Forty-eight hours after violent right-wing extremists attacked the U.S. Capitol, House Democrats are putting in motion the process of removing President Donald Trump—who egged on the rioters—by drafting articles of impeachment.
The resolution, authored by Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Ted Lieu (D-CA), charges Trump with “incitement of insurrection” for urging his supporters to go to the nation’s capital on Wednesday to protest Congress’ certification of the Electoral College results, and fight on his behalf against an allegedly fraudulent election during a speech from the National Mall.
“Incited by President Trump, a mob unlawfully breached the Capitol, injured law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress and the Vice President, interfered with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the election results, and engaged in violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts,” read the latest draft of the articles, which were obtained by The Daily Beast on Friday.
After saying nothing for hours following Wednesday’s breach, aside from a tweet urging people to “stay peaceful!” Trump issued a videotaped statement asking the mob to go home while affectionately reminding them, “we love you.” Five people were killed as a result of the riot, including a Capitol Police officer.
“In all of this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government,” read the articles. “He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coordinate branch of government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
Though Trump is slated to leave office on Jan. 20 when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, Wednesday’s shocking attack has convinced many Democratic lawmakers—and even some Republicans—that the president is so unhinged that for him to remain in power another two weeks is too great a threat.
Most House and Senate Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), have enjoined Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which permits a majority of the Cabinet to remove a president if they are unfit to hold office. But Pelosi has said impeachment is on the table if Pence does not take that step.
With Pence publicly silent, and reportedly against the option in private, House Democrats are pushing for an impeachment vote on the floor as soon as Monday. The articles authored by Cicilline, Lieu, and Raskin have 158 sponsors; there are competing versions from other Democratic lawmakers with fewer supporters at this juncture. Lieu took shelter inside Cicilline’s office during the attack on Wednesday, and the two Judiciary Committee members began developing them there. Raskin was on the House floor speaking as the mob nearly cornered lawmakers, staff, and reporters in the chamber.
Pelosi, furious at the Capitol attack and Trump’s intransigence, is said to prefer the 25th Amendment route but is open to impeachment to urgently remove Trump and to ensure he is held accountable. On Friday, she released a statement saying she spoke with Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, regarding Trump’s mental state and seeking assurance that the president could be blocked from launching nuclear weapons.
Most House Republicans have condemned Wednesday’s attack, but far fewer have condemned Trump’s role in inciting it. The House GOP leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) issued a statement Friday afternoon announcing he would strongly oppose impeachment. McCarthy, who voted to object to Biden’s rightful victory after the riot on Wednesday, said impeachment would be too divisive.