During former President Donald Trump's two impeachment trials — one for trying to bully a foreign power into interfering in a U.S. election, the other for inciting the violent insurrection of January 6 — it wasn't unusual to hear Republicans commenting that impeachments are bad because they are so divisive. But journalist Mark Leibovich, in a New York Times article published on February 16, stresses that Republicans in Congress will be singing a very different tune if they regain control of either the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate in the 2022 midterms.
"In a broader sense, officials of both parties have suggested that regular impeachments may just become one of several regular features of a new and bitter normal in our politics," Leibovich writes. "Previously rare or unthinkable measures could simply start happening all the time."
Leibovich pointed to Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as a perfect example of a Republican who flip-flops on impeachment. The former 2016 Trump critic turned devoted Trump sycophant decried both of Trump's impeachments as an outrage, but he recently suggested that Vice President Kamala Harris could be impeached in the future.
"I don't know how Kamala Harris doesn't get impeached if the Republicans take over the House," Graham told Fox News on Sunday, February 14. The day before that, Graham voted "not guilty" on the "incitement to insurrection" charge that Trump was facing. But he argued that Harris, in the future, could become a target for impeachment because of a 2020 tweet in which she supported a bail fund for Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis.
"She actually bailed out rioters," Graham claimed. Actually, Harris supported bail for nonviolent BLM protesters — the former San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general never defended rioting or looting, only peaceful protest following the brutal killing of George Floyd. But it comes as no surprise that Graham, who was gung ho for President Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1998 and 1999, and other Republicans would take Harris' statements out of context.
Former Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican who decided not to seek reelection in 2018, told the Times that Republicans, following Trump's two impeachments, will be out for revenge. "The expectation from our base is for retribution," Rooney warned.
When asked if Republicans will find a reason to impeach President Joe Biden if they regain control of the House in 2022, Rooney told the Times it is "absolutely possible." The former congressman, who served via Florida, told the Times, "It might not necessarily be what some of those guys want to do, but it might be what the base expects. People want Armageddon."
Rooney wasn't saying that he thinks that impeaching Biden would be a good idea should Republicans retake the House in 2022 — only that parts of his party are feeling incredibly vindictive. And that type of severe partisanship is why Rooney decided not to seek reelection in 2018.
Brendan Buck, a Republican media strategist who worked for two former GOP House speakers — Paul Ryan and John Boehner — told the Times, "We're in an era where you need to make loud noises and break things in order to get attention. It doesn't matter what you're breaking — as long as you're creating conflict and appeasing your party, anything goes."
Adam Jentleson, who served as chief of staff to former Sen. Harry Reid, told the Times that "negative partisanship" is what "Republicans will continue to run on" — adding, "And that includes impeaching whoever is in power on the other side."