With just days left in President Trump's term, it has been another turbulent and historic week. A rush second impeachment with no witnesses or debate, thousands of military troops reporting to the streets of the U.S. Capitol and the mayor of Washington D.C. urging everyone to stay home for the inauguration of Joe Biden on Wednesday. Scott Thuman is covering all of that. And first start with what's the nuts and bolts of what has happened in the past week in terms of the impeachment.
Scott Thuman: Well, it’s just kind of a head spinning week when you look back because of how quickly everything took place. It was just seven days after the attack at the U.S. Capitol, that house Democrats were able to pull off a very, very quick impeachment of the president and they did so in a way that was interesting because not only did they do it fast, but they also were able to pick off some Republicans, something they failed to do when they impeached him about 13 months ago. If you remember then, zero Republicans cross the aisle. This time they've had 10. And so, they believe that solidifies their position. It backs their efforts. It makes them feel more confident that they made the right decision.
Sharyl: What is next procedurally? Now there's been the second impeachment vote, but there still has to be a trial if this continues on.
Thuman: Right. So, it has to be sent over to the Senate for a trial. That is a big question when it comes to how and when would it happen? And what complicates matters is Joe Biden's inauguration, because there are some on the left, some critics of the president, some Democrats who say, let's seize on this momentum and bring it to the Senate. Now, see if we can get that conviction. However, there are plenty of others who worry that if you do it now, you overshadow what Joe Biden and his administration will be trying to accomplish in the first 100 days. You don't want that hanging over the Capitol. So, do they wait maybe even 100 days and then send it to the Senate, but they risk losing some of that appetite perhaps to convict President Trump, who would then be former President Trump.
Sharyl: Is there any reason to do an impeachment once he's an impeachment trial, once he's out of office, in other words, is there a precedent for this? What would be the point?
Thuman: Well, there isn't a precedent. And in fact, keep in mind that no president has ever been convicted in the Senate. So that would be a first if they were to convict him. But what is the motivation behind it? There are a couple of different variations on that. One: People believe that he still needs to be held accountable in their eyes for what took place at the Capitol. And the only way to do that is to take it a step further than what they did last time. If you look at it, a lot of people are even numb to the idea that we've impeached a president, which is huge news, let alone a second time, which is historic. But people who say there has to be accountability, want that trial. If he is then found guilty in the Senate, even after he's left office, they believe there were punishments that would be attached to that though there's some arguing about how it would work out, could be everything from losing your travel stipend, the money that he is given every year to travel his pension of $200,000 a year.
Sharyl: Is there any chance they don't hold the trial in the Senate? Or do they have to?
Thuman: There is a good chance they won't, but keep in mind, we have now changed the hands of power in the U.S. Senate. Majority leader, Mitch McConnell is going to have to trade places with current minority leader and Democrat, Chuck Schumer, Chuck Schumer and speaker Nancy Pelosi have worked very closely on this. They both want the same thing. They would love nothing more than to see President Trump suffer at the hands of that body being able to convict him. So, there is a strong desire about Chuck Schumer to push this forward. I think they will.
Sharyl: But it's still about 50/50 in the Senate, just slightly in the Democrats in lead. Does it require a two-thirds vote?
Thuman: That’s why it's a much tougher standard to meet over in the Senate, because you do need two-thirds to convict. In the House, you just needed a simple majority, but now you're trying to get more than a few Republicans. You have to get 12, 15 Republicans to cross the aisle and convict a Republican president. Even if he is a former one, those are tough prospects.
Sharyl: So, a lot of people said or argued publicly that what's happened since the capital riots and trying to hold President Trump and his followers accountable was tamping down the rhetoric and holding people accountable. But I can tell you, after having traveled this past week in a totally unrelated place from Washington D.C., Tennessee, that among some Americans, it's really making matters worse. They feel like this is part of the proof that the establishment has been trying to get the president since the start and that they are never going to give up. Are you hearing anything about that?
Thuman: A little bit. Look, Democrats believe that this is a way for them to close a chapter in this book and then throw the book out the window. But for Republicans or supporters of President Trump, which sometimes are different things, they think this is a continuation of vilification, not only of the president, but also what they believe in as a voter, as an electorate. And so, they take it very personally. But it's easy for them to point to history and say you went after him with the Russia investigation, with the Mueller investigation, with the first impeachment and all of those failed. They see this as nothing more than what the president has called it, which is a witch hunt part two.
Sharyl: Well, that brings up my next question, which is are you hearing any concern among Democrats or Republicans that are speaking out against Trump right now of a backlash that certainly a lot of the moves against President Trump has come back to bite them. Maybe he's ended up stronger in some cases after he's been attacked, turning observers on his side into activists when they see things that they view as unfair.
Thuman: Well, sure, and I think that that's one of those things that we can't look into the crystal ball too much at the moment, and see how will the electorate feel a month or two month or three months from now. But if you look at their political actions, that's why perhaps Democrats were successful in 2018 when they won the midterms. And they say, look at how that paid off. We've been able to impeach a president twice. Now, Republicans or supporters of the president may say, that's why it's so much more important that we win at every level. But, they look at what's happening right now with the president as a vilification of their efforts. And they have to rebound somehow, but they don't know how.
Sharyl: The pendulum swings back and forth. Looking ahead, any hints as to what President Trump may do next, he's really kept quiet kind of uncharacteristically quiet about what might be his next move. I mean, some people are saying he could be criminally prosecuted. He may start a new social media platform. What do you think?
Thuman: And that’s important to know, because there is still a trial pending perhaps in New York on criminal charges, unrelated to what we saw in the past couple of weeks. And there could be others down the road, but yes, the president has options at his behest. Does he want to be a media mogul, unlike any we've seen and really kind of raise the flag for Republicans or the far right or whatever branch he wants to then follow his lead instead of the traditional lead that we had seen in Washington prior to him, or does he want to be the king-maker? Does he want anyone who thinks they're going to ascend in the Republican party to have to come to him to get his good graces before they get the donations, the fundraising, the sponsorship, the support, he may want that role and relish in it.
Sharyl: Fascinating times. Thanks so much, Scott.