WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House pressed forward 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 blamed impeachment for the “tremendous anger” in America.
Already scheduled to leave office next week, Trump is on the verge of becoming the only president in history to be impeached twice. His incendiary rhetoric at a rally ahead of the Capitol uprising is now in the impeachment charge against him, even as the claims he spread about election fraud are still being championed by some Republicans.
A few other Republicans, however, announced Tuesday they now support impeachment, including Rep. Liz Cheney, of Wyoming, who ranks third in House GOP leadership.
Trump “assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Republican Rep. John Katko, of New York, also said he would vote to impeach Trump.
During a House rules debate, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, of Maryland, pleaded for a change of heart by other Republicans. “All of us have to do some soul searching,” he said.
As lawmakers reconvened at the Capitol for the first time since the siege, they were also bracing for more violence ahead of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Jan. 20.
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,” Trump said.
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 first pressing 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 today.
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, Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., 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 Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a top Trump ally just honored this week at the White House, refused to concede Biden won the election outright.
Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., tied such talk to the Capitol attack, “People came here because they believed the lie.”
A handful of other 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 said it’s time for Trump to resign.
The unprecedented events, with just more than a week remaining in Trump’s term, are unfolding in a nation bracing for more unrest. The FBI has warned 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.
Metal detectors were being installed at the entrance to the House chamber not far from where Capitol police, guns drawn, had barricaded the door against the rioters.
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.
In the Senate, Republican Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania, joined GOP 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.
Biden has said it’s important to ensure the “folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage — that they be held accountable.”
Fending off concerns an impeachment trial would bog down Biden’s first days in office, the president-elect is encouraging senators to divide their time between taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID-19 relief while also conducting the trial.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer suggested in a letter to colleagues Tuesday the chamber would do both.