Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives plan to introduce misconduct charges on Monday that could lead to a second impeachment of President Donald Trump, two sources familiar with the matter said, after a violent crowd of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an assault on American democracy.
With a majority in the House, Democrats appear poised for a historic first: no president has ever been impeached twice.
But it is unclear whether lawmakers would be able to remove Trump from office, as any impeachment would prompt a trial in the Senate, where his fellow Republicans hold sway.
Top Democrats have also called on Vice-President Mike Pence and Trump’s cabinet to invoke the U.S. Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which allows them to remove the president if he is unable to discharge his official duties. Pence is opposed to the idea, an adviser said.
Democrats, who said a House vote on impeachment could come next week, hope the threat could intensify pressure on Pence and the Cabinet to act to remove Trump before his term ends in less than two weeks.
The sources said the articles of impeachment, which are formal charges of misconduct, were crafted by Democratic representatives David Cicilline, Ted Lieu and Jamie Raskin.
A copy of the measure circulating among members of Congress charges Trump with “inciting violence against the government of the United States” in a bid to overturn his loss to president-elect Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
Articles include call to ‘find’ votes
The articles also cite Trump’s hour-long phone call last week with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which Trump asked him to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in that state.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump “unhinged” on Friday and said Congress must do everything possible to protect Americans, even though Trump’s term in office will end on Jan. 20 when Biden is sworn in.
She also said she had spoken with the nation’s top general, Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Mark Milley, about preventing Trump from initiating military hostilities or launching a nuclear weapon.
The extraordinary developments came two days after Trump exhorted thousands of supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol, prompting a chaotic scene in which crowds breached the building, sent lawmakers into hiding and left a police officer and four others dead in their wake.
At least one Senate Republican, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, said he would consider supporting an impeachment proceeding, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska called for Trump’s resignation on Friday.
“I want him out,” Murkowski told the Anchorage Daily News. “He has caused enough damage.” She also questioned whether she wanted to remain a Republican.
If the House impeaches Trump, the decision on whether to remove him would fall to the Republican-controlled Senate, which has already acquitted him once before. With Trump’s term ending Jan. 20 and the Senate scheduled to be in recess until Jan. 19, the prospects of an actual ouster appear unlikely.
Removing a U.S. president requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not commented on a possible impeachment.
Trump has expressed interest in running for president again in 2024, but an impeachment could conceivably quash those plans. According to the Constitution, “disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honour, trust or profit under the United States” is a possible penalty for an impeachable offence.
Biden told reporters on Friday that he viewed Trump as “unfit” for office but said he would let Congress decide for itself what to do.
WATCH l Constitutional law expert skeptical Trump can be removed from office:
Pelosi told members on a Democratic conference call that she would speak to Biden on Friday afternoon, according to a source who was listening to the call.
She also said she had gotten assurances from Milley that there are safeguards in place for the use of nuclear weapons, the source said.
Milley’s office said Pelosi had reached out to him and that the general “answered her questions regarding the process of nuclear command authority.”
Neither the military nor Congress can overrule a president’s orders to launch nuclear weapons if the order is legal, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service.
An uncharacteristically subdued Trump on Thursday evening finally denounced the violence in a video in which he also promised to ensure a smooth transition to Biden’s administration.
By Friday morning, however, he had returned to a more familiar and pugilistic tone. On Twitter, he praised his supporters and said, “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
WATCH l Bruce Heyman, former U.S. ambassador to Canada, dismayed by week’s events:
Trump also confirmed he would not attend Biden’s inauguration, departing from a time-honoured tradition that typically sees the outgoing president escorting his successor to Capitol Hill for the ceremony. The practice is seen as an important part of the peaceful transfer of power.
To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.
Biden said he was just fine with Trump’s absence, calling it “one of the few things we have ever agreed on. It’s a good thing him not showing up.” He called the president an “embarrassment” to the nation and unworthy of the office.
Trump will be the first president since Andrew Johnson in March 1869 to not attend the inauguration of his successor. Johnson — who, like Trump, was impeached by the House of Representatives but acquitted in the Senate — did not attend Ulysses S Grant’s inauguration due to the enmity between the two men.
The House impeached Trump in December 2019 for pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden, but the Senate acquitted him in February 2020. Only two other U.S. presidents have been impeached, and none has ever been impeached twice.
Democrats are set to take narrow control of the Senate after winning two runoff elections in Georgia on Tuesday, but the new senators will not be sworn in until the state certifies its results later this month.
Congress certified Biden’s election victory early on Thursday, after authorities cleared the Capitol. More than half of House Republicans and eight Republican senators voted to challenge election results from some states, backing Trump.
Trump tweeted his displeasure at Pence for fulfilling his ceremonial role in the certification on Wednesday, essentially stranding his vice-president, along with other Republicans, inside the Capitol building when the mob descended.
The FBI and prosecutors are investigating, arresting and criminally charging people who took part in violence at the Capitol, including a reward of up to $50,000 US for information on people responsible for placing pipe bombs in the headquarters of the two main parties.