Soon-to-be Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got the headline he wanted on Tuesday when he unleashed anonymous sources to tell reporters he believed Donald Trump may have committed impeachable offenses. In other words, he just might vote to convict.
The next day, McConnell got the other headline he wanted when he declined the invitation of soon-to-be Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to reconvene the Senate for an emergency session to take up an impeachment trial. That means any Senate movement on impeachment won't happen until Jan. 19—which importantly buys McConnell at least another week or more to see which way the political winds are blowing before making a final decision on his vote.
McConnell, the perennial craven opportunist, has chosen to leave the nuclear codes at the finger tips of a mad man for another seven days for no other reason than to find the least painful political path to placing Trump in the GOP's rear view mirror. And he has conveniently planted himself right in between the two House Republican leaders who have taken polar opposite positions on impeachment: Reps. Kevin McCarthy of California and Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
Cheney voted to impeach Trump on Wednesday, stating he had "summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack." McCarthy, who eagerly backed Trump's sedition efforts and voted against certifying the election, offered among the most disingenuous and repulsive of justifications for his traitorous vote against impeachment. "We solve our disputes at the ballot box," he said, despite the fact that he worked diligently to overturn what happened at the ballot box in November.
But in these two House GOP leaders, McConnell gets to spend a week surveying the upsides and potential wreckage of their approaches. Key to all of it will be money—because McConnell has built his entire career on wielding the power he gains from selling his soul to Corporate America and, more recently, dark money interests. He will almost surely be burning up the phone lines trying to figure out what he has to do to keep from becoming a political pariah to the corporate donor class. If there's a way for McConnell to thread that needle without fully convicting Trump, he will surely take it. But if he concludes that the only way to escape McCarthy's fate is to take a stronger stand, then that's where he will come down.
To date, at least 10 major companies have paused donations to Republicans who voted to object to certification of the election results. More have suspended their contributions to the Republican Attorneys General Association after it was implicated in organizing the rally-turned-riot. And still more corporations have paused all donations while they reevaluate their giving going forward.
All of that puts McCarthy in a great deal of jeopardy since his No. 1 charge as GOP Minority Leader is raising money to dole out in order to win back the majority. On MSNBC Wednesday, former GOP strategist and Lincoln Project Co-Founder Steve Schmidt predicted, "Corporate America is never coming back to Kevin McCarthy." Cheney, on the other hand, now has to fight off members of the House sedition caucus, which is already calling for her removal from leadership.
Where that leaves the prospects for conviction of Trump in a Senate trial is somewhere between possible and unlikely. McConnell could go either way and will likely sit back and watch the trial play out at the direction of Schumer and Senate Democrats while he collects data points on the fallout.
On the bright side, the more we learn about the planning and execution of the violent Capitol siege and the role some Republican lawmakers played, the more horrific the entire picture will get for the party. In the end, the GOP might be such a toxic waste dump that McConnell's hand is forced.
Following the impeachment vote, historian Michael Beschloss was moderately optimistic about Senate conviction, which will require at least 17 GOP votes in the Senate by the time Democrats take control of the chamber. "I think there's a real chance that this guy could get convicted," Beschloss told MSNBC.
But it will really all come down to the calculation of McConnell. If he votes to convict, enough members of the GOP caucus will likely follow his lead to prevent Trump from ever abusing the power of the American government again.