Watching Mitch McConnell

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Reuters

The US House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to impeach President Trump a second time. The outcome was a bit different this time because 10 House Republicans (of 211 total) voted in favor.

But there's a far more consequential difference between this impeachment and the one early last year. This time, there's a genuine possibility that when the article is sent to the Senate, two thirds of senators will vote to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors. That would be a first in American history.

The outcome hinges on one man: Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.


McConnell leads the Republican Senate caucus. If he tells fellow Republicans that he intends to vote for conviction, many will probably join him. If he opposes conviction, Trump will be acquitted.

On Tuesday, multiple major media outlets — including Republican-friendly Fox News — dropped bombshell news that sources close to McConnell say he supports Trump's impeachment. It's not yet clear how he will vote, but these sources are highly unlikely to have spoken to the media without McConnell's blessing.

McConnell announced on Wednesday that he would not agree to call the Senate back into session until January 19, which means there will be no Senate verdict until Joe Biden has been inaugurated and Trump is out of office. But he also reportedly told GOP colleagues on Wednesday that he hasn't decided whether he will vote to convict.

Why would McConnell vote to convict Trump after his presidency is over? It's possible that a man who has devoted his working life to the Senate is so deeply offended by last week's violence and vandalism inside the halls of Congress that he will vote to remove Trump to send a message about the power and integrity of the legislative branch of the US government.

But there is also political calculus at work. There is now a battle underway for the future of the Republican Party. McConnell may not care very much that a majority of Americans back impeachment following last week's rioting in the Capitol, but he can also see a strong division of opinion among Republican voters over Trump's leadership.

According to data from the Wall Street Journal, 46.6 percent of GOP voters say they identify more as supporters of Trump than as Republicans. About 40 percent say the opposite.

Will continuing support for Donald Trump determine the future of the Republican Party? The same party that Senator McConnell has served for decades? The Senate could also vote to bar Trump from ever again running for federal office.

Last week's violence has given McConnell an opportunity to discredit Trump and try to pull the party away from him. Maybe McConnell fears that failure to convict would allow the threat Trump poses — to both the Republican Party and the continuation of democracy free of mob violence — to grow. Perhaps this is the GOP's last best chance to pass judgment on Donald Trump, even after he has left office.

We don't yet know how Senator McConnell will vote, but it's already clear that Mitch McConnell will soon have an historic decision to make.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

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Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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