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On the roster: House, Senate conservatives eye impeachment – Police officer’s death raises stakes on riot probe – Haley turns on Trump at RNC meeting – Top spokeswoman says Trump misled supporters – ‘The eagle will fully recover’
HOUSE, SENATE CONSERVATIVES EYE IMPEACHMENT
With time tight and options few, there is increasing interest among congressional Republicans in impeaching and potentially even removing President Trump from office before his term ends at noon on Jan. 20.
“At the very least, we need some leverage,” said one Republican House member who asked not to be identified for fear of upsetting the ongoing negotiations taking place between the team around the besieged president and Republicans in Congress.
The faint but persistent hope among several conservative members and senior staffers with whom we spoke was that Trump would follow the advice laid out by the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board and resign in light of his offenses and to save the nation the pain of another Senate trial.
But if that’s the goal, conservatives will need a credible threat that Trump really could be removed.
“The 25th Amendment isn’t going anywhere,” said a top aide to a senior Senate Republican referring to the call from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for Vice President Mike Pence to initiate the constitutional process by which an incapacitated chief executive can be removed from office. “That’s a procedural nightmare.”
Aside from the fact that Pence has no interest in taking part in the effort, the mechanics of attempting such a move for the first time in history cast doubt on the possibility. Impeachment procedures and rules, however, are still fresh from their exercise last year.
Plus, there may not be enough of a cabinet left to remove Trump. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos became the second cabinet member to step down in protest of Trump’s actions – but only after she discovered that Pence would not step in to remove him.
Trump loyalists including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Lindsey Graham, have urged House Democrats not to impeach Trump, a move they said would further inflame a nation already engulfed by partisan conflict.
But they might want to direct their remarks to some in their own party who have already expressed interest in removing Trump. Speaking to CBS News today, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said he would “definitely consider whatever articles they might move, because I believe the president has disregarded his oath of office.”
Sasse echoed Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr who said that the president’s incitement of a mob to pressure Congress was a “betrayal of his office.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., has already spoken in favor of Trump’s removal, calling him “unfit” and “unwell.”
But our conversations Thursday and today suggest the sentiments are much farther reaching among conservative Republicans in Congress. While the nationalists who backed Trump’s efforts to steal a second term are expected to do their best to duck the debate, conservatives may be warming to the cause.
“We can’t spend the next two weeks with the world wondering who is in charge, confusion about the chain of command and a de-legitimized president,” said a top Senate GOP aide with long experience in leadership posts. “The bad guys are watching and they know this makes us vulnerable.”
Trump, who is said to have surrogates negotiating his exit strategy with Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is now trying to avoid ouster. He explicitly acknowledged his defeat in a new video released by the White House and has promised not to attend the inauguration ceremony of his successor, Joe Biden.
But 12 days is a relative eternity when it comes to the manic mood swings of the president. The Republicans with whom we spoke had little confidence that the president could keep the lid on for so long.
One Senator suggested that Trump should leave immediately for his Florida home, remain there for the duration of his term and delegate key responsibilities to Pence in his absence.
“And lock up his damned phone,” the lawmaker said.
What concerns conservative and moderate Republicans in Congress is that without the possibility of removal dangling over his head, Trump might be inclined to abuse his office for revenge or his own advantage in the closing days.
If the House does vote on articles of impeachment by the middle of next week, that would put McConnell and his fellow conservatives in the position of deciding Trump’s fate.
Depending on when the results of the Georgia Senate runoffs are filed and a vote on removal might take place, Democrats will need either 16 or 18 Republicans to join them to oust the president.
If that process played out, Trump would be under huge pressure to resign ahead of becoming the first president ever removed from office. Congress could also add the sanction of forbidding Trump from seeking the presidency or any office if he is convicted.
“We can’t just throw up our hands and do nothing,” said one member who shared a stage with Trump during the 2020 campaign. “The administration is hollowed out. The president has gone to pieces. The Congress was physically attacked by his supporters. If he won’t step aside, we may need to give him a shove to put Mike Pence where he should be.”
