Momentum builds to impeach Trump as more Capitol rioters arrested

Dozens of US legislators say Donald Trump should be removed from office for stoking recent violence on Capitol Hill.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump, including a man identified by the FBI as Jacob Anthony Chansleya were among rioters who breached the US Capitol [File: Saul Loeb/AFP]

Donald Trump, the president of the United States, faced a renewed push by Democrats to remove him from office, as federal agents arrested more Capitol Hill rioters on Saturday, including a man who carried off the House speaker’s lectern.

Representative Ted Lieu said on Twitter that Democratic members of the House of Representatives will introduce formal articles of impeachment on Monday. The California Democrat, who helped draft the charges, said the articles had drawn 180 co-sponsors as of Saturday afternoon.

A spokeswoman for Lieu said no Republicans have yet signed on.

The impeachment declaration accuses Trump of engaging “in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States”, according to a copy Lieu posted on Twitter on Friday.

It states that Trump “has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law”.

A vote could be held as soon as Wednesday.

The new push comes after Trump incited his supporters to storm the US Capitol on Wednesday as legislators met to certify the election victory of President-elect Joe Biden. Trump urged the crowd to march there in force during remarks in which he repeated his bogus claim that his election defeat was fraudulent.

The four-hour occupation of the seat of the US legislature shocked the country and raised questions about security preparations ahead of the well-planned and publicised event. Five people, including a rioter shot by police as she attempted to enter the House chamber and a Capitol Police officer struck by a fire extinguisher, died during the incident.

Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, accused the Trump supporters who invaded the Capitol of choosing “their whiteness over democracy”.

Addressing her hometown San Francisco constituents during an online video conference, Pelosi on Saturday said Trump’s actions “cannot be exaggerated”. She added, “The complicity, not only the complicity, the instigation of the president of the United States, must and will be addressed.”

More alleged rioters arrested

In a statement on Saturday, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) said it had arrested and charged two men whose alleged participation in the Capitol riot went viral, as well as a West Virginia state legislator who allegedly livestreamed his illegal entry into the building.

The FBI said it identified Jacob Anthony Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, of Arizona, as the man “seen in media coverage who entered the Capitol building dressed in horns, a bearskin headdress, red, white and blue face paint, shirtless, and tan pants”.

Chansley was charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, as well as with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, the FBI said.

Chansley is a supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory and has been mainstay outside of the Arizona Capitol since 2019, according to the Arizona Republic newspaper.

A pro-Trump rioter, identified by the FBI as Adam Johnson, carries the lectern of the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, through the rotunda of the US Capitol building [File: Win McNamee/Getty Images]

The FBI also identified Adam Johnson, 36, as the man allegedly seen smiling while carrying the lectern of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi through the rotunda of the Capitol complex. The man identified as Johnson wore a knitted hat that said “Trump” and “45” and appeared ebullient during the chaotic scene.

Johnson, a resident of Parrish, Florida, was arrested on Friday night and charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, theft of government property, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

In its statement, the FBI also said that Derrick Evans, a 35-year-old man recently elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates, had been arrested and charged in relation to the events.

The Reuters news agency reported that Evans resigned on Saturday, writing a one-sentence letter to West Virginia Governor Jim Justice that read, “I hereby resign as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, effective immediately.”

On Friday, the FBI said 13 others who allegedly participated in the riot are facing federal charges. Another 40 people have been charged so far in Washington, DC Superior Court.

‘I want him out’

The riot reignited calls from legislators for Trump to be removed from office before his term ends, either through the invocation of the 25th Amendment, which allows the removal of a president who is deemed unable to fulfil the duties of the office, or through impeachment.

Democrats have pressed Vice President Mike Pence to consider the 25th Amendment, but a Pence adviser has said he opposes the idea.

Ilhan Omar, a Democratic congresswoman, tweeted on Saturday afternoon that it was important to impeach and “convict this president even if he has few days left in office”. She added: “It will set a precedent. We must make it clear that no president can lead an insurrection against the US government. What we do today will matter for the rest of this nation’s history.”

The effort has drawn scattered support from Republicans, whose party has been splintered by the president’s actions.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said on Friday that Trump should resign immediately and suggested she would consider leaving the party altogether if Republicans cannot separate themselves from him.

“I want him out. He has caused enough damage,” she told the Anchorage Daily News.

Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania told Fox News on Saturday that Trump had “committed impeachable offences” but declined to commit to voting in favour of Trump’s removal.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a frequent Trump critic, told CBS News he would “definitely consider” impeachment because the president “disregarded his oath of office”.

Trump allies, including Senator Lindsey Graham and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, however, urged Democrats to shelve any impeachment effort in the name of unity.

“Impeaching President Donald Trump with 12 days remaining in his presidency would only serve to further divide the country,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere.

If Trump were to be impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, he might also be prevented from running again for the presidency in 2024 or ever holding public office again. He would be the only president twice impeached.

But the odds that Trump will actually be removed before January 20, when Biden is sworn in, remain long. Any impeachment in the House would trigger a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, which is scheduled to be in recess until January 19 and has already acquitted Trump once before.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent a memo to his fellow Republican senators suggesting a trial would not begin until Trump was out of office, a source familiar with the document told Reuters. A conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds majority vote.

Democrats will take control of the Senate later this month, after Georgia certifies two runoff elections won by Democratic challengers.

Biden, meanwhile, said he is focused on his job as he prepares to take office. Asked about impeachment, he said, “That’s a decision for the Congress to make.”

‘Domestic terrorism’

The deadly violence at the Capitol Hill also prompted the resignation of the Capitol Police chief and the House sergeant-at-arms – and spurred demands for a thorough investigation into what occurred.

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Representative Tim Ryan, the chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee, which oversees Capitol Police, decried the “epic failure” of intelligence and preparation.

He said the committee is working with federal authorities to identify the rioters, who he said committed an act of “domestic terrorism”.

Ryan also promised to thoroughly investigate videos that showed some Capitol Police officers taking selfies with rioters and allowing them to pass barricades.

“Not only must we get to the bottom of how and why this was allowed to happen, we have a duty to ensure it never ever can happen again,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies