After Capitol siege, an increasingly isolated Trump faces calls for removal

·4-min read

US President Donald Trump on Friday faced mounting calls for his removal from office, including from some former supporters, two days after his false claims of election fraud encouraged a mob that stormed the US Capitol.

Democratic leaders in Congress have urged Vice-President Mike Pence and Trump's cabinet to remove the president for "his incitement of insurrection", vowing to impeach him for a second time if he is not ousted.

"The president's dangerous and seditious acts necessitate his immediate removal from office," said House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the two top Democrats in Congress, in a joint statement on Thursday evening.

As calls for his ouster mounted, Trump released a video in which he denounced the violence that left five people dead.

The Republican president came the closest yet to conceding his loss in the Nov. 3 presidential election, promising to ensure a smooth transition to a "new administration". President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, is set to be sworn in on Jan. 20.

Trump's words were in stark contrast to his speech on Wednesday, when he exhorted a crowd of thousands to descend on the Capitol as Congress met to certify Biden's election victory.

Rioters stormed the building, overwhelming police and forcing authorities to transport lawmakers to secure locations for their own safety.

A Capitol police officer died from injuries sustained in the assault, the force said late on Thursday. A woman protester was fatally shot by the authorities, and three people died from medical emergencies.

The FBI offered a reward of up to $50,000 for information on people responsible for placing pipe bombs in the headquarters of the two main US political parties. The agency released a picture of a suspect wearing gloves and a hoodie, carrying an object.

No time for impeachment?

With less than two weeks left in Trump's term, it was not clear whether enough time remained to complete the impeachment process.

Pelosi has not announced a decision, though she made clear at a news conference that rank-and-file Democrats in her caucus wanted action following Wednesday's siege.

If impeached in the House, Trump would theoretically face trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, which is scheduled to be in recess until Jan. 19. Aides to Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, have not said what he would do if the House approved articles of impeachment.

The Democratic-led House impeached Trump in December 2019 for pressuring the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden, but the Republican-held Senate acquitted him in February 2020. Only two other presidents in history have been impeached, and none has ever been impeached twice.

Democrats will control the Senate after sweeping two run-off elections in Georgia on Tuesday, but the new senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, will not be sworn in until the state certifies the results. The state deadline to do so is Jan. 22, though it could come sooner.

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, Trump was still claiming the election had been stolen, and he stopped short of acknowledging his loss.

Since November, Trump has baselessly denounced the election results as "rigged" due to widespread fraud.

The Trump campaign and its allies filed dozens of lawsuits challenging the vote counts but almost all were rejected in state and federal courts. Election officials have said there is no evidence to back Trump's claims.

'Finished as a serious political figure'

Pelosi and Schumer called on Pence and Trump's Cabinet to invoke the US 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, according to an adviser.

At least two Republicans, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and US Representative Adam Kinzinger, said Trump must go. Even the Wall Street Journal, seen as a leading voice of the Republican establishment, on Thursday evening called on Trump to resign.

In an unsigned article, the newspaper's editorial page described Trump's behaviour as "impeachable" and said “this week has probably finished him as a serious political figure.”

“If Mr. Trump wants to avoid a second impeachment, his best path would be to take personal responsibility and resign,” the newspaper wrote, concluding, “It is best for everyone, himself included, if he goes away quietly.”

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.

At a news conference to introduce his pick for attorney general, Biden blamed Trump for instigating the attack but did not comment on his possible removal.

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 some states' election results, backing Trump.

The president has isolated himself among a small circle of diehard advisers and lashed out at those he perceives as disloyal, including Pence – whom Trump wanted to try to block Congress from certifying Biden's win – according to sources.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)