Democratic lawmakers are girding for a likely and swift second impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump for inciting the violent invasion of the Capitol building, with the process to start as soon as Monday.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her caucus Friday that the President must resign “immediately” or face action from Congress. And more than 230 legislators publicly called for Mr. Trump’s removal.
The mounting momentum to kick Mr. Trump out of office during the dying days of his term unfolded against the backdrop of a rapidly unravelling presidency.
More members of his own Republican Party publicly broke with the President, Ms. Pelosi asked the Pentagon to curtail Mr. Trump’s ability to launch nuclear weapons and Twitter permanently suspended the @realDonaldTrump account that has been his primary communications channel – and the principal medium for his incendiary statements.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has assiduously avoided criticizing Mr. Trump for four years, largely out of fear of damaging trade relations, assailed the President Friday. “What we witnessed was an assault on democracy by violent rioters, incited by the current President and other politicians,” he said outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, announced that he would not attend Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, becoming only the fourth president in history to break with the tradition of watching his successor sworn in.
Two draft impeachment articles are currently circulating on Capitol Hill. One accuses Mr. Trump of “abuse of office” and the other of “inciting sedition.” While Mr. Trump has only 12 days left in his term, both draft articles would bar him from ever holding federal office again, blocking a potential 2024 comeback bid.
The articles say Mr. Trump tried to “subvert and obstruct” the democratic process by encouraging supporters to descend on the Capitol while Congress was certifying Mr. Biden’s victory. They also reference a Jan. 2 phone call in which Mr. Trump told Georgia’s Secretary of State to “find” enough votes to change the election result, and threatened prosecution if he didn’t comply.
“In all of this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperilled a co-ordinate branch of government,” both drafts read.
After an hours-long caucus conference call Friday, Ms. Pelosi said she had told the House rules committee to be ready to move forward with both a motion to impeach and legislation related to the 25th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. “If the President does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action,” Ms. Pelosi wrote in a letter to legislators.
Under the 25th amendment, Vice-President Mike Pence could declare Mr. Trump incapacitated and assume his powers, provided at least half of cabinet or another group designated by Congress agreed. Ms. Pelosi’s 25th-amendment legislation would set up a body of experts to help Mr. Pence do this, circumventing the need to get cabinet on board. It was unclear whether Mr. Pence would go along with the plan, however; he has so far said nothing publicly about it, and did not return calls from Ms. Pelosi this week to discuss the matter.
Reuters, citing two unnamed individuals, said impeachment would start Monday, at the House of Representatives’ next meeting. A source with knowledge of the Democratic deliberations told The Globe and Mail that an announcement on impeachment would happen soon. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the person because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the issue.
But Mr. Biden declined to endorse the bid to remove Mr. Trump from office. He said impeachment was “a decision for Congress” but fretted that it would eat up time and energy better spent confirming his cabinet appointments and working on his legislative agenda.
“I am focused now on us taking control as president and vice-president on the 20th and to get our agenda moving as quickly as we can,” he told a press conference.
Mr. Biden said Mr. Trump’s decision not to come to the inauguration was “one of the few things he and I have ever agreed on.” The president-elect said Mr. Pence, on the other hand, would be “welcome” to attend.
Were Mr. Trump to be impeached again, he would be the first president to face the sanction twice. He was previously impeached by the House of Representatives in late 2019 for withholding military aid to Ukraine to put pressure on Kyiv to investigate Mr. Biden ahead of the election. The Senate acquitted him early last year.
Impeachment would require a majority vote by the Democratic-controlled House. Removal from office would be working against both time and math. Mr. Trump’s previous Senate trial took 20 days. And removal requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, which is evenly divided between the two parties.
On Friday, Lisa Murkowski became the first Republican senator to publicly call for Mr. Trump to go. “I want him to resign. I want him out. He has caused enough damage,” she told the Anchorage Daily News.
Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse told CBS that he would at least “consider” articles of impeachment. “The President has disregarded his oath of office,” he said. “What he did was wicked.”
Twitter on Friday permanently suspended Mr. Trump over the “risk of further incitement to violence.” The President had used the site obsessively, pushing out spontaneous policy announcements, firing members of his cabinet and attacking his political opponents with his account. Twitter resisted sustained pressure over the years to kick Mr. Trump off, even as he used the platform to spread conspiracy theories and claim Mr. Biden had rigged the election.
In a statement, Mr. Trump accused Twitter of co-ordinating with “Democrats and the Radical Left” in banning him. The President also said he was considering creating his own social-media platform. He repeatedly tried Friday evening to get back onto Twitter, tweeting from accounts belonging to his campaign, an adviser and the White House. The site’s monitors suspended two of those accounts as well, and deleted Mr. Trump’s tweets from the third.
In her letter, Ms. Pelosi also said that she had spoken with General Mark Milley, the U.S.’s top soldier, about making sure the “unstable” Mr. Trump could not start a war or fire nuclear weapons in his final days. In the conference call with caucus, Ms. Pelosi reassured legislators that Mr. Milley had told her there are steps in place to prevent Mr. Trump from launching the weapons, The Associated Press reported.
Police on Friday continued hauling in rioters. Among others, they arrested Richard Barnett of Arkansas for breaking into Ms. Pelosi’s office, stealing her mail and posing with his feet up on her desk; Lonnie Coffman for having 11 Molotov cocktails in his truck; and Derrick Evans, a West Virginia state legislator who videoed himself storming the Capitol.
With a report from David Shribman
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.