The U.S. House of Representatives is charging ahead with the impeachment of President Donald Trump for inciting the deadly storming of the Capitol Building, while some of his supporters threaten armed uprisings in cities across the country in the coming days.
Democrats on Monday introduced both a motion calling on Vice-President Mike Pence to strip Mr. Trump of his powers under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution as well as a single article of impeachment, for “incitement of insurrection.”
“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government,” the impeachment bill reads. “He will remain a threat to national security, democracy and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.”
The motion on 25th Amendment is expected to receive a vote on Tuesday. If it passes, and Mr. Pence does not comply within 24 hours, the House will vote on impeachment. Republican legislators, led by West Virginia Congressman Alex Mooney, blocked an effort Monday to approve the motion unanimously. The Vice-President has been publicly silent on the 25th Amendment, an extraordinary measure that would allow Mr. Pence to take over Mr. Trump’s powers.
While the President has only nine days left in his term before president-elect Joe Biden takes office, Democrats said the attack on democracy fuelled by Mr. Trump was so egregious that he must face serious denouncement. They also hope to bar him from ever holding federal office again, slamming the door shut on a 2024 comeback effort.
“This president is guilty of inciting insurrection. He has to pay a price for that,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an interview with 60 Minutes, in which she described Mr. Trump as “deranged” and “dangerous.”
The impeachment resolution has more than 200 co-sponsors and needs only a simple majority to pass the Democratic-controlled House. More complicated is the picture in the Senate, which requires a two-thirds vote to convict the President after a trial. That chamber will be evenly split between the two parties starting next week when the Democrats’ two newly elected senators from Georgia are sworn in.
The fast-track impeachment of Mr. Trump – which would make him the first president to face the sanction twice – unfolds against the backdrop of a country still reeling from the attack on Congress in which at least five people died and dozens more were injured.
Acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf handed in his resignation Monday, continuing the administration’s steady unravelling. He is the third of Mr. Trump’s cabinet members to step down since the riot, after Elaine Chao at transportation and Betsy DeVos at education.
The President conducted a two-month long campaign to invalidate Mr. Biden’s democratic victory by exhorting his supporters to protest and putting pressure on election officials to overturn the results of Nov. 3. In one case, he threatened to have Georgia’s top election official prosecuted if he didn’t “find” more votes for Mr. Trump.
The push culminated last Wednesday, when the President called for his supporters to gather in Washington, then exhorted them to descend on the Capitol and “fight like hell” as Congress met to certify Mr. Biden’s victory.
While Congress planned to defenestrate Mr. Trump, his supporters planned further attacks starting this weekend. An FBI bulletin obtained by U.S. media outlets warned that armed groups were looking to target Washington, all 50 state capitols and federal courthouses across the country. One “identified armed group” aiming to hit the national capital was threatening a “huge uprising” if Mr. Pence invoked the 25th Amendment, the bulletin read.
In pro-Trump online forums, users promoted a countrywide day of action on Jan. 17, followed by a “Million Militia March” when Mr. Biden takes the oath of office on Jan. 20. Some of the posts called on people to bring weapons.
The National Guard said Monday it would dispatch up to 15,000 troops to Washington. The National Park Service shut down public access to the Washington Monument, near the White House, until Jan. 24. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who described the Capitol storming as an “unprecedented terrorist attack,” asked the Department of Homeland Security to cancel all public gathering permits for the next two weeks.
Internet companies moved to shut down forums where further attacks were being discussed. After Capitol rioters openly talked about armed insurrection on Parler – a social-media app used by the far right – Amazon kicked the site off its servers this weekend, forcing it offline.
Mr. Biden said Monday that he still planned to be inaugurated in front of the Capitol rather than moving to a different location. “I’m not afraid of taking the oath outside,” the president-elect told reporters in Newark, Del.
Mr. Biden said that he was working with congressional leaders to find a way for the Senate to get his agenda passed while simultaneously conducting Mr. Trump’s trial. The President’s previous Senate trial, which resulted in acquittal, took 20 days. “Can we go half-day on dealing with impeachment, and half-day getting my people nominated and confirmed in the Senate as well as moving on the [pandemic relief] package?” the president-elect said.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has signalled that the upper chamber would not take up the matter until the day before Mr. Trump leaves office at the earliest, making it exceedingly unlikely he would be removed from power. But Democrats are determined to proceed with the process in hopes of barring Mr. Trump from running again.
Congressman Jim Clyburn suggested on CNN Sunday that the House could vote to impeach Mr. Trump, but wait 100 days before referring the matter to the Senate. That would give Mr. Biden time to get his cabinet nominees confirmed by legislators, and to pass priority legislation, before the Senate is tied down with the trial.
So far, only a handful of Republicans have called for Mr. Trump to leave office. Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey on Sunday joined his Alaska counterpart Lisa Murkowski in calling on the President to resign. “It’s the best path forward, the best way to get this person in the rearview mirror,” he said on CNN.
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse and Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger – both Republicans – have also said they are open to impeachment.
Under the provisions of the 25th Amendment, the Vice-President can declare the President “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” with the agreement of either a majority of cabinet or another body appointed by Congress. Under such a scenario, Mr. Pence would assume Mr. Trump’s powers until Mr. Biden takes over.
With a report from Reuters
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