In the wake of chaos at the U.S. Capitol, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is calling for President Donald Trump‘s removal from office through the 25th Amendment.
Pelosi has called on Vice-President Mike Pence to invoke the amendment, and should he not, Pelosi said her caucus will move forward and seek to impeach the president less than two weeks before his term is set to expire.
“Yesterday, the President of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday, adding that Trump committed a “seditious act.”
She said she expects a quick decision from Pence on her request, acknowledging that her sentiments are shared by others.
Washington began to pick up the pieces Thursday after a violent pro-Trump siege on the nation’s Capitol building. As the day passed, calls to remove the sitting president from his office grew.
Pelosi’s call follows one from U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who called on Pence to do the same — invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office.
“What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president,” Schumer said in a statement Thursday. “This president should not hold office one day longer.”
The 25th Amendment says the vice-president and a majority of principal officers of the executive departments “or of such other body as Congress” can provide a declaration to Congress that the president “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” At that point, the vice-president would immediately assume the powers of acting president.
The reports reflect growing unease in Washington after Wednesday’s events and Trump’s reaction — or lack thereof, as some have decried — to the riots.
Riot leaves nation on edge
Supporters of Trump — egged on by the president’s false and unfounded attacks on the integrity of the election — descended on the Capitol in a stunning attempt to challenge the results. Elected representatives scrambled for safety under desks and donned gas masks while police futilely held a barricade outside the building.
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Many of the rioters gained entry to the historic Washington building. Photos show some of Trump’s supporters sitting in the offices of congressmen and women, including Pelosi’s, and parading around the Senate floor.
The scene became increasingly jarring as security officers drew guns and images of shattered glass panes began circulating.
A total of five people have died since the riot. One woman was shot by Capitol Police and taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The woman was part of a crowd that was breaking down the doors to a barricaded room where armed officers stood on the other side, police later said. The three others died from medical emergencies suffered during the long protests on the Capitol grounds.
Capitol Police later confirmed Thursday evening that an officer who was hospitalized due to injuries sustained from the riot had died. According to a statement, the death of Officer Brian D. Sicknick would be investigated by both the police department and federal officers.
The police chief said one D.C. officer was still hospitalized from injuries sustained at the Capitol.
Lawmakers were forced to shelter in their offices and the House chamber for hours as the chaos swelled. Staff members grabbed boxes of the Electoral College votes as they were being evacuated from the floor.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., later said he believed the ballots would’ve likely been destroyed by the rioters.
But tensions were already running high when lawmakers gathered that afternoon.
More than 150 GOP lawmakers planned to support objections to some of the results, despite a lack of evidence of wrongdoing in the election. Some Republican lawmakers were in the midst of raising such objections when the session was ordered to stop due to the looming mob.
In the lead up to Wednesday’s proceedings, Trump publicly urged Pence to help his efforts and throw out the result, which Pence eventually rejected. He also gave his supporters a boost into action that morning, urging them to march to the Capitol.
Eventually, at the urging of his staff, Trump issued a pair of tweets and a video telling his supporters it was time to “go home in peace” — though was clear he supported their cause.
It took hours before Congress could resume its position and finally affirm Biden’s victory.
The tally of the Electoral College votes was completed before dawn Thursday, putting a final nail in the coffin for Trump’s attempts to overturn the results. Pence, who presided over the joint session, announced the tally, 306-232.
The debate saw many Republicans condemn their colleagues for delaying the inevitable certification of president-elect Biden. Several of them also dropped their objections to the election.
Senators traced the protesters’ anger directly to statements from Trump and other Republicans questioning the election’s legitimacy.
“Count me out,” said Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “Enough is enough.”
Congress pushed through the night —- with tensions high across the country and Washington on high-alert. A curfew was imposed in an attempt to contain the violence, but many Trump supporters stayed on the grounds long into the evening, even as riot police and members of the U.S. National Guard arrived.