THE RULEBOOK: HINT, HINT — IT’S THE STATES
“It will not be alleged, that an election law could have been framed and inserted in the Constitution, which would have been always applicable to every probable change in the situation of the country; and it will therefore not be denied, that a discretionary power over elections ought to exist somewhere.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 59
TIME OUT: REST IN PEACE, SKIPPER
LAT: “Tom Lasorda, who in 20 years as the Dodgers manager won two World Series championships, four National League pennants and eight division titles and always insisted that he bled Dodger blue out of loyalty to the organization, has died at age 93. The vibrant and voluble Lasorda spent 71 seasons with the Dodgers and was among the few remaining links to the club’s Brooklyn roots. In and out of the hospital in recent years for heart, back and shoulder problems, Lasorda died of a heart attack Thursday night, according to the Dodgers. A friend to presidents and Little Leaguers, a devout Catholic with a talent for rapid-fire profanity, a self-promoter who tirelessly raised funds for convents and disaster victims through banquets and speeches, Lasorda spanned several eras in baseball and — along with Vin Scully and Sandy Koufax — achieved near-mythical status among loyal Dodger fans.”
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GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.
POLICE OFFICER’S DEATH RAISES STAKES ON RIOT PROBE
AP: “A police officer has died from injuries suffered as President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol, a violent siege that is forcing hard questions about the defeated president’s remaining days in office and the ability of the Capitol Police to secure the area. The U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement that Officer Brian D. Sicknick was injured ‘while physically engaging with protesters’ during the Wednesday riot. He is the fifth person to die because of the Capitol protest and violence. During struggling at the Capitol, Sicknick, 42, was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, two law enforcement officials said. The officials could not discuss the ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. … The rampage that has shocked the world and left the country on edge forced the resignations of three top Capitol security officials over the failure to stop the breach.”
Biden accuses Capitol Police of racism – USA Today: “President-elect Joe Biden, civil rights leaders and activists blasted law enforcement agencies for their slow response to rioters at the U.S. Capitol, noting the massive show of police force in place for Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year over police killings of unarmed Black men and women. Biden said his granddaughter pointed out the unfair difference in images that showed the violence wielded against Black Lives Matter protesters versus the seemingly muted response against those who attacked the U.S. government. ‘No one can tell me that if that had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,’ Biden said in remarks to the nation Thursday. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said Thursday the actions of law enforcement Wednesday highlighted the ‘two systems of justice’ in the U.S.”
W.Va. delegate faces federal charges for role in riot – W. Va. Metro News: “Newly-sworn in West Virginia Delegate Derrick Evans now faces federal charges after sweeping into the U.S. Capitol with a mob this week, federal law enforcement officials said during a press call today. ‘We’re in! We’re in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!’ the new lawmaker said live on video. The initial announcement of the charges against Evans came partway into a press briefing today with acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin for the District of Columbia. The federal officials participating in the call seemed to learn of the charges in that moment and said more detail would be released soon. … ‘He has been charged — and, I think, according to reports had recorded himself storming the Capitol — he is charged with entering restricted area and entering the United States Capitol.’ … [said Ken Kohl, a top deputy federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C.].”
Top Hawley donor calls for his censure for role in inciting mob – Kansas City Star: “A Joplin businessman who helped bankroll Sen. Josh Hawley’s first campaign denounced him on Thursday as a ‘political opportunist’ who used ‘irresponsible, inflammatory, and dangerous tactics’ to incite the rioting that took over the U.S. Capitol Building. In a statement late Thursday, David Humphreys, president and CEO of Tamko Building Products, added his voice to a growing chorus of Republicans angry at Hawley for leading a challenge to the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Humphreys called on the U.S. Senate to censure Hawley ‘for provoking yesterday’s riots in our nation’s capital.’ The statement to The Missouri Independent came a few hours after Hawley’s political mentor, former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth, said in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that supporting Hawley was ‘the worst mistake I ever made in my life.’ It also came on the same day that the publisher Simon & Schuster canceled a contract with Hawley for a book it had expected to release in June.”
Michael Lind: ‘The five crises of the American regime’ – Tablet: “What is the meaning of these dystopian scenes? Many Democrats claim that Republicans are destroying the republic. Many Republicans claim the reverse. They are both correct. The leaders of both parties have weaponized anarchic mobs against their rivals—the Democrats, by tacitly encouraging and bailing out foundation-funded NGO staffers with secret identities and superhero-style Antifa outfits during the tolerated anti-Trump riots of Summer 2020, and now the squalid, defeated demagogue Donald Trump, unleashing his own costumed followers on the U.S. Capitol itself. As a rule, comparisons between the United States and Weimar Germany or late republican Rome are misleading, but when rival elite political factions tolerate or encourage mob violence in the streets, the comparisons might be forgiven.”
