US President Donald Trump faced growing calls for his urgent removal from office on Thursday, one day after thousands of his supporters attacked the Capitol building in an attempt to stop the vice-president and a joint session of Congress from formalising Trump’s loss in the November presidential election.
“What happened at the US Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement, released hours after Congress finished certifying Trump’s loss. “This president should not hold office one day longer.”
“If the vice-president and the cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president,” Schumer added.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for Vice-President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution – which provides a procedure to remove from office a president who can no longer carry out his duties – “immediately”. She said Congress should impeach the president if Pence and the cabinet would not act. Her call for removal and potential impeachment suggests Congress may move quickly to try to oust Trump, as the speaker controls the agenda of the House.
“In calling for this seditious act, the president has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people,” Pelosi said.
Schumer said he and Pelosi placed a call Pence on Thursday morning — a sign of how quickly they are trying to move — but were left on hold for 25 minutes and then told that the vice-president would not come to the phone.
Late on Thursday, Business Insider reported that according to Pence advisers, the vice-president opposes the use of the 25th Amendment.
Soon afterward, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said impeachment should bypass his panel and go straight to the House floor. “We have a limited period of time in which to act,” he said. “The nation cannot afford a lengthy, drawn-out process.”
Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, released a video message on Thursday morning saying the US needed a “sane captain of the ship”, and urged Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment. “All indications are that the president has become unmoored not just from his duty or even his oath, but from reality itself,” Kinzinger said.
The 25th Amendment gives cabinet members and the vice-president the authority to take power from the president if a majority of them decide that he is no longer fit to govern. A two-thirds majority of Congress must approve the act. That element of the amendment has never been invoked.
Later on Thursday, a second Republican, Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, said he would support a move by the cabinet to remove Trump via the 25th Amendment.
Representative Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington state and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, also called for the move, saying on Twitter that “Trump incited & encouraged this riot”. A group of House Democrats had already begun circulating articles of impeachment before Pelosi‘s statement.
The bipartisan calls for Trump’s removal came amid wider backlash from the public; from the social media companies Trump has relied on to spread disinformation to millions of people; and from an increasing number of officials serving in his own administration.
Trump’s deputy national security adviser and top China expert, Matt Pottinger, resigned from the administration, as did the president’s former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who is now serving as an envoy to Northern Ireland. Elaine Chao, the secretary of transportation and wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, became the first cabinet member to submit her resignation, effective on Monday.
The White House published a notice that it had withdrawn the formal nomination of its acting secretary of homeland security, Chad Wolf. The announcement came shortly after Wolf released a statement condemning the president’s supporters for Wednesday’s violence and “imploring” Trump to speak out against them.
Numerous former Trump officials publicly condemned the president, including some who had been among his highest-ranking aides.
Former Attorney General William Barr accused Trump of “orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress” and said his actions were a “betrayal of his office and supporters”. Former White House Chief of Staff and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said he supported invoking the 25th Amendment.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company had blocked Trump from its social media platforms “indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete”. The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden is on January 20.
Twitter had blocked Trump from posting for 12 hours starting on Wednesday night, after he sent messages of support to the people who had stormed the Capitol. Trump had not tweeted as of 6pm on Thursday.
And the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal called for him to resign from the presidency. “He has refused to accept the basic bargain of democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose,” they wrote.
Biden said on Thursday that the blame for the violence at the Capitol lay squarely with Trump.
“The past four years we have had a president who’s made his contempt for our democracy, the Constitution, the rule of law, clear in everything he has done,” Biden said, in remarks while introducing his choices to lead the Justice Department. “He unleashed an all-out assault on the institutions of our democracy from the outset, and yesterday was but the culmination of that unrelenting attack.”
Washington’s mayor issued a public emergency order that extends until January 21, a day after the inauguration.
The city’s police arrested more than 50 people late on Wednesday, most of them for unlawful entry, possession of illegal weapons and violating the 6pm curfew that Mayor Muriel Bowser issued to enforce the peace after the unprecedented insurrection attempt in which four people died – one from gunshot wounds and three from medical emergencies.
Washington police chief Robert Contee said at least 50 officers were injured, one seriously after he was pulled into a crowd and assaulted.
“The US capital events and the reasonable apprehension of an ongoing public emergency represent an immediate threat to the health, safety and welfare of District residents that requires emergency protective actions,” Bowser said in the order, which was issued late on Wednesday.
The move gives Bowser the authority to “implement such measures as may be necessary or appropriate to protect persons and property in the District of Columbia from the conditions caused by this public emergency,” including additional curfews and ordering businesses to close.
The violence prompted the evacuation of members of Congress and legislative aides from the Capitol until law enforcement officials could secure the building, a shocking turn of events that sparked outrage among lawmakers, including some from Trump’s own Republican Party, who had previously backed or declined to refute the president’s baseless accusations that the election was rigged.
In an apparent attempt to distance the Trump administration from the violence, Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s press secretary, called a news conference at the White House early Thursday evening and said that “those who violently besieged our capital are the opposite of everything this administration stands for”.
She spoke for less than two minutes and left without taking questions. Trump himself has not commented since White House spokesman Dan Scavino sent a tweet overnight on his behalf, shortly after the congressional certification of Biden’s victory.
In that Twitter message, Trump – who before the election refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost – for the first time acknowledged defeat.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20,” Trump’s statement said.
“While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again.”
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