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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.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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