WASHINGTON -- While arguing Wednesday against a second impeachment of President Donald Trump, Republican California Rep. Tom McClintock donned a custom-made face mask that takes aim at Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The text on the mask reads, "This mask is as useless as our governor." McClintock was abiding by House rules by wearing a mask for his floor speech. There is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that shows mask wearing is an effective way to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
McClintock's unusual choice in masks comes at a time when the virus is running rampant in California, one of the hardest-hit states in the country. Tuesday, the state reported 30,000 COVID-19 deaths.
Newsom originally received some praise for his aggressive approach with the nation's first stay-at-home order last spring. But there is growing criticism over extensions to the order, and his admission last month that he dined at an opulent restaurant in Napa Valley while telling state residents to spurn social gatherings and stay home. The public shaming continues for his ill-advised dinner at the French Laundry, an establishment that features a white truffle and caviar dinner for $1,200 per person.
The governor has since apologized, but some are growing tired of the rules.
A Newport Beach-based effort to recall Newsom reached a milestone of 1 million signatures last week.
Organizers need about 1.8 million signatures by mid-March to qualify the recall for the ballot, said Anne Hyde Dunsmore, a former finance chair of the California Republican Party who is an honorary chair of Rescue California, which is gathering signatures for the recall effort.
A week after Trump encouraged loyalists to "fight like hell" against election results and then a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, McClintock said during debate that impeaching the president a week before he leaves office is a "petty, vindictive and gratuitous act."
"Every movement has a lunatic fringe," he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Republicans and Democrats to "search their souls" ahead of the historic afternoon vote. Trump would be the first American president to be impeached twice.
While Trump's first impeachment in 2019 brought no Republican votes in the House, several GOP leaders and other lawmakers are breaking with the party to join Democrats this time, saying Trump violated his oath to protect and defend U.S. democracy.
Trump faces a single charge of "incitement of insurrection" and was expected to watch much of Wednesday's proceedings on TV from the White House residence and his private dining area off the Oval Office.
In the House, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California, a top Trump ally, suggested a lighter censure instead, but that option crumbled.
Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is declining to hasten an impeachment trial, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press the GOP leader believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and considers the Democrats' impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive, chaotic president's hold on the GOP.
Meanwhile, the FBI has warned ominously of potential armed protests by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden's inauguration. Capitol Police urged lawmakers to be on alert. Charges of sedition are being considered for rioters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.