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No. 3 House GOP leader backs Trump impeachment as tide grows

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Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2019 file photo, Republican Conference chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON – Republican opposition to impeaching President Donald Trump began crumbling at the party's upper echelons on Tuesday as the No. 3 House GOP leader said she would vote to impeach Trump.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in a statement that, while not unexpected, shook Congress as lawmakers prepared for a Wednesday House vote. With Democrats commanding that chamber, a vote impeaching Trump for an unprecedented second time seemed certain.

More ominously for a president clinging to his final week in office, The New York Times reported that influential 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.

McConnell thinks Trump's behavior before last week's assault on the Capitol by fuming Trump supporters cost Republicans their Senate majority in two Georgia runoff elections, the newspaper reported. That's a sentiment shared by many Republicans about Trump, who rather than focusing on bolstering Georgia's two sitting GOP senators spent the last weeks of their campaign reciting his false narrative that his own reelection was ruined by Democratic election fraud.

McConnell is said to be angry at the president over the insurrection at the Capitol and the twin defeats in Georgia that cost the party its Senate majority, according to a Republican granted anonymity to discuss the situation.

Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has run afoul of Trump and far-right Republicans over the years on issues like wearing a facemask and withdrawing troops from Syria. She's respected by mainstream conservatives and is one of the GOP's few House female stars.

“Good for her for honoring her oath of office," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters when asked about Cheney's decision. “Would that more Republicans would honor their oaths of office.”