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Calls for Trump’s removal grow after Capitol riot
On Wednesday, while encouraging protestors who would later march to the Capitol and commence a deadly riot, President Donald Trump told his supporters: “We will never give up. We will never concede.”
On Thursday, he conceded. “A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20,” the president acknowledged in a video released on his Twitter account, just hours after his temporary suspension from the platform was lifted. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly, and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”
It was a statement that took two months, 60 lawsuits, and five deaths for him to make.
According to the New York Times, Trump only grudgingly agreed to tape the video after aides informed him that “he could face legal risk for prodding the mob” at the Capitol. Earlier on Thursday, the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. declined to rule out charging the president with inciting violence.
It is unclear if his belated video message will dim the looming shadow of legal exposure. But political leaders on both sides of the aisle made it plain that the president’s words would not be enough to halt the mounting calls for his removal in the final two weeks of his term.
“This is urgent, this is an emergency of the highest magnitude,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said as she joined soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in urging Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of Cabinet members to oust Trump from office using the 25th Amendment.
If the amendment was not invoked, she said, the House was prepared to move forward with impeachment proceedings. “Impeached, defeated, impeached,” Pelosi added, describing Trump’s potential trajectory in office. He became the third president in history to be impeached just over one year ago.
More than 100 members of Congress have called for Trump’s re-impeachment since he helped incite the mob that violently broke into the Capitol and forced lawmakers to evacuate as they were ratifying his loss to President-elect Joe Biden. One Republican congressman, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), has endorsed invocation of the 25th Amendment, as have three Republican governors and Trump’s former chief of staff.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) suggested that the House could take steps to move towards impeachment as early as today; articles of impeachment have already been drawn up by multiple members.
Inside the White House, the president has reportedly become increasingly isolated as he considers his next moves. Nearly two dozen administration officials have resigned since Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol, including two members of the Cabinet: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“Impressionable children are watching,” DeVos said.
Chao is the wife of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); her sudden departure was a reminder of the ongoing recriminations over Trump’s role in Wednesday’s violence even within his own party. According to Reuters and the Washington Post, respectively, Pence and McConnell say they may never speak to the president again. He has savaged both men for their refusal to support him in his attempts to cling to power after the November election, which he falsely insisted that he won in a landslide.
Still, Business Insider and other news outlets reported, Pence has no plans to invoke the 25th Amendment and initiate his boss’ removal. The president did speak to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), previously one of his closest congressional allies, on Wednesday; according to Punchbowl News, the two men “got into a screaming match.”
For perhaps the first time in his presidency, no Republican politicians are stepping forward to defend the president’s conduct amid the Capitol siege. While none have called for his impeachment, few have shot down such efforts, a departure from their loyalty in the past.
Lawmakers who promoted Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud are already facing consequences. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), for example, had a book deal scuttled on Thursday, the same day that the two largest newspapers in his home state editorialized in favor of his resignation and his political mentor renounced supporting him. Hawley was one of the senators who led the unsuccessful efforts to challenge Biden’s victories in key battleground states at the joint session of Congress on Wednesday, even after the proceedings were interrupted by the president’s violent loyalists.
Ramifications have also been swift for law enforcement officials at the Capitol, who were criticized for allowing the most significant breach of the building since the War of 1812. The chief of the Capitol Police submitted his resignation on Thursday, as did the House and Senate Sergeants-at-Arms.
About 50 law enforcement officers were injured during the riots, including one Capitol Police officer who was declared dead on Thursday. Officer Brian Sicknick was the fifth person whose death was linked to the Capitol attack; the four others were Trump supporters, including one woman who was shot by the police.
There are now twelve remaining days in Trump’s tenure, which has often been turbulent but rarely as dramatic as the note on which it is ending. The crises that have marked his presidency are overlapping as it hurtles to an end: Thursday was also the deadliest day of the historic pandemic that Trump has been accused of ignoring and exacerbating. More than 4,000 Americans lost their lives to the coronavirus in the 24-hour period.
According to Bloomberg, the president is mulling over a “sweeping list” of pardons that he is considering granting before leaving office, for family members such as daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner and allies like chief of staff Mark Meadows and personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Trump is also reportedly flirting with the possibility of issuing a pardon for himself before his term expires, which would be an unprecedented move in American history.
The president is hoping to announce those pardons on January 19, his last full day in office, the Bloomberg report said. According to the New York Times, he may leave the White House on that day as well, instead of attending Biden’s inauguration, as would be traditional.
At that point, his former Defense Secretary Jams Mattis asserted this week — voted out of office and condemned by lawmakers, business leaders, and once-friendly media organizations — Trump will be “left a man without a country.”
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled. According to the White House, he “will work from early in the morning until late in the evening” and “will make many calls and have many meetings,” although none of them were listed.
Vice President Mike Pence has no public events scheduled.
President-elect Joe Biden will introduce his nominees for Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Labor, and Small Business Administrator at an event in Wilmington, Delaware, at 1:30 p.m. Later, he will receive the President’s Daily Brief and meet with transition advisers.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief and meet with transition advisers. She will then join President-elect Biden for the announcement in Wilmington before participating in a “virtual event thanking supporters of the Biden-Harris campaign.”
The Senate will meet briefly at 10 a.m. in a pro forma session.
The House is not in session. House Democrats will hold a caucus call at 12 p.m. to discuss President Trump’s possible impeachment.
The Supreme Court is not in session.
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