WASHINGTON — The U.S. House is set to start impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump Wednesday for the deadly Capitol attack, taking time only to try to persuade his vice president to push him out first.
Trump showed no remorse Tuesday, blaming impeachment itself for the “tremendous anger” in America.
Already scheduled to leave office next week, Trump is on the verge of becoming the only president in history to be twice impeached. His incendiary rhetoric at a rally ahead of the Capitol uprising is now in the impeachment charge against him, even as the falsehoods he spread about election fraud are still being championed by some Republicans.
A few Republicans, however, announced Tuesday they now support impeachment, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who ranks third in House GOP leadership.
Trump “assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” said Cheney in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Republican Reps. John Katko of New York and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois also said they would vote to impeach Trump.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Greene, who represents Northwest Georgia, is among those continuing to deny Trump incited the attack. The posts on her Twitter page have recently ranged from denouncing the onslaught and praising Capitol Police to stating that anti fascist groups were involved — a claim rebutted by the FBI — as well as giving voice to conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones.
“Trump supporters could not have listened to President Trump’s speech at the WH and then been ‘incited’ by him to walk to and attack the Capitol,” she posted on Monday.
Calling impeachment proceedings a “sham” and a “witch hunt” she regularly tags the social media profiles of President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Democrats should take a good hard look in the mirror before they try to impeach President Trump, censure Republicans, and point fingers,” she posted on Monday. “What goes around, comes around.”
During a House rules debate, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland pleaded for a change of heart by other Republicans. “All of us have to do some soul searching,” he said.
Bracing for more violence
As lawmakers reconvened at the Capitol for the first time since the bloody siege, they were also bracing for more violence ahead of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Jan. 20.
Trump, meanwhile, warned the lawmakers off impeachment and suggested it was the drive to oust him that was dividing the country.
“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” Trump said.
In his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence, the outgoing president offered no condolences for those dead or injured, only saying, “I want no violence.”
Impeachment ahead, the House was first pressing Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to remove Trump more quickly and surely, warning he is a threat to democracy in the few remaining days of his presidency.
Pence, who had a “good meeting” with Trump on Monday, their first since the vice president was among those sheltering from the attack, was not expected to invoke the 25th Amendment declaring the president unable to serve.
Trump faces a single charge — “incitement of insurrection” — in the impeachment resolution after the most serious and deadly domestic incursion at the Capitol in the nation’s history. The legislation also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes.
During an emotional debate ahead of the House action, Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., urged her Republican colleagues to understand the stakes, recounting a phone call from her son as she fled during the siege.
“Sweetie, I’m OK,” she told him. “I’m running for my life.”
But Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a top Trump ally just honored this week at the White House, refused to concede that Biden won the election outright.
Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., tied such talk to the Capitol attack, interjecting, “People came here because they believed the lie.”
A handful of other House Republicans could vote to impeach, but in the narrowly divided Senate there are not expected to be the two-thirds votes to convict him, though some Republicans say it’s time for Trump to resign.
The unprecedented events, with just over a week remaining in Trump’s term, are unfolding in a nation bracing for more unrest.
The FBI has warned ominously of potential armed protests in Washington and many states by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden’s inauguration and Capitol Police warned lawmakers to be on alert. The inauguration ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol will be off limits to the public.
Metal detectors were being installed at the entrance to the House chamber not far from where Capitol police, guns drawn, had barricaded the door against the rioters.
In the Senate, Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling for Trump to “go away as soon as possible.”
As Congress resumed, an uneasiness swept the halls. More lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19 after sheltering during the siege. Many lawmakers may choose to vote by proxy rather than come to Washington, a process that was put in place last year to limit the health risks of travel.
Even Republicans who have resisted the proxy system are now cleared to use it by House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.
Among Trump’s closest allies in Congress, McCarthy was among those echoing the president, saying “impeachment at this time would have the opposite effect of bringing our country together.”
Democrats say they have the votes for impeachment. The impeachment bill from Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California, Raskin of Maryland and Jerrold Nadler of New York draws from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden.
Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.
The impeachment legislation refers to the Georgia vote pressure as well as his White House rally ahead of the Capitol siege, in which he encouraged thousands of supporters last Wednesday to “fight like hell” and march to the building.
The mob overpowered police, broke through security lines and windows and rampaged through the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to scatter as they were finalizing Biden’s victory over Trump in the Electoral College.
While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.