Members of the national guard stand near an American flag at half-mast at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, the US, January 9 2021. Picture: GRAEME SLOAN/BLOOMBERG
Members of the national guard stand near an American flag at half-mast at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, the US, January 9 2021. Picture: GRAEME SLOAN/BLOOMBERG

Washington — Democratic-led efforts to impeach US President Donald Trump for a historic second time gained momentum over the weekend, though it looked far from certain whether enough Republicans would back the move with just days left in his term.  

Democratic members of the House of Representatives will introduce articles of impeachment on Monday after Trump encouraged his supporters to storm the US Capitol on Wednesday, Representative Ted Lieu said on Twitter.

The California Democrat, who helped draft the charges, said the articles had drawn 190 co-sponsors by Saturday night. Up to Saturday afternoon, no Republicans had signed on, Lieu’s spokesperson said.

“We have videos of the speech where [Trump] incites the mob. We have videos of the mob violently attacking the Capitol. This isn’t a close call,” Lieu tweeted on Saturday night.

Trump initially praised his supporters at the Capitol but later condemned their violence in a video. The decision to call for calm came at the urging of senior aides, some arguing he could face removal from office or legal liability, sources told Reuters. Since losing the November 3 election, Trump has falsely claimed he was the victim of widespread fraud.

Five people including a Capitol Police officer died as a result of Wednesday’s rioting and dozens of people have been charged after the storming of the Capitol.

Authorities are investigating the security lapse, with some legislators questioning whether rioters had help from inside the building after images of some police officers opening barricades and posing for selfies with the rioters.

While the vast majority of Capitol Police acted valiantly, US Representative Mondaire Jones said on CNN on Sunday: “It’s just very clear that there was inside information that was shared with these individuals and there has to be an investigation of that.”

Impeachment by the Democratic-led House, equivalent to an indictment, would trigger an unprecedented second trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, which cleared Trump during his first trial over allegations that he threatened US national security.

Two previous presidents were impeached but were also acquitted in the Senate. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 over the Watergate scandal when it became clear he would be removed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also asked members to draft legislation aimed at invoking the constitution’s 25th amendment, which allows for stripping the powers from a president unable to fulfil the duties of the office.

The intensifying effort to oust Trump has drawn scattered support from Republicans, whose party has been divided by the president’s actions. Democrats have pressed Vice-President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th amendment, but he has opposed the idea, an adviser said.

CNN reported late on Saturday that the vice-president had not ruled out invoking the 25th amendment, citing a source close to him, but that some in Pence’s team worried that any effort to remove Trump could provoke the president to more rash behaviour.

A Pence spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment late on Saturday.

Democratic president-elect Joe Biden has not taken a position on Trump’s impeachment, saying he will leave it to Congress to decide. Biden is due to be sworn into office on January 20.

A small but growing number of Republican legislators have joined calls for Trump to step down, and several high-ranking administration officials have resigned in protest.

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

Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania told NBC on Sunday that the president “spiralled down into a kind of madness” after losing the election, and that the best option for the US is for him to resign.

“It does not look as though there is the will or the consensus to exercise the 25th amendment option. And I don’t think there’s time to do an impeachment,” Toomey said. “The best thing would be a resignation.”

Toomey said Trump, through his “outrageous behaviour in the post-election period”, culminating in his role in Wednesday’s violent assault on the US Capitol, isn’t a viable candidate for office “ever again”.

US senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a frequent Trump critic, told CBS News he would “definitely consider” impeachment. But other key Trump allies, including senator Lindsey Graham and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, have urged Democrats to shelve any impeachment effort.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, has suggested any trial would likely occur after Trump’s term ends, when Democrats will take control of the Senate thanks to victories in two Georgia runoff elections last week.

If found guilty after leaving office, Trump would lose benefits enjoyed by former presidents, such as security and pension, and the Senate could vote to bar him from running for a second term.

But a Senate conviction requires a two-thirds majority, which would take at least 17 Republican votes.

Reuters, Bloomberg

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