JANUARY 11, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Democratic lawmakers introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump on Monday accusing him of inciting an insurrection as they pressed ahead with efforts to remove the president following the riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“There may well be a vote on impeachment on Wednesday,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.).
Democrats also attempted to pass a unanimous-consent resolution on Monday calling for Vice President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to remove Mr. Trump from office, though it was blocked by Republican Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia, who said later the resolution shouldn’t be adopted without debate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she plans to reconvene the full House for a vote on the 25th Amendment resolution, and if approved and Mr. Pence doesn’t act to remove Mr. Trump from office within 24 hours, the House will proceed to impeachment.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but a spokesman for the president and many GOP lawmakers have said that the push for impeachment with just days left in Mr. Trump’s presidency would divide the country.
Democrats said the president and some GOP lawmakers’ efforts to discredit the election results had been divisive, and it was imperative that they press ahead with efforts to remove Mr. Trump for encouraging a mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday.
The attackers forced their way into the Capitol, threatening lawmakers and disrupting a joint session of Congress to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral win. A rioter and a police officer were killed and three others died of medical emergencies.
“This was an effort to stop that process so that Donald Trump could remain in office,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D., R.I.), who was one of the writers of the article of impeachment. “This was an attempted coup to overthrow the government. And we have a responsibility in Congress to respond that we took an oath of office to defend and protect the Constitution and our democracy in the face of a direct attack on our democracy, even though it was incited by the president—or in fact because it was.”
Mr. Pence isn’t expected to move forward with a 25th Amendment process, people familiar with his thinking said. The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, lays out the details of presidential succession in the event that a president dies or becomes ill. One section of the amendment allows for the vice president to take over the president’s duties if the vice president and the majority of the cabinet determine that the president “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
That section of the amendment has never before been invoked, and it could set off a clash between the president and his No. 2. Congress would get the final say over whether the vice president can maintain the president’s powers, which would be decided by a two-thirds majority. Republicans have enough seats to block an incapacity vote in each house of Congress.
Since releasing a statement criticizing Twitter for banning his account on Friday, the president hasn’t issued any comments or appeared in public, a contrast to his typical barrage of tweets on any given weekend.
First lady Melania Trump issued a statement Monday in which she condemned last week’s violence but also took aim at her critics. “I find it shameful that surrounding these tragic events there has been salacious gossip, unwarranted personal attacks, and false misleading accusations on me—from people who are looking to be relevant and have an agenda,” she said.
Several of the president’s allies have broken with Mr. Trump since Wednesday’s riot, with some Republicans calling for him to resign and others saying they would consider supporting impeachment. Mick Mulvaney, a former congressman who served as Mr. Trump’s acting chief of staff until March, said in a Fox News interview Sunday that he would seriously consider supporting impeachment if he were still a member of Congress and said lawmakers would view a second impeachment “very differently.”
The unprecedented second impeachment has gathered quick support among House Democrats, with 210 signed on to a resolution that accuses Mr. Trump of inciting an insurrection, according to a Democratic aide. A total of 222 lawmakers are in the House Democratic caucus, and it would take 217 votes to pass an impeachment measure, with 433 House seats currently filled.
Should the House pass impeachment articles and send them to the Senate, it is unlikely the president will be removed before the Jan. 20 inauguration. The Senate is set to be on recess until Jan. 19, and a Senate trial could require unanimous consent to get started before Inauguration Day. A conviction in the Senate needs the approval of two-thirds of senators, requiring significant Republican support. If all 100 senators were to vote, it would take 67 to convict, and the Senate will have 50 Democrats, suggesting they would need support from 17 Republicans.
The House could also hold on to the article of impeachment to avoid triggering a trial before Inauguration Day, and allow the new Democratic-controlled Senate to confirm Mr. Biden’s nominees and get started on his agenda, before sending an impeachment article to the Senate for a trial.
Instead of backing impeachment, more GOP lawmakers have said that Mr. Trump should resign in his final days in office.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) on Sunday said Mr. Trump should step down. “I think the best way for our country is for the president to resign and go away as soon as possible. I acknowledge that may not be likely, but I think that would be best,” Mr. Toomey said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Some of the president’s advisers, meanwhile, have begun considering who would join the president’s defense team if the House moves to impeach him. White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who led the defense team during the president’s first impeachment trial, isn’t expected to join the team this time, according to a person familiar with the matter, nor is Pat Philbin, Mr. Cipollone’s deputy, or Jay Sekulow, or Jane and Marty Raskin, the president’s personal lawyers, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Cipollone initially considered resigning after Wednesday’s riot but is considered likely to stay in his post, according to people familiar with the matter.
The president’s defense team, according to the person familiar with discussions, would likely include Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, and Alan Dershowitz, a constitutional-law professor who assisted the defense team for the last impeachment. Mr. Giuliani wasn’t on Mr. Trump’s defense team last time because of the significant role he played in the events leading up to Mr. Trump’s impeachment over his dealings with Ukraine. He also played a major role in the events for which House Democrats are seeking to impeach the president this time.
Mr. Dershowitz said in a text message Sunday that he hadn’t been asked to join any team but that he would “continue to defend the First Amendment against partisan attempts to weaponize it for short time partisan advantages.”
House Democrats are also discussing how to handle Republican lawmakers who they see as encouraging the mob that stormed the Capitol, possibly using the 14th Amendment that says no one should hold office who has engaged in rebellion or insurrection.
Several lawmakers sent tweets of support for pro-Trump protesters before the crowd turned violent and stormed the Capitol. Rep. Mo Brooks (R., Ala.), speaking at a rally last Wednesday ahead of the riot, asked Mr. Trump’s supporters if they were willing to sacrifice their lives to build the greatest nation. Mr. Brooks told a conservative radio host after the riot that he didn’t regret the comments.