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Amid Bipartisan Impeachment Vote, Mississippi Republicans Give Trump A Pass

All three Mississippi Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Rep. Michael Guest (seen here at a 2018 campaign event), voted against impeaching President Donald Trump for the second time in less than 13 months. Trump became the only president in history impeached today as 10 Republicans voted to charge him with incitement of insurrection. Photo courtesy Rep. Guest

Today’s vote to impeach President Donald Trump inciting the insurrection last week at the U.S. Capitol made history as the most bipartisan impeachment vote in history. But one year and 26 days after his first impeachment, all three Mississippi Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives once again sided with their party’s leader a week after they had to take shelter as a mob of angry Trump supporters stormed the Capitol carrying Confederate flags and Trump flags.

As in 2019, Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi’s only Democratic and only Black member of Congress, was the lone vote in the House for Trump’s impeachment.

“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States, threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power and imperiled a coequal branch of government,” Thompson wrote in a Facebook post today. He was referring to the attack that left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer. 

“He must be impeached & removed now.”

Thompson shared his comments along with a video that includes audio of a section of Trump’s speech to a crowd of thousands of supporters on Jan. 6—mere hours before they stormed the Capitol. Trump can be heard telling supporters to “walk down to the Capitol” and “be strong” in an effort to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election and Biden’s victory.

“And I’m gonna be watching, because history is going to be made, and we fight. We fight like hell. And if we don’t fight like hell, we’re not going to have a country any more. When you catch somebody in a fraud, you’re allowed to go by very different rules,” Trump says in the video as scenes play of the pro-Trump insurrectionists attacking police, smashing windows and breaking down doors and rampaging through the halls of Congress.

Mississippi Republicans Focus on ‘Healing,’ ‘Unity’

Unlike Trump’s December 2019 impeachment, none of Mississippi’s GOP lawmakers defended the president’s actions this time as they voted against impeaching him for incitement of insurrection.

“My job in Congress is to represent the people of South Mississippi, and I know the majority of South Mississippi does not support impeaching President Trump,” said Republican U.S. House Rep. Steven Palazzo. Hours after the Jan. 6 insurrection, he had joined a failed Republican attempt to overturn the election to keep Trump in power, despite Biden’s decisive electoral college and popular-vote majorities.

Palazzo, a Republican who represents Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District in the southern part of the state, said in that statement earlier today that impeachment would harm “efforts to heal this nation” and prevent the country from unifying.

U.S. House Rep. Trent Kelly (left) and U.S. House Rep. Michael Guest (right), seen here at a 2020 White House ceremony, did not offer a defense for Trump’s actions, but instead said his impeachment would be too “divisive” and that Congress should instead focus on “healing.” Photo courtesy Rep. Kelly

Mississippi’s other two Republican congressmen, Rep. Trent Kelly in the 1st Congressional District and Rep. Michael Guest in the 3rd Congressional District, sang a similar tune. 

The impeachment would “serve to further the divisions felt across our nation,” Guest tweeted this afternoon, saying “our focus should be on reuniting our country (and) reminding all Americans of the common values we hold dear.” Kelly, a major-general in the Mississippi National Guard, said he would vote no in a tweet this morning because “this is a time for healing, not division.

The calls for “healing” and “unity” come exactly one week after all three Republicans voted against certifying Biden’s victories in swing states on the basis of Trump’s unsubstantiated and disproved claims of electoral fraud in states he needed to win. On Jan. 6, hours before the mob stormed the Capitol, Guest and Kelly met with a group of Mississippi Trump supporters who said they traveled there to protest the election’s certification.

Different Standards for Obama?

In 2016, though, Palazzo introduced and Kelly supported a resolution to censure President Barack Obama for using an executive order aimed at closing gun loopholes, claiming he had “committed executive overreach.”

“Congress must go on record to stand up as an equal branch of government—both against this President and any future president who attempts to use his authority to write the law instead of enforce the law,” Palazzo said in a Jan. 7, 2016 statement.