In the end, the results were clear: Biden won all the states that were subject to Republican objections, securing enough Electoral College votes to win the presidency. He and his vice-president, Kamala Harris, will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.
In a video posted to Twitter Thursday, Trump appeared to finally concede his loss to the president-elect.
“My focus will now be on the smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power,” Trump said.
“Serving as your president has been the honour of my lifetime, and to all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed, but I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning.”
While Trump also disparaged the actions of the rioters that assailed Congress, his statement ignored what many Democratic officials and even some of his Republican allies condemned as the spark that set off Wednesday’s violence — his repeated attacks on the electoral process.
The president also falsely claimed that he “immediately deployed the National Guard,” with multiple reports confirming Trump had initially hesitated to do so. Vice-President Mike Pence was then left to make the call.
“To those who engaged in acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country,” said Trump in the video. “To those who broke the law, you will pay.”
Fallout and investigation
Lawmakers have vowed to investigate how law enforcement handled the violent breach of the Capitol building. In the aftermath, many have questioned whether a lack of preparedness allowed a mob to occupy and vandalize the building.
Pelosi called those who breached the building “terrorists.”
President-elect Biden echoed that Thursday, calling the attacks one of the “darkest days in the history of the country,” and an “assault of democracy” fomented by Trump.
He said the riots were a “clear failure to carry out equal justice,” noting that if the event on Capitol grounds involved Black Lives Matter protesters, rather than Trump supporters, they would have been “treated differently” by law enforcement.
“And it’s unacceptable. It’s totally unacceptable,” he said.
“The American people saw it in plain view and I hope it sensitizes what we have to do.”
Police on Thursday said a total of 68 people were arrested in connection with the riot. Officials said arrests of those who entered the Capitol building weren’t made until after 6 p.m. — after a curfew was in effect.
Washington, D.C. police chief Robert Contee said local authorities and the FBI are working to track down those who were photographed destroying property. The mayor, Muriel Bowser, called the events “textbook terrorism,” urging the nation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to investigate.
A total of 56 police officers were injured in the riot, including the officer who later succumbed to his injuries.
According to both CNN and The Associated Press, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund would step down effective Jan. 16, following an earlier call from Pelosi for his resignation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also asked for and received the resignations of the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate, Michael Stenger, while Pelosi on Thursday said that House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving had also submitted his resignation.
A statement from Sund Thursday said that the attack “was unlike any I have ever experienced” in his 30 years of law enforcement in the nation’s capital.
“Maintaining public safety in an open environment — specifically for First Amendment activities — has long been a challenge … But make no mistake — these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior,” Sund said.
It was also revealed Thursday that U.S. Capitol Police had turned down offers from Pentagon officials and Justice Department leaders for additional manpower before and during the riots.
Defence officials said in a news conference Thursday that they had asked if the capitol police needed more National Guard manpower as early as three days before Trump supporters breached the halls of Congress.
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told reporters that there were “discussions” but that no requests for the D.C. National Guard were made.
White House exodus
Meanwhile, a number of White House staff have begun their exit.
Melania Trump’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, resigned from her post late Wednesday. Her resignation was followed by White House deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, White House social secretary Rickie Niceta and deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews, according to Reuters.
On Thursday morning, Mick Mulvaney, who previously served as Donald Trump’s chief of staff, told CNBC that he, too, will resign from his current role — special envoy to Northern Ireland.
“I can’t do it, I can’t stay here,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of my friends resign over the course of the next 24 to 48 hours. It would be completely understandable if they did.”
U.S. Secretary Elaine Chao also announced Thursday she would resign after the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said the attack “has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”
Her resignation was soon followed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ Thursday evening, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and then confirmed by the Associated Press.
DeVos, now the second in Trump’s cabinet to reportedly resign, chose to do so over Trump’s rhetoric which sparked the “unconscionable” assault on the U.S. Capitol, according to her resignation letter obtained by multiple outlets.