Modern presidential impeachments have been drawn-out affairs, allowing lawmakers to collect evidence, hone arguments and hear the president’s defense over the course of months. When the Democratic-led House impeached Mr. Trump the first time, it took nearly three months, conducting dozens of witness interviews, compiling hundreds of pages of documents and producing a detailed case in a written report running 300 pages.
It appeared this time that the House planned to do so in less than a week, with little more evidence than the fast accumulating public record of cellphone videos, photographs, police and journalistic accounts, and the words of Mr. Trump himself.
“To those who would say why do it now, there are only nine days left the president’s term?” said Joe Neguse of Colorado, who has been drafting messaging guidance for the party. “I would say, there are nine days in the president’s term.”
Mr. Trump’s most outspoken defenders opposed impeachment, though most did not explicitly defend his conduct. Many of them who just last week backed his drive to overturn Mr. Biden’s victory and voted to toss out legitimate results from key battleground states, argued that to impeach the president now would only further divide the country.
In a letter to colleagues, Mr. McCarthy wrote that impeachment would “have the opposite effect of bringing our country together when we need to get America back on a path towards unity and civility.” He tried to point Republicans toward possible alternatives, including censure, a bipartisan commission to investigate the attack, changing the law that governs the electoral counting process that rioters disrupted and electoral integrity legislation.
“Please know I share your anger and your pain,” he wrote. “Zip ties were found on staff desks in my office. Windows were smashed in. Property was stolen. Those images will never leave us — and I thank our men and women in law enforcement who continue to protect us and are working to bring the sick individuals who perpetrated these attacks to justice.”
Some moderate Democrats were growing uneasy about the implications of such fast and punitive action, fearful both of the consequences for Mr. Biden’s agenda during his first days in office and of further igniting violence across the country among Mr. Trump’s most extreme supporters. They tried to cobble together support for a bipartisan censure resolution instead, but it appeared it might be too late to stop the momentum in favor of impeachment.
Ms. Pelosi shut the idea down during her private call with Democrats, saying that censure “would be an abdication of our responsibility,” according to an official familiar with her remarks.
Reporting was contributed by Catie Edmondson, Luke Broadwater, Emily Cochrane and Zolan Kanno-Youngs.