Efforts to hold President Donald Trump accountable for his role in inciting the mob that overran the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday gained momentum Saturday, with Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives announcing they will offer articles of impeachment as early as Monday.
Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from the state of California, who helped draft the charges against Trump, tweeted Saturday afternoon that the articles had 180 co-sponsors, although no Republicans were among them.
UPDATE to the update: We’ve just hit 180 cosponsors of the Article of Impeachment drafted by Rep @davidcicilline, @RepRaskin, me and @HouseJudiciary staff.— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 9, 2021
We will introduce the Article of Impeachment this Monday during the House’s pro forma session. https://t.co/qm7LmXhOgK
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues are anxious to see the president removed from office before his term ends Jan. 20, even though the Republican-led U.S. Senate is unlikely to agree.
“The situation of this unhinged president could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy,” Pelosi said Friday.
If the House were to impeach the president, for a second time, that would trigger a trial in the Senate, which has acquitted Trump once before and is to be in recess until Jan. 19. Democrats will take control of the Senate later this month.
Democratic congressional leaders also have called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which offers an alternative and perhaps quicker way to remove the president from office. Pence has not responded but has reportedly told colleagues he does not favor such action.
Passed in the 1960s, the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows for the temporary transfer of power from the president to the vice president if the president is incapacitated, with the approval of a majority of the Cabinet. But analysts say that option could be difficult to exercise with just days left in Trump's presidency.
“It's also very difficult in a situation in which the president is not in a coma or not otherwise physically incapacitated that he can't function or operate because under the 25th Amendment, once it is invoked the president can notify Congress that he is able to discharge the powers of the office and take that power back,” said John Hudak, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
An overwhelming number of Democratic lawmakers – and some Republicans – have expressed support for removing Trump from power or censuring his actions.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has called for Trump to resign, making her the first Republican senator to endorse a presidential resignation.
“I want him to resign,” she told The Anchorage Daily News. “I want him out. He has caused enough damage."
“He hasn't been focused on what is going on with COVID,” Murkowski said. “He's either been golfing, or he's been inside the Oval Office fuming and throwing every single person who has been loyal and faithful to him under the bus, starting with the vice president. ... He needs to get out.”
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey declined Saturday on Fox News to commit to voting in favor of Trumps removal despite saying he had “committed impeachable offenses.” However, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse told CBS News that he would definitely consider impeachment.
But House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy indicated he does not support impeachment.
President-elect Joe Biden has said Trump wasn’t fit for office, but he declined to endorse Democratic calls that he be impeached for a second time. Biden said the situation would be different if Trump were not leaving office in less than two weeks.
“If we were six months out, we should be doing everything to get him out of office. Impeaching him again, trying to evoke the 25th Amendment, whatever it took,” Biden said. “But I am focused now on us taking control as president and vice president on the 20th and to get our agenda moving as quickly as we can.”
Trump was impeached on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in December 2019 but was acquitted in a trial in the U.S. Senate in February 2020. No American president has ever faced two impeachment votes.
“There are two reasons to pursue impeachment,” said Paul Berman, a professor of law at the George Washington University School of Law. “One is simply to make it clear that a sitting president inciting an insurrection against the United States government is perhaps the worst thing that a president could ever possibly do. And that statement needs to be made. Second, and more pragmatically, if he were impeached, and convicted, that would prevent him from running for office in the future.”