At least one Senate Republican would consider supporting a possible effort by congressional Democrats to impeach President Donald Trump for an unprecedented second time after his supporters, inflamed by his false claims of election fraud, stormed the US Capitol.
Democrats in the House of Representatives, which holds the power to impeach the president, will hold a conference call at noon (1700 GMT) to discuss their next steps, according to two Democratic aides.
Top Democratic leaders say they believe the House can impeach the Republican president within a week but with Trump’s term due to end anyway by Jan. 20 and the Senate still controlled by Republicans, the prospects of him then being thrown out of office are unclear.
Removing a US president requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate.
Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican and often a Trump critic, told CBS News on Friday he would “definitely consider” any articles of impeachment because the president “disregarded his oath of office.”
“I do believe that the votes are in the House of Representatives to put forth articles of impeachment, and he’ll be the only president to be impeached twice,” said James Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat.
President-Elect Joe Biden has blamed Trump for instigating Wednesday’s violence but has not said whether he supports removal. Transition spokesman Andrew Bates said Biden would focus on preparing to take power and leave it to Vice President Mike Pence, the Cabinet and Congress “to act as they see fit.”
Trump had encouraged thousands of supporters to march on the Capitol on Wednesday in a fiery speech in which he repeated his baseless claims that the Nov. 3 presidential election was stolen.
A crowd stormed the building, overwhelming police, breaking windows, stealing computers and antiquities and forcing authorities to transport lawmakers to secure locations for their own safety.
The violence killed five people, including a police officer.
As calls mounted for the president to be removed, Trump finally denounced the violence, In a video released on Thursday evening, a flat-toned Trump promised a smooth and orderly transition of power, though he stopped short of abandoning his claims of fraud.
On Friday morning he praised his supporters on Twitter, saying, “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
A Capitol police officer died from injuries sustained in the assault, the force said on Thursday. A woman protester was fatally shot by the authorities, and three people died from medical emergencies.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded on Thursday that Pence and Trump’s Cabinet 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.
“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.”
RUNNING OUT OF TIME?
There is a growing rift within the Republican Party in the wake of Wednesday’s siege. At least two Republicans, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and US Representative Adam Kinzinger, joined calls for Trump to go.
Numerous senior 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.
With Trump’s term almost expired, it was not clear whether there would be enough time to complete the impeachment process.
The Senate is scheduled to be in recess until Jan. 19. Aides to Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, have not said whether he would reconvene the Senate if the House approved articles of impeachment.
Democrats are set to take narrow control of the Senate after winning two runoff elections in Georgia on Tuesday, but the new senators will not be sworn in until the state certifies its results later this month.
The House impeached Trump in December 2019 for pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden, but the Senate acquitted him in February 2020. Only two other US presidents have been impeached, and none has ever been impeached twice.