Republicans' dilemma on how or whether to defend Trump is tearing the party in two

An American flag flies at the US Capitol building.

This was excerpted from the January 14 edition of CNN's Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.

(CNN)It took more than 200 years for America to rack up its first two presidential impeachments. Now the most lawless commander in chief ever is leading the country toward its second presidential impeachment in just 13 months.

Sometime on Wednesday, the US House of Representatives will vote to hand Donald Trump the dubious historical distinction of first US President to be impeached twice. The charge that he committed a constitutional transgression of "high crimes and misdemeanors" is simple and damning, and will pass one week after he incited a violent insurrection at the Capitol.
"Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law," the Article of Impeachment reads. "Donald John Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States."
Trump still has a hold on the Republican Party's fervent grassroots supporters, so conventional wisdom suggests he need not worry about being convicted in a Senate trial, which requires a two-thirds majority. But the political winds may be shifting. In a stunning move, Mitch McConnell — the hardline Senate majority leader who enabled Trump's wrecking ball presidency — has made it known that he is glad Trump will be impeached. Some Republican senators might see that as a signal to vote freely to convict, though viral footage of frenzied MAGA supporters haranguing GOP lawmakers at airports reflects the risk of such a decision.
There is a palpable sense of history unfolding behind the high iron fences now ringing the Capitol in eloquent witness to a democracy under siege. But as the last week's unprecedented events show, no one knows how America's internal battle will end.

'The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection'

The heads of each US military branch on Tuesday issued a joint statement condemning last week's insurrection and reminding service members of their duty. "We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection. As Service Members, we must embody the embody the values and ideals of the Nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law," it said. Read the whole statement here.

'I work for the people, not the communists'

The Republican Party's dilemma on how or whether to defend Trump is tearing it in two.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says Trump bore some responsibility for the riot but is staying loyal. His number three, Rep. Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, says she will vote to impeach Trump in a "vote of conscience." In the Senate, Trump's co-conspirators in trashing a fair election, like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, are playing to his base as they eye future career moves. Holdouts like Sens. Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska say they're disgusted with such craven pandering in their party.
Some conservatives hope that Trump fever will pass once he's out of office. But the radical pro-Trump fringe is not going anywhere, and punishing the President may not be good politics: A Quinnipiac University poll shows that only 17% of Republican voters think Trump deserves blame for last week's riot.
In one hint of the party's future, one of the most visible figures in Washington this week has been Marjorie Taylor Greene, a new House member from Georgia who previously embraced QAnon conspiracies. When news broke that major companies unsettled by the riot had halted donations to the GOP — a potentially crippling blow in a system awash in corporate lobbying cash — Greene tweeted: "I work for the people, not the communists."
House Republican leaders must find a new path that appeases the President's supporters but doesn't scare less radical suburban voters, who are key to retaining a shot at winning back the chamber in 2022. But Trumpism is a hard drug to quit. "Count me out," swore the President's loyal Senate golf buddy Lindsey Graham last week after the violence in Washington. Yet who was that hitching a ride on Air Force One on Wednesday, as Trump went to admire his border wall?

'The chatter is off the charts right now'

Concern is growing among law enforcement agencies that rioters' success in breaching the Capitol has emboldened more potentially violent actors, report CNN's Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz. "The chatter is off the charts right now," one federal law enforcement official said. But investigations into the planning of potential attacks in all 50 states are extra complicated by First Amendment protections of political speech.