By STEVE PEOPLES | AP National Political Writer

Republicans offered only modest reproach when President Donald Trump said there were “very fine people” on both sides of a white supremacist rally. They stayed in line when Trump was caught pressuring a foreign leader and later defended his handling of a deadly pandemic.

But with a sudden force, the wall of Republican support that has enabled Trump to weather a seemingly endless series of crises is beginning to erode.

Trump’s weakened standing among his own party will come into sharper focus on Wednesday when the House is expected to impeach the president for inciting a riot at the U.S. Capitol last week. A handful of Republicans have already said they’ll join the effort, a number that could grow as the vote nears.

The choice facing Republicans isn’t just about the immediate fate of Trump, who has just seven days left in his presidency. It’s about whether the party’s elected leaders are ready to move on from Trump, who remains popular with many GOP voters but is now toxic in much of Washington.

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How they proceed could determine whether the party remains viable in upcoming elections or splinters in a way that could limit their relevance.

“We’re at the moment now where we’re seeing a fracturing, a breaking, because of the unprecedented situation — the sedition, the violence, the death,” said Steve Schmidt, a longtime Republican strategist who left the party because of Trump.

The stunning nature of the deadly insurrection — and Trump’s role in fueling it — has shaken many lawmakers. Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, gave rank-and-file conservatives the green light to abandon Trump in a scathing statement Tuesday evening.

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“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she charged.

More ominously for Trump, The New York Times reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks Trump committed an impeachable offense and is glad Democrats are moving against him.

Citing unidentified people familiar with the influential Kentucky Republican’s thinking, the Times reported McConnell believes moving against Trump will help the GOP forge a future independent of the divisive, chaotic president.

While stunning, the fast-moving developments do not ensure Trump will be forced from office before Democrat Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. The timing of a Senate trial is unclear and could spill into Biden’s presidency.

But for the first time, there are real signs that a significant faction of Republicans want to purge Trump from their party.

Already, three Trump Cabinet members have resigned in protest. Former Attorney General Bill Barr, who left the White House less than a month ago, accused his former boss of a “betrayal of his office.”

It took almost a week for Vice President Mike Pence, whose relationship with Trump has soured considerably since he and his family were forced into hiding during the Capitol siege, to publicly declare he would …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

      

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