Metro Louisville National News

As the U.S. House of Representatives debated and then impeached President Donald Trump on Wednesday, local politicians and activists are watching to see how Sen. Mitch McConnell will proceed — and how impeachment might affect the leanings of Kentucky’s Republican voters.

McConnell told his Republican colleagues that recent press reports that he favors impeachment are “full of speculation.” 

“I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” McConnell said in a statement provided by his office.

After the impeachment vote was final, his statement was more definitive: “Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office,” McConnell’s statement said. “This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact.” He said it would be best to spend the next seven days “completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power to the incoming Biden Administration.”

The impeachment resolution charged Trump with “incitement of insurrection” in response to the mob that pushed its way into the U.S. Capitol, breaking through barricades, beating police officers and stealing items from inside, all on live streams. Capitol Police shot and killed one woman, Ashli Babbitt. Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick died after he was beaten by the mob. Four others died in medical emergencies, including one woman who was reportedly trampled to death.

The House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump Wednesday, just one week before he will leave office. Trump is the first U.S. president to be impeached twice.

Republican congressmen from Kentucky shared their opposition to impeachment on Twitter or in media interviews as the floor debate raged on.

Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth supported the impeachment. He told WFPL there will be an investigation into whether other House members allowed insurrectionists to tour the Capitol the day before it was attacked.

Yarmuth says he prays that isn’t the case.

“If it turns out that they were actually aiding and abetting people who were planning to assault the Capitol, then they need to leave the House,” Yarmuth said.

A Trump Stronghold Reacts

Some conservatives were speaking out against Trump in the wake of the Capitol attack.

Last week’s events were the last straw for a lot of Republicans who are ready to recognize they were wrong about the president and move on, according to Kentucky Republican political strategist Tres Watson.

Watson counts McConnell, who is soon to be the Senate’s minority leader, among those who are moving to distance the party from Trump — and he says it’s about time Republicans stand up for their values or fall in line behind a demagogue.

“The Republican Party is not a cult. It’s not about one individual,” Watson said. “It’s about principles, belief in the Constitution, individual rights, individual freedoms, the free market.”

 In a floor speech preceding the march on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, McConnell repudiated Trump for pushing misinformation that ranged from local allegations to “sweeping conspiracy theories,” all of which failed to prove illegality on a level that would overturn the election. 

The New York Times has since reported that McConnell has told those around him Trump has committed impeachable offenses. 

“Leader McConnell is an institutionalist who believes strongly in the body of the United States Senate and he was not going to do anything that would have violated the constitutional role and duty of that body,” Watson said. “I never had any doubt in my mind that Senator McConnell would stand up and stop this madness when it came to it.”

Watson admits the GOP could take a hit if Trump supporters decide to abandon the party, but said the loss is a necessary one to preserve the party and democracy.

“That’s a sacrifice I’m certainly willing to make as a Republican and I’m willing to stand up and say we’ve got to stand up for our values or stand for nothing. The time has come to make a choice,” he said.

The impact of those choices is likely to play out this year as Kentucky’s Republican Party re-organizes, electing new party chairs and state officials, but it’s unlikely to alter Republicans’ supermajority in the state Legislature. 

In the coming weeks, Watson said he expects more protests will occur, but expects only those with the most extreme views will participate. 

“They are a fringe of society who have bought the lies they’ve been sold by a two-bit con artist, wannabe dictator,” Watson said. 

After a majority of the House voted for impeachment, including 10 Republicans, Josh Crawford, executive director of the Kentucky think tank Pegasus Institute, said he didn’t think the 10 Republicans or anyone else who voted for impeachment had made “an unreasonable interpretation.”

Now, he’s particularly interested in the “historical significance,” and what this means for the Republican Party moving forward.

“I think that there are moments in history that are sort of watershed moments, where everything after it is different than it was before it,” Crawford said. “And I think the rioting and storming of the Capitol that took place last week, for conservatives, is one of those moments.”

Democratic Reaction

Protest leader and mayoral hopeful Shameka Parrish-Wright said Americans are sick of “dog and pony” shows and criticized Congress for taking too long to act. 

Parrish-Wright said protest leaders in Louisville worked hard to give people space to work through their anger over the police killing of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, last March. She said seeing the U.S. Capitol overrun by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6 with little accountability for the perpetrators makes her work at home more difficult.

“We would never do that. We never stormed any buildings. We never would urinate and defecate,” she said. “I think the disrespect has been so great.”

She said she wants accountability, but since Trump will be out of office next week either way, impeachment may not matter.

The whole episode, she said, is an embarrassment to the country and something she’s had difficulty explaining to her kids. But she said America needs to see how Black protesters and white insurrectionists are treated differently.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Tuesday that city officials are monitoring for any possible threats locally “on people or buildings here in our community” up to Jan. 20.

He spoke about the fallout from the insurrection, saying he would have supported Vice President Mike Pence invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from office — something Pence has since said he would not do. 

As for impeachment, Fischer didn’t say whether he was for or against, but that he felt the process was “complicated” because of how little of Trump’s term is left.

“Yes there needs to be accountability,” Fischer said Tuesday. “But we also need to be moving forward as well.”

Fischer said that accountability should extend to elected officials who echo baseless claims about the outcome of the election. 

“I think part of the challenge has been elected officials taking advantage of the misinformation out there to advance their own agendas and political careers over the laws of our land,” he said. “And I think that’s very unfortunate and I hope that they’re held accountable either at the ballot box and some other type of legal means as well.” 

Pastors Speak Out

Local Black pastors on Wednesday sought to hold a Louisville church leader accountable for his recent statements on the election. 

Several church leaders called on Pastor Bob Rogers of the Evangel World Prayer Center in Louisville to repent, following his recent prayer asking God to curse those who “stole” the presidential election, during a Wednesday press conference.

The Rev. Timothy Findley, Jr., a senior pastor at Kingdom Fellowship Christian Life Center and an organizer of the activist Freedom and Justice Coalition, said he has seen no evidence that Rogers is remorseful. And he said remaining aligned with Rogers would be a moral issue.

“If Pastor Rogers never repents, I’m speaking to his congregation, that you need to flee that situation, because to stay there you are putting your spiritual life in danger,” Findley said. 

Rogers did not respond to a request for comment.

The Rev. David Snardon of Joshua Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church called back to Rogers’ prayer for curses of weakness, poverty and “the worst year you’ve ever had.” 

“We look back at 2020 and what all happened to Donald Trump, and now he’s on the verge of getting impeached a second time, I would say he started off pretty rough,” Snardon said. 

He warned that those who dig ditches for others may fall into those same ditches themselves. 

This story has been updated.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.
Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts Reporter.
Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Editor.
Kate Howard is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.