Second Republican senator says Trump must go

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Martin Pengelly in New York and Richard Luscombe in Miami – theguardian

‘Descended into madness’: second Republican senator says Trump must go

Democrats calling for Donald Trump’s removal following the deadly US Capitol riots will introduce articles of impeachment as early as Monday, but may be willing to wait for a Senate trial until long after Joe Biden takes office in nine days’ time.

Political chess in Washington continued on Sunday, as the White House belatedly lowered its US flag to half-staff, in honour of those who died on Wednesday.

From the Senate, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he had asked FBI director Christopher Wray “relentlessly pursue” the attackers.

“The threat of violent extremist groups remains high,” Schumer said in a statement, pointing to Biden’s inauguration on 20 January. Security has been stepped up around the Capitol.Advertisement

Trump faced growing calls from within his own party to step down, with one prominent Republican senator accusing him of a “descent into madness” over his goading of the insurrection that left five dead.

“The behaviour was outrageous, and there should be accountability,” Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania, told CNN’s State of the Union. “The president’s behaviour after the election was wildly different than his behaviour before he descended into a level of madness and engaged in activity that was just absolutely unthinkable and unforgivable.”

Trump’s resignation, Toomey said, becoming the second Republican senator to call for the president to go, “is the best path forward, the best way to get this person in the rearview mirror.”

In a survey by ABC News and Ipsos published on Sunday, 56% of respondents said Trump should be removed before inauguration day, 20 January. A higher number, 67%, held Trump responsible for the Capitol violence.

Pro-Trump supporters and far-right forces flooded Washington DC to protest Trump’s election loss on 6 January.
Pro-Trump supporters and far-right forces flooded Washington DC to protest Trump’s election loss on 6 January. Photograph: Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/REX/Shutterstock

The president remained at the White House on Sunday, silent without his Twitter account and isolated even from Vice-President Mike Pence, according to reports, as senior Democrats plotted their next steps.

James Clyburn, the House majority whip, told CNN a single article of impeachment, which accuses Trump of “inciting an insurrection” and having “gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions”, would be presented to the House of Representatives.

“It may be Tuesday or Wednesday before action is taken but it will be taken this week,” Clyburn said.

A vote to impeach Trump for a second time, a near certainty given the Democratic House majority, would send the case to the Senate for trial, where a two-thirds majority would see his removal.

But the timing is at the discretion of House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who would likely choose to wait until after Biden’s inauguration, Clyburn said. Biden has been lukewarm about an impeachment, and concerns are growing among Democrats that an early trial would distract from important Senate business, such as confirming cabinet members and passing Covid-19 relief.

“Let’s give President Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running and maybe we’ll send the articles sometime after that,” Clyburn said.

The congressman also promoted a possible second article of impeachment, related to Trump’s false claims of election fraud and an infamous call pressuring Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” enough votes to reverse defeat there.

“We heard it on the phone, begging at one time, ordering at another time, and threatening criminal action to overturn the vote to find him 11,700 odd votes. And he did it in order to be declared the victor. That is impeachable,” he said.

Yesterday’s events continued the fast-moving pace of developments since a mob attacked the Capitol, smashing, stealing and confronting law enforcement. A Capitol police officer died, reportedly after being struck with a fire extinguisher. One Trump supporter was shot and killed by law enforcement.

Supporters of Donald Trump are confronted by Capitol police officers outside the Senate chamber.
Supporters of Donald Trump are confronted by Capitol police officers outside the Senate chamber. Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

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Multiple arrests have been made, including of men who brought firearms and explosives to Washington. Rioters were reportedly seen with handcuffs, indicating plans to kidnap lawmakers. Outside, protesters brandished a gallows and noose. Inside, chants of “Hang Mike Pence” were heard, directed at the vice-president presiding over the electoral college count.

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that the attending physician to Congress told members that those who took refuge in a “large committee hearing space” may have been exposed to someone with a coronavirus infection.

On Friday Trump, who urged supporters to march on Congress, saw his Twitter account suspended, denying him the mouthpiece he has used to spread lies and incite violence.

The backlash against Trump has continued to gain momentum, with several cabinet members and allies resigning and chatter increasing about a possible invocation of the 25th amendment, which provides for the removal of a president deemed incapable.Schwarzenegger rebukes Trump and compares Capitol riot to KristallnachtRead more

But any such move seems certain not to succeed and other Republicans, including Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski, have called for Trump to resign in favour of Pence, thereby echoing Richard Nixon’s decision to hand power to Gerald Ford in 1974. That also seems unlikely.

“Every minute and every hour that [Trump] is in office represents a clear and present danger, not just to the United States Congress but, frankly, to the country,” the Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told ABC’s This Week.

“If we allow insurrection against the United States with impunity, with no accountability, we are inviting it to happen again. If a foreign head of state ordered an attack on the United States Congress, would we say that that should not be prosecuted? No. It is an act of insurrection. It’s an act of hostility.”

The Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger, a vocal Trump critic, said the president had instigated “one of the worst days in American history. He stirred up a crowd. It was an executive branch attack on the legislative branch. We were very close to actually having members of Congress killed. We were blessed on one hand to not losing members of Congress, but we lost five people and it’s disgusting.”

There has also been fierce criticism of senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who objected to the certification of Biden’s win after the riot and now face calls to resign.

Thousands of pro-Trump supporters surround the the US Capitol during protest on 6 January.
Thousands of pro-Trump supporters surround the the US Capitol during protest on 6 January. Photograph: John Nacion/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

The FBI and other agencies are continuing their examination of the circumstances of the insurrection, including allegations that Pentagon officials loyal to Trump blocked the deployment of national guard troops for three hours after officials in Washington called for help.

“We couldn’t actually cross over the border into DC without the OK and that was quite some time [coming],” the Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, told CNN.

“Eventually I got a call from Brian McCarthy, the secretary of the army, asking if we could come into the city, but we had already been mobilising, we already had our police, we already had our guard mobilised, and we were just waiting for that call.”

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