US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that proceeding with a Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump would not hurt President Joe Biden’s calls for “unity”.
“The fact is, the president of the United States committed an act of incitement of insurrection,” Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, a day after Biden was sworn in to replace Trump.
“I don’t think it’s very unifying to say, ‘Oh, let’s just forget it and move on’. That’s not how you unify,” Pelosi said, adding she was not willing to give Trump a “get out of jail free” card just because he has left office.
Thousands of Trump supporters gathered in Washington on January 6 to hear the then-president speak at a rally, before they marched on the US Capitol where Congress was voting to validate Biden’s election win.
The marchers stormed past police barricades and security checkpoints to invade the House and Senate. Five people died, including a woman shot by police and a police officer beaten by the crowd.
Many legislators are furious at Trump’s role in the incident and the House voted 232 to 197 on January 13 to impeach the former president for incitement of insurrection.
“He rallied the troops. He urged them on to fight like hell. He sent them on their way to the Capitol. He called upon lawlessness. He showed a path to the Capitol. And the lawlessness took place,” Pelosi said.
The House Speaker gave no timetable for when a Senate trial may take place, although conversations are continuing among House and Senate leaders about when to move forward.
“It will be soon,” Pelosi said.
Some Republicans in the Senate are warning that conducting a trial of the House impeachment charge against Trump now that he has left office would be divisive and counterproductive for Biden.
They warn it would hurt Biden’s ability to win the Republican support he needs to advance his legislative agenda and secure confirmation of his US Cabinet appointees.
The second impeachment “is a political exercise” that will “eventually destroy the presidency”, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, told Fox News on Wednesday.
Graham, who has been leading the early fight among Senate Republicans against Trump’s impeachment, said he disagrees with Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s assessment that Trump provoked the crowd.
“Yeah, I don’t agree with it,” Graham said. “That would be a crime to provoke somebody to violence. Show me the clip where he did that,” Graham said.
McConnell is “giving some legitimacy to this impeachment process that I think is wrong”, Graham said.
“They impeached the president of the House in 24 hours without a lawyer and without one witness. Is that what we are going to become as a country? I hope not,” he said.
Some lawmakers have suggested a Senate trial could be put off during Biden’s first 100 days in the White House. Others have suggested a trial could be handled quickly as the Senate also conducts legislative business.
Discussions are ongoing in the Senate between McConnell and the new Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on how to proceed with impeachment, Senator Amy Klobuchar told reporters at the Capitol on Thursday.
McConnell “has signalled a willingness” to allow the trial to go forward and the Senate could “juggle” both the trial and its legislative work, Klobuchar said.
“The American people are doing it every single day. They are juggling their toddlers on their knees and their laptops on their desk,” Klobuchar said. “Why couldn’t we do it?”
In the House, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is trying to heal wounds within the Republican caucus from the impeachment vote.
McCarthy said on Thursday that there should be room for differing opinions among Republicans after 10 members of his caucus joined Democrats in voting to impeach Trump on January 13.
McCarthy said he still backs Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney in her party leadership position even though she voted for impeachment.