The top two Democrats in Congress on Thursday demanded the resignation of President Donald Trump, a day after his supporters stormed the US capital in an attack that triggered widespread condemnation and global alarm.
With 13 days left in Trump’s term, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Vice President Mike Pence and the government would invoke the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution to remove the president.
In the absence of that, they said that Congress should go fast to expel him through the trial. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which normally oversees the process, said in a statement that he supported immediate prosecution.
Pelosi told a news conference that Trump posed an ongoing danger to the country. “Yesterday, the President of the United States instigated an armed uprising against America,” she said.
CNN reported that a Capitol police officer who responded to Wednesday’s riot died, a development that could increase pressure on the administration or Congress to act. Four deaths were confirmed earlier, including a protester shot by authorities.
Members of the Trump administration and allies of the Republican president have discussed invoking the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of a president who is unable to fulfill the agency’s powers and duties, says a source familiar with the situation. A Pence adviser said the vice president opposes using the change.
US Capitol stormed: Should the 25th Amendment be invoked?
Congress formally certified Democratic President Joe Biden’s election on November 3 early Thursday, hours after lawmakers were forced to hide by hundreds of rioters who overwhelmed police and invaded the building. More than half of House Republicans and eight Republican senators voted to challenge the election result.
Trump has not condemned the extraordinary violence that developed after he on Wednesday encouraged supporters to march to the Capitol, despite grounds from close allies and leading members of his administration.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany made a statement in the newsroom on Thursday, condemning the attack but taking no questions from reporters.
“Let me be clear: the violence we saw yesterday in our nation’s capital was frightening, reprehensible and antithetical to the American way,” she said. “We condemn it – the President and this administration – in the strongest possible way.”
Trump promised in a statement early in the morning an “orderly transition” before Biden’s inauguration, but went on to falsely claim that the election was stolen from him.
The president has increasingly isolated himself in the White House, relied on a small group of gloomy loyalists and cracked down on Pence and others who dare to cross him, four sources said.
A source familiar with the situation says that Trump has in recent weeks discussed the possibility of pardoning himself. The White House declined to comment. Constitutional scholars have said it is unclear whether the president’s pardon power can be used in that way.
Trump faces potential state legal action when he leaves office, including a criminal probe into New York that would not be covered by a federal pardon.
Trump also faced a staff flight. A Cabinet official, Transport Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, said she would resign with reference to the violence.
Facebook Inc said it would ban Trump posts until Biden’s inauguration on January 20. On Wednesday, Twitter Inc shut down Trump’s account for 12 hours.
Dozens of Democrats have said Trump should be removed. At least two Republicans, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and US Representative Adam Kinzinger from Illinois, also said he should leave, and Kinzinger said in a video that Trump had become “impossible” from reality.
But in the absence of the cabinet, it was uncertain whether Congress – which is currently in recess – had time to begin constitutional proceedings before Trump’s term ends.
Several members of the Democratic House have already begun drafting articles on accusations of Trump’s role in encouraging Wednesday’s lawlessness. Assistants to McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, had no immediate comment.
The Democratic-controlled House accused Trump in December 2019 after he pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden, but the Republican-led Senate voted to acquit him in February 2020 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Police chief on fire
The attack on the Capitol was the culmination of months of divisive and escalating rhetoric by Trump and his allies around the November 3 election, in which the president repeatedly made false claims that the vote was “rigged.”
Rioters besieged the house chamber while lawmakers were inside. Security officials barricaded the chamber door with furniture and drew their pistols before helping lawmakers and others escape.
Pelosi called on the head of the Capitol police, Steven Sund, to resign on Thursday, after the federal force accused of protecting Congress could not prevent the invasion. Media reports say that Sund had resigned.
New fences were installed around the Capitol on the Thursday before Biden’s inauguration.
Election officials from both parties and independent observers have said there was no significant fraud in the election. Biden received 7 million more votes than Trump in the national referendum.
In another setback for Trump, Democrats on Wednesday completed a sweep of the two U.S. Senate seats in the run-up election in the state of Georgia, giving the party control of the House and increasing the prospects for Biden’s legislative agenda.