U.S. House of Representatives Democrats are prepared to impeach President Donald Trump if he doesn’t immediately resign, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, as the president came under increasing pressure from members of both parties for encouraging a mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Pelosi said Friday that Democrats "will preserve every option” to force Trump from office, either through the 25th Amendment or impeachment. She said she’s instructed the Rules Committee to be ready to move forward with a motion or resolution, but stopped short of saying articles of impeachment would be brought for a vote.
"With great respect, our deliberations will continue,” Pelosi said in a statement. If Democrats follow through, Trump would become the first American president to be impeached twice.
Text of the proposed impeachment resolution includes a single article accusing Trump of "Incitement of Insurrection,” and says he engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by "willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States” in connection with the storming of the Capitol Wednesday by throngs of his supporters.
Earlier in the day, President-elect Joe Biden suggested Democrats should not spend time on impeachment, saying that his inauguration on Jan. 20 will be the quickest way to remove Trump from office.
"If we were six months out we should be doing everything we can to get him out of office,” Biden said. "But I am focused now on us taking control as president and vice president on the 20th.”
Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer spoke separately to Biden by telephone. A statement about the call from the president-elect’s transition team made no mention of any discussion of what actions to take on Trump.
Any attempt to impeach Trump would be running up against the calendar as well as against divisions among Republicans over how to contain the president during his final days in office. The House would have just days to act before Biden’s inauguration, and it’s not clear that the Senate could move ahead with a trial within a week. Convicting Trump would require support from a significant number of GOP senators.
"We can do this by way of privileged resolution, when we’re meeting in pro forma on Monday, we can introduce it. Then, the leadership will decide whether or not we will take it up and whether they will call us back into session,” Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, said one of the resolution’s sponsors, said on CNN.
Pelosi said the House also would move forward with legislation drafted by Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin to establish an permanent independent commission to accelerate the process of removing a president under the 25th Amendment of the Constitution if incapacity is found.
Pelosi in a letter to Democrats earlier on Friday warned that Trump is so "unhinged” and said that she sought assurances from the nation’s top military commander that safeguards are in place in case he initiates an armed conflict or tries to launch a nuclear strike.
Democrats and some Republicans have blamed Trump for encouraging his supporters to march on the Capitol as lawmakers were formally counting the Electoral College votes affirming Biden’s victory in the presidential election. There were at least five deaths and dozens of injuries resulting from the mob’s clashes with police.
Pelosi and Schumer have urged Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, and implored congressional Republicans to join in pressuring the president to step down.
Calls for Trump to resign have been growing in Congress, including among some Republicans. GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the latest to urge the president to step down, telling the Anchorage Daily News that she questioned her future as a Republican if the party doesn’t break with the outgoing president.
"I want him to resign. I want him out," Murkowski said in a Friday interview with the newspaper.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stayed mum on any next steps regarding Trump after ripping the futile effort by the president’s allies to undo the election that was part of the impetus for the mob to invade the Capitol.
Other Republicans implored Pelosi and Democrats not to go ahead with another impeachment.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been one of Trump’s closest allies, said if Pelosi pursued Trump’s impeachment now, it would "do more harm than good.” He appealed to Biden, who has said he wants to govern in a spirit of bipartisanship. "I’m hopeful President-elect Biden sees the damage that would be done from such action.”
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who backed objections to the electoral vote count, said in a statement that he would try to contact Biden as well to talk to him "about how we must work together to lower the temperature and unite the country to solve America’s challenges.” McCarthy said pursuing impeachment would further divide the country.
Trump on Thursday appeared to be trying to quell the furor and head off any clamor for his ouster within the GOP. He released a video message in which he condemned the attack on the Capitol, and said he was prepared for a smooth transition to Biden’s administration.
But on Friday, Trump said he wouldn’t attend Biden’s inauguration, breaking decades of precedent, and praised his supporters in a tweet. Twitter Inc. on Friday permanently banned Trump’s personal account for repeated rules violations, marking the most high-profile punishment the social media company had ever imposed.
Law professor Brian Kalt said on Twitter that Pelosi's call for legislation on the 25th Amendment is unlikely to happen before the end of Trump's presidency.
But for Democratic leaders there’s little risk in pressuring Trump’s Cabinet and Pence, but impeachment would put the spotlight on Trump instead of on preparing for Biden’s incoming administration.
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