As the United States reels from a violent attack on the Capitol that left five dead, Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic legislators in the US House of Representatives are pushing Republicans to take a side – for or against President Donald Trump.
Alarmed by Trump’s incitement of mob violence on January 6, House Speaker Pelosi said on Monday that the president poses an “imminent threat” to the nation and “must be removed from office immediately”.
“The president incited a deadly insurrection against America that targeted the very heart of our democracy,” Pelosi said in a statement.
The House on Tuesday is expected to take up a measure calling on Vice President Mike Pence and members of Trump’s Cabinet to invoke a process under the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution, which allows for the removal of a president deemed unfit to fulfil their duties.
Three cabinet secretaries, Elaine Chao, Betsy DeVos and Chad Wolf have resigned in the wake of the Capitol attack. But Pence and remaining Cabinet secretaries, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have given no indication they will take the extraordinary step to remove Trump from office.
Democrats had attempted to bring the bill demanding Pence remove Trump to the House floor by unanimous consent on Monday but they were blocked by Republicans.
“The House Republicans rejected this legislation to protect America, enabling the president’s unhinged, unstable and deranged acts of sedition to continue,” Pelosi said.
Democrats now plan to force a vote on the measure on Tuesday night, a move designed to pressure Republicans and set a pretext for an impeachment vote the next day.
House Democrats introduced a single charge of insurrection in one article of impeachment against Trump on Monday.
By gathering a crowd of angry political supporters in Washington and urging them to march on the Capitol to interfere with Congress’s certification of Biden’s election victory, Trump “wilfully incited violence”, the article said.
Trump gravely “threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperilled a coordinate branch of government”, the article continued.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday morning, Trump decried House Democrats move to impeach him as “absolutely ridiculous”.
There is “tremendous anger” among his supporters about the new impeachment drive, Trump said and he called it a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics”.
In additional remarks to media at Andrews Air Force Base prior to leaving for a trip to Texas, Trump claimed his January 6 speech to his rally in Washington was “totally appropriate”.
A Quinnipiac University poll released on Monday found 52 percent of Americans think Trump should be removed from office and 56 percent blamed him for the storming of the Capitol.
Meanwhile, the FBI issued a warning to law enforcement agencies that social media posts indicate Trump supporters are planning more violent protests in Washington and state capitals around the country leading up to Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
The National Guard is deploying at least 10,000 troops to Washington and expects requests for another 5,000 from state governors.
For now, most Republican politicians appear to continue to support Trump, although some have indicated a desire to see him leave office before his term ends.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told his colleagues on Monday that he remains opposed to impeaching the president but would be open to other measures, including censure, Bloomberg reported.
“Personally, I continue to believe that an impeachment at this time would have the opposite effect of bringing our country together when we need to get America back on a path towards unity and civility,” McCarthy said in a letter to Republicans.
A few Republicans are calling for Trump’s removal and a growing number of corporations have announced they will not support Republicans who voted against Biden’s Electoral College certification.
Representative Adam Kinzinger issued a statement on January 7 asking Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump, while Republican Senators Pat Toomey and Lisa Murkowski have called on Trump to resign.
Ben Sasse, another Republican senator, said he was open to impeachment proceedings.
Biden, meanwhile, called for accountability for all those who stormed the Capitol but said it is up to Congress to decide what to do about impeaching Trump.
Biden said that he had asked Senate leaders to consider dividing their time between any impeachment trial and consideration of his top priorities: additional COVID-19 relief spending and confirming his nominees.
“My priority is to get first and foremost a stimulus bill passed and secondly to rebuild the economy,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, on Monday after receiving his second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
It is unclear when the Senate might take up impeachment proceedings from the House. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell will face pressure from most members of his Republican caucus to stall any such action.
But Democrats are set to assume control of the Senate once two Democrats who won runoff elections in Georgia are seated no later than January 23.
Trump would no longer be in office but he can still be tried on the House’s impeachment charges. If convicted by the Senate, he would be prevented and disqualified from running for president again in 2024.