The U.S. House of Representatives pressed swiftly Tuesday toward impeaching President Donald Trump for the deadly Capitol attack, taking time only to try to persuade his vice-president to push him out first.
Trump showed no remorse, blaming his accusers instead for the “tremendous anger” in the United States.
Already scheduled to leave office next week, Trump is on the verge of becoming the only president in history to be twice impeached. His incendiary rhetoric at a rally ahead of the Capitol uprising on Jan. 6 is now in the impeachment charge against him, even as the falsehoods he spread about election fraud are still being championed by some Republicans.
As lawmakers reconvened at the Capitol for the first time since the bloody siege, they were also bracing for more violence ahead of Democratic president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
“All of us have to do some soul-searching,” Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin said during a House rules debate, pleading for a change of heart among colleagues still backing Trump.
Republican Rep. Liz Cheney said she will vote to impeach Trump.
The No. 3 Republican in the House said in a statement late Tuesday that Trump “summoned” the mob that attacked the Capitol last week, “assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.”
“Everything that followed was his doing,” she said.
Cheney noted that Trump could have immediately intervened to stop his supporters but did not.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said.
Trump, meanwhile, warned the lawmakers off impeachment and suggested it was the drive to oust him that was dividing the country.
“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” he said.
House expected to approve 25th Amendment resolution
In his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence, the outgoing president offered no condolences for those dead or injured, only saying, “I want no violence.”
Impeachment ahead, the House was to press U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence and the cabinet to remove Trump more quickly and surely, warning he is a threat to democracy in the few remaining days of his presidency.
The House was expected to approve a resolution calling on Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to declare the president unable to serve. Pence, who had a “good meeting” with Trump on Monday, their first since the vice-president was among those sheltering from the attack, was not expected to take any such action.
After that, the House would move swiftly to impeachment on Wednesday.
Trump faces a single charge — “incitement of insurrection” — in the impeachment resolution after the most serious and deadly domestic incursion at the Capitol in the nation’s history.
During an emotional debate ahead of the House action, Democratic Rep. Norma Torres urged her Republican colleagues to understand the stakes, recounting a phone call from her son as she fled during the siege.
“Sweetie, I’m OK,” she told him. “I’m running for my life.”
But Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, a top Trump ally just honoured this week at the White House, refused to concede that Biden won the election outright.
Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern tied such talk to the Capitol attack, interjecting, “People came here because they believed the lie.”
Republicans could vote to impeach
A handful of House Republicans could vote to impeach, but in the narrowly divided Senate there are not expected to be the two-thirds votes to convict him — though some Republicans say it’s time for Trump to resign.
The unprecedented events, with just over a week remaining in Trump’s term, are unfolding in a nation bracing for more unrest. The FBI has warned ominously of potential armed protests in Washington and many states by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden’s inauguration, and Capitol Police warned lawmakers to be on alert.
The inauguration ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol will be off limits to the public.
The final days of Trump’s presidency will be like none other as Democrats and a small number of Republicans try to expel him after he incited the mob that violently ransacked the Capitol last Wednesday.
A Capitol police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot a woman during the violence. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.
Republicans weighing decisions
Few Republicans were expected to support either piece of legislation, but some were heavily weighing their decisions.
Cheney spoke to her House Republican colleagues late Monday of the significance of the impeachment vote and encouraged them to consider it a “vote of conscience,” according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private call.
In the Senate, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling for Trump to “go away as soon as possible.”
No member of the cabinet has publicly called for Trump to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment.
Democrats say they have the votes for impeachment. The impeachment bill from Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California, Raskin of Maryland and Jerrold Nadler of New York draws from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden.
Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former attorney general William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.
The impeachment legislation also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes, as well as his White House rally ahead of the Capitol siege, in which he encouraged thousands of supporters last Wednesday to “fight like hell” and march to the building.
The mob overpowered police, broke through security lines and windows and rampaged through the Capitol building, forcing lawmakers to scatter as they were finalizing Biden’s victory over Trump in the electoral college.
While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.