Impeachment vote sets up challenge for Biden and new Senate: The Note

If an impeachment trial happens, it will likely be after the inauguration.

January 14, 2021, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Ten is either a huge number or a stunningly small one, depending on one's views of the state of partisanship and President Donald Trump's culpability for his words and actions.

But 10 Republicans won't be enough to bring true consequences to the soon-to-be-former president. That will fall to the Senate, where the focus will be in the early days of the Biden presidency, now that the House voted in the quickest and most bipartisan impeachment in American history.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is making clear that impeachment will be Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's to handle, once they trade jobs late next week. McConnell's public statement not to have prejudged the outcome matters greatly at the outset of the coming trial.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks from the Oval Office in a video released on Jan. 13, 2021.
President Donald Trump speaks from the Oval Office in a video released on Jan. 13, 2021.
The White House

All of the dynamics will be different by this time next week. Soon-to-be-President Joe Biden will have appointees to confirm and a COVID relief bill he wants passed; more will emerge about how last Wednesday's indignities came to pass; and the nation will know whether Biden will be allowed to take office peacefully in the end.

Plus, the Senate is just different than the House. There are different personalities and election cycles, different ambitions, more and different potential coalitions and partnerships, and an overall sense of more independence from presidents.

Trump's legacy has been sullied by the events of the past week and a second impeachment leaves its own permanent mark. But final and official judgments will fall to the body Biden knows so well -- and where he is likely to look to build his own presidential legacy starting quite soon.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

In opposition to the article of impeachment Wednesday, Republicans' only consistent arguments were procedural. They called for more time, pointed out the lack of hearings and decried the rushed nature of the process at the end of Trump's term.

Repeatedly, they called for unity too and contended that impeachment now would further divide a country, which already seems so torn and worn apart.

"I understand that -- for some -- this call for unity may ring hollow," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said during his remarks, and it was easy to imagine exasperated Democrats' nodding their heads.

PHOTO: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during the impeachment debate on the House floor, Jan. 13, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during the impeachment debate on the House floor, Jan. 13, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.
ABC News

It was of course Republicans like McCarthy who for weeks refused to acknowledge the facts of the election and, in an incredibly divisive way, alienated elected leaders from their own party who were investigating and standing by the election results.

While the GOP on the whole has condemned the violence of last week, dozens of Republicans have yet to acknowledge, or even really respond, to the allegations from Democrats that their own work casting doubt on the election without evidence likely helped energized so much of the dissent last week that turned deadly.

The TIP with Kendall Karson

The historic, second impeachment of the outgoing president sets up a historic, second trial in the Senate, which is not likely to begin until after Trump leaves office.

The Senate isn't expected to return to Washington until Jan. 19, the day before Trump departs the White House and Biden is sworn in -- marking the earliest the trial could get underway. Democrats are also set to add two political novices from Georgia to their ranks after the secretary of state certifies the runoff elections by the end of next week, which will officially hand them control of the chamber once both are seated.

PHOTO: In this image from video, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks as the Senate reconvenes after protesters stormed the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021.
In this image from video, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks as the Senate reconvenes after protesters stormed the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021.
Senate Television via AP

After the bipartisan impeachment vote in the House, all eyes are now turning to whether there will be enough votes in the Senate to convict Trump, and potentially bar him from running for future office. If Democrats hold the line, they will need 17 Republicans to join them to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority. Among the possible 17 is the majority leader, who didn't rule out siding with Democrats -- a stunning development that reflects just how eager he is for the GOP to move on from Trump.

"I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate," McConnell said.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Thursday morning's episode features ABC News Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, who examines the political calculus in the Senate after President Donald Trump was impeached by the House for the second time. ABC News Legal analyst Kate Shaw looks at the legal implications of a Senate trial of a former president. And ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz and former FBI agent Brad Garrett analyze the possibility of further violence as right-wing groups retreat on social media.

ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. As lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to pursue the second impeachment of President Donald Trump, Republican Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger admitted he's likely to face future political repercussions for openly committing to vote in favor of impeaching the president. Still, Kinzinger told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein that he's ready to accept those challenges head-on.

FiveThirtyEight's Politics Podcast On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 232-197 to impeach President Donald Trump. Ten Republicans broke with their caucus to vote with the Democrats -- a more bipartisan vote than Trump’s first impeachment but still just a sliver of the GOP. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, HuffPost’s polling editor, Ariel Edwards-Levy, joined Galen and Perry to discuss why the vote broke down the way it did, what the different camps within the GOP are and what happens next.


  • Vice President Mike Pence will participate in a briefing on inauguration security at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters.
  • President-elect Joe Biden will deliver remarks on his vaccination and economic recovery plans in Wilmington, Delaware.
  • Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will meet with transition advisers, then participate in a virtual finance event for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. She will also attend Biden's remarks in Delaware.

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