Vice President Mike Pence rejected calls from lawmakers to use the 25th amendment of the US Constitution to remove Donald Trump from office on Tuesday.
On Tuesday night, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives approved a resolution calling on Pence to invoke the amendment, which would seek to remove Trump from office by declaring him unfit to perform his duties.
Ahead of the House vote, Pence dismissed the Democratic effort as “political games,” even as he condemned the riots that overtook the Capitol last week and sparked the moves by lawmakers against Trump.
“Under our Constitution the 25th Amendment is not a means of punishment or usurpation,” Pence said. “Invoking the 25th Amendment in such a manner would set a terrible precedent.”
With Pence’s refusal to remove Trump, lawmakers will now turn to impeachment.
They are expected to vote to impeach the president on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection at the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election,” according to an impeachment document released by House Judiciary Committee.
“President Trump remains a clear and present danger to the Constitution and our democracy,” the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee said.
Meanwhile, in his first public comments since the US Capitol was ransacked, Trump said that his speech inciting supporters before they stormed the US Capitol was “totally appropriate.”
“If you read my speech, and many people have done it … It’s been analysed and people thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” he said from the White House lawn.
The Republican took no responsibility when asked what his role was in the assault on Congress, which left five people dead, including a police officer.
The article of impeachment accuses Trump of stoking violence against the US government after the mob of loyalists, riled up by his claims of election fraud, broke into the Capitol building.
It notes that Trump repeated false claims that he won the November election at a rally moments before the rampage, which temporarily halted a joint congressional session to certify president-elect Joe Biden’s victory and forced lawmakers to go into hiding. Trump also egged on the crowd to march to the building.
Trump called the push to impeach him “absolutely ridiculous” and said it was “causing tremendous anger” in the country.
“I want no violence,” he added.
While the majority of Republicans are expected to vote against impeachment, at least three members of Trump’s party said they would vote in favour, including lawmaker Liz Cheney – the number-three Republican in the House of Representatives.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said in a statement reported by US public radio. “Everything that followed was his doing.”
That means Trump could become the first US president to be impeached twice. He was impeached in 2019 on allegations of abusing his position, but the Republican-controlled Senate cleared him of charges last year.
If the Democrat-led House votes to impeach the Republican president again, the article of impeachment will go to the Senate, which will conduct a trial, a two-thirds majority would be needed to convict him in the Senate.
Since the Senate is still controlled by Republicans there will almost certainly be no outcome before Biden’s inauguration on January 20 and it appears unlikely that enough Republicans would vote to convict Trump.
If convicted, Trump could be barred from running for office again in 2024.
Meanwhile, federal law enforcement agencies are working to crack down on the perpetrators who stormed the Capitol Building last week.
“We are going to have, I believe, hundreds of criminal cases, both filed with our local courts, superior courts, and through the federal court system,” said Michael Sherwin, acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia.
More than 170 files have been opened on people who may have committed crimes on the Capitol grounds, Sherwin added.
Charges have been filed in more than 70 cases. Law enforcement noted that they are looking at significant felony cases tied to sedition.