Congressional Democrats accused US President Donald Trump of inciting insurrection and weighed up impeaching him for a second time after supporters fired up by his claims of election fraud stormed the US Capitol this week.
Amid mounting calls for his removal from office, Trump finally denounced the violence that left five people dead, including a police officer. In a video released on Thursday evening, the Republican president called for reconciliation and also promised a smooth and orderly transition of power, Reuters reported.
In the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s assault, which halted a session of Congress held to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s election win, Trump had declined to condemn the protesters but told them he loved them and repeated his claim that he was being cheated of victory.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s cabinet to invoke the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which allows them to strip the president of his powers if he cannot discharge the duties of his office. Pence opposes the idea, an adviser said.
Pelosi and Schumer, along with other Democratic leaders, called for immediate impeachment proceedings if Pence and the cabinet refuse to take steps to remove Trump from power. Biden is due to take office on Jan. 20.
“The president’s dangerous and seditious acts necessitate his immediate removal from office,” they said in a statement on Thursday evening, accusing Trump of inciting an “insurrection”.
Trump’s video on Thursday was the closest he has come to conceding defeat in the Nov. 3 election, as he promised a smooth transition to a “new administration,” after weeks of making false claims the election was rigged and there was massive electoral fraud.
In a speech on Wednesday, Trump had exhorted a crowd of thousands to descend on the Capitol. Rioters stormed the building, overwhelming police and forcing authorities to transport lawmakers to secure locations for their own safety.
In Thursday’s video, a flat-toned Trump struck a conciliatory note seldom seen from him during his presidency, calling for “healing.” As recently as Thursday morning, however, he was still claiming the election was stolen, and he stopped short of acknowledging his loss.
At least two Republicans, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and US Representative Adam Kinzinger, said Trump must go. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, seen as a leading voice of the Republican establishment, on Thursday called on Trump to resign.
Several high-ranking Trump administration officials have resigned in protest over the invasion of the Capitol, including two cabinet members: Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary and McConnell’s wife, and Betsy DeVos, the education secretary.
Congress certified Biden’s election victory early on Thursday, after authorities cleared the Capitol. More than half of House Republicans and eight Republican senators voted to challenge election results from some states, backing Trump.