HALEY TURNS ON TRUMP AT RNC MEETING
Politico: “Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley sharply criticized President Donald Trump over the Capitol riot and his behavior since the election, telling Republican National Committee members in a closed-door speech Thursday evening that Trump’s actions ‘will be judged harshly by history.’ ‘President Trump has not always chosen the right words,’ Haley said during an appearance at the RNC’s winter meeting on Amelia Island, Fla., according to a person familiar with her remarks. ‘He was wrong with his words in Charlottesville, and I told him so at the time. He was badly wrong with his words yesterday. And it wasn’t just his words. His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.’ Haley is one of several former senior Trump administration officials to scold the president in the wake of Wednesday’s mob uprising at the U.S. Capitol. … Haley, who is widely regarded as a likely 2024 presidential candidate, called out Democrats and technology and social media companies for ‘inflam[ing] the American people’s passions beyond constructive boundaries.’”
McDaniel reelected to steer GOP for another 2 years – Fox News: “Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on Friday was unanimously reelected to steer the GOP’s national party committee for another two years. In a speech to the RNC committee members who reelected her and other top GOP officials, McDaniel vowed to help the Republican Party regain the House and Senate majorities in the 2022 midterms and had a warning, saying: ‘Democrats, get ready, buckle your seatbelts. We’re coming.’ McDaniel, the former leader of the Michigan GOP, was picked by President Trump to lead the national party soon after he was elected in 2016. She was reelected to a second two-year term in 2018.”
TOP SPOKESWOMAN SAYS TRUMP MISLED SUPPORTERS
Fox News: “Former White House communications director Alyssa Farah criticized President Trump for his actions Wednesday amid the ‘heartbreaking’ Capitol Hill riots that ‘crossed a line.’ ‘In a time when the president could have called off the mob, he did not decide to do so, and to me, that’s just a breaking point,’ Farah, who resigned in December, told ‘America’s Newsroom’ Friday. … Farah said she decided to step down after the election when it was clear Trump had lost the race. … ‘It’s not fair … to viewers … to voters, and the 74 million people who supported the president, to give them a false hope, and that was ultimately what drove me to step aside,’ Farah said.”
Explains election results ‘almost perfectly aligned’ with internal polling – Hot Air: “In an interview published last night by Politico, Farah says the only state that surprised Trump’s advisers and campaign was — or should have been — Georgia, where their internal polling showed Trump ahead. Otherwise, their polling ‘almost perfectly aligned’ with internal polling in the other contested states. … Does that mean Trump doesn’t truly believe he won, despite all the evidence? Not necessarily, but if one grants him that benefit of the doubt, it certainly would make his refusal to deal with reality all the more evident and worrisome. Farah is careful to remain specific and not make assumptions in this interview, but there aren’t many other options regarding Trump with this context in place.”
BIDEN WILL PUSH OUT VACCINE IN SURGE
NYT: “President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. plans to release nearly all available coronavirus vaccine doses ‘to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,’ the Biden transition team said Friday, a move that represents a sharp break from the Trump administration’s practice of holding back some of the vaccine. ‘The president-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,’ T.J. Ducklo, a spokesman for the transition team, said. ‘He supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now.’ … Because both of the vaccines that have emergency approval require two doses, the Trump administration has been holding back roughly half of its supply to ensure those already vaccinated receive the booster dose. But the vaccine rollout has been troubled from the start.”
Gloomy jobs report stokes economy fears – WSJ: “The U.S. shed 140,000 jobs in December as a resurgence of the virus hit restaurants, ending seven months of job growth and weakening the economy. The Labor Department report Friday showed the jobs market has deteriorated this winter as cold weather, rising covid infections, and new restrictions on businesses deal a setback to the recovery from the pandemic. In one positive sign, job growth in November was stronger than previously estimated. The agency said the economy added 336,000 jobs that month instead of the initially reported 245,000. Meanwhile, the department also said that the record surge in the unemployment rate last spring due to the pandemic was higher than it previously reported. The jobless rate hit 14.8% in April, the highest on record, instead of the previously reported 14.7%. The December decline was driven by a sharp decline in jobs in the leisure and hospitality industries, which lost 498,000 jobs.”