U.S. House Rep. Steven Palazzo, like Mississippi’s other Republican House representatives, voted against impeaching Trump on Jan. 13, saying Americans should focus on “unity” and “healing.” Those remarks came one week after he joined a failed attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Photo courtesy Rep. Steven Palazzo

Palazzo and Kelly would later go silent about “executive overreach” starting in 2017, even as Trump liberally used executive orders to implement a broad array of policies, including a travel ban targeting Muslims, a military ban on transgender servicemembers, using federal dollars to pay for his border wall and even a gun regulation order. Trump has issued 206 executive orders since he entered office compared to Obama’s 147 during his first term.

Weeks before Obama left office, on Jan. 3, 2016, Rep. Kelly also co-sponsored a resolution condemning the president for refusing to veto a United Nations resolution that said Israeli settlements in Palestine “constitute a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to a two-state solution and comprehensive peace.”

‘There Has Never Been a Greater Betrayal’

Though no Mississippi Republicans voted to impeach Trump today, 10 other GOP House representatives across the country defied the president, including U.S. House Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House and the daughter of former Republican U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not,” Cheney said in a statement announcing her decision last night.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution. I will vote to impeach the President.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has indicated that the Senate may not hold an impeachment trial until after Jan. 20, when President-elect Biden takes office. McConnell will become minority leader later this month once two Democrats who defeated Republican incumbents in Georgia take office.

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, seen here at a campaign event late last year, voted to block certification of the 2020 election results in Arizona even after a violent pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol today. Photo courtesy Hyde-Smith campaign

While some Republican senators have said they are open to voting to convict Trump, including McConnell who said he is undecided, neither of Mississippi’s U.S. senators, Republicans Cindy Hyde-Smith or Roger Wicker, have taken a firm position—though both have signaled discomfort with the idea of impeachment and spoken about the need for “healing” and to “move on.”

“In accordance with our Constitution, the orderly transfer of power will occur at noon on January 20. The best way for our country to heal and move past the events of last week would be for this process to continue,” Wicker said in a Jan. 11 statement opposing the House’s decision to introduce impeachment articles.

“We’ve got 10 days left. Let’s get through the 10 days. He will leave office, and let’s get on with things,” Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith told WAPT reporter Ross Adams on Monday, saying she planned to attend Biden’s inauguration.

Last year, Hyde-Smith and Wicker both voted against impeaching Trump. The two senators split last week, though, on voting to certify the election. Hyde-Smith, who has repeated Trump’s false claims of election fraud, joined the failed effort to stop certification of Biden’s victories in the swing states of Pennsylvania and Florida. Wicker voted to certify the election, though.

“Congress cannot—and should not—get into the business of deciding the results of our elections,” Wicker said in a statement last week.

‘A Clear and Present Danger to Our Country’

Trump earned more votes for impeachment today than any president in history, with 232 members of Congress voting to impeach him, including 10 Republicans—the most votes ever to impeach a president from members of his own party. In 1998, five Democrats joined Republicans who voted to impeach Bill Clinton. No House Republicans voted to impeach Trump during his first impeachment in December 2019. 

“Today, the House demonstrated that no one is above the law—not even the president of the United States, that Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our country, and that once again we honor our oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today as she signed articles of impeachment for the second time in less than 13 months.

Preston Salisbury of Starkville, Miss., writes that he attended protests in the past where he should’ve called out dangerous, racist rhetoric by others. Since the takeover of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020, (pictured) he is now speaking out. Photo by Blink O’Fanaye

Trump is the only American president impeached twice in the country’s history. This evening, Mississippi Democratic National Committeewoman Jacqueline Amos said in a statement that Trump “is wholly unfit to lead the United States of America even if it is just for another six days prior to the inauguration of President-elect Biden.

“His decision last week to openly call for insurrection and the physical takeover of Congress by his supporters took extremism to a level that we should never tolerate in the United States of America,” she said.

Amos urged Mississippians to “remain cautious, calm and vigilant” amid reports that federal law enforcement expects Trump supporters to stage armed protests in all 50 states around the time of Biden’s inauguration.

“We are in a particular moment where we do not know how the president’s most fervent supporters will react. I want all of us to be safe, look out for our families and neighbors and remain strong. Help is on the way very soon as Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and a Democratic-controlled United States Congress will begin working to unify the nation, calm our fears over the raging coronavirus pandemic and restore economic security to a distressed American people.”

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