeper into the stories we highlight each morning with a subscription to The Times. Please consider becoming a subscriber today.


Joe Biden’s presidential campaign introduced campaign signs in Animal Crossing.Joe Biden 2020

The future of gaming

The pandemic has been very good for the video-game business. Spending on games rose 22 percent last year, The Washington Post reports. The number of monthly users on Discord, a chat platform popular with gamers, doubled to 140 million.

But the boom isn’t about only the pandemic. It’s bigger than that, Sean Monahan argues in The Guardian: Video games are replacing music as the dominant form of youth culture.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Joe Biden turned to Among Us and Animal Crossing: New Horizons to reach young voters. The rapper Travis Scott had more than 12 million viewers for a virtual concert on Fortnite last year — nearly double the audience of the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards. “We’re going to see more of these events, even after regular concerts are safe to attend again,” an analyst told The Hollywood Reporter.

The cultural sway of games stems largely from interaction. Games like Animal Crossing have become places to socialize, and even to host virtual graduations, parties or protests.

“Ten years ago, younger generations were leaving behind traditional media for social media,” another analyst wrote in a 2020 Global Games Market Report. “Today, they are leaving behind social media for more interactive experiences.”


Nik Sharma for The New York Times

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