Manchin ices Biden’s call for $2,000 checks – WaPo: “President-elect Joe Biden said Friday he is assembling a multi-trillion-dollar relief package that would boost stimulus payments for Americans to $2,000, extend unemployment insurance, and send billions of dollars in aid to city and state governments, moving swiftly to address the nation’s deteriorating economic condition and the rampaging pandemic. The package will also include billions of dollars to improve vaccine distribution and tens of millions of dollars for schools, as well as rent forbearance and assistance to small businesses, especially those in low-income communities, Biden said at a news conference in Wilmington, Del. … Biden said he would lay out the package in more detail next week. … But in an early sign of the challenges Biden may face in getting his agenda through Congress, even with both chambers controlled by Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) expressed skepticism Friday about the benefits of a new round of stimulus checks. ‘I don’t know where in the hell $2,000 came from. I swear to God I don’t. That’s another $400 billion dollars,’ Manchin said.”
Biden’s cabinet may be empty on day one – WaPo: “President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration is in danger of not having a single Cabinet official confirmed on Inauguration Day, upsetting a tradition going back to the Cold War of ensuring the president enters office with at least part of his national security team in place. Delays in Congress, caused primarily by runoff elections in Georgia for Senate seats that Democrats flipped this week and the arcane procedures needed to get the new chamber up and running, have sparked deep concern among Biden’s top advisers. They are now mapping out contingency plans to install acting secretaries in most, if not all, Cabinet posts, in case Biden’s nominees are unable to secure Senate backing by Jan. 20, according to those familiar with discussions.”
Illinois Republican under fire for invoking Hitler at Trump rally – CBS
Perdue, Loeffler concede defeat in Georgia Senate runoffs – WSJ
Give this a read: ‘How Neil Sheehan Got the Pentagon Papers’ – NYT
AUDIBLE: WHEN DADS SWEAR
“Senator Hawley was doing something that was really dumb-ass and I have been clear about that in public and in private since long before he announced he was going to do this. This was a stunt. It was a terrible, terrible idea and you don’t lie to the American people and that’s what’s been going on.” – Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., in an interview with NPR.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Tune in this Sunday as Mr. Sunday himself sits down with former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and House Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“After talking to some friends in Georgia, I believe that Mitch McConnell screwed the pooch with his blocking of the ‘Socialistic’ $2000 stimulus checks for voters & that was the key contributor to the Dems victories there — not any suppressed Republican turnout. I think a lot of voters simply voted for an additional $1400 to help themselves out during the pandemic. The irony of this result is that Mitch lost Senate control & the voters will now likely get the added $1400 anyway once the Dems take Senate control. I think Mitch misread the tea leaves on this issue. What Say You?” –Glenn Fuller, Laurel, Md.
[Ed. note: What if Republicans actually thought it was a bad idea? Should they have supported it anyway in hopes of holding onto power? What is the purpose of holding power if you are not allowed to use it for the purposes you think right? What if President Trump hadn’t decided to drop the proposal in the laps of Republicans AFTER his administration had negotiated the deal that had passed Congress? I think you’re working pretty hard here to keep the blame away from Trump for the Georgia debacle. His post-election misconduct badly hurt both candidates. But you should also credit the hustle of Georgia Democrats who turned out in force. Occam’s razor cuts cleanly here.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
‘THE EAGLE WILL FULLY RECOVER’
Fox News: “A couple of concerned kids in Florida are being credited with helping to save the life of an injured bald eagle they found wrapped in a fishing line, with a fishing hook pierced through its beak. Pasco County Fire Rescue, in Land o’ Lakes, shared the story to Facebook on Thursday, after the two children brought the injured eagle to the station looking for help. … Realizing that the animal could not fly or eat in its current condition, firefighters contacted Owl’s Nest Sanctuary — a nearby wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organization in Odessa — for assistance. A volunteer named Dianne arrived soon after, and determined that the severely dehydrated eagle was likely tangled in the fishing line for days. … Once stable, the bald eagle was transferred to the animal care center at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay … according to officials with Pasco County Fire. ‘Thankfully the Eagle appears in good health, and veterinarians believe that the Eagle will fully recover,’ they wrote.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The two parties… speak about the politics in apocalyptic terms. If the other guy wins, it’s the end of the republic. If the other guy wins, it’s the end of the world. … That’s the language, the ideology, the rationale of terrorists, the fate of the world hangs on this, and it’s up to the leadership to say these are policies, this is not the fate of the republic.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) speaking on Fox News on June 20, 2017.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.