WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Democrats laid plans Friday for impeaching President Donald Trump, even as he’s headed out of the White House, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had spoken to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about preventing an “unhinged” Trump from ordering a nuclear strike in his final days.
Pelosi and the Democrats are considering swift impeachment — beginning Monday — after the deadly siege of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob that shocked the nation and the world.
Pelosi issued a statement Friday evening:
“Today, the House Democratic Caucus had an hours-long conversation that was sad, moving and patriotic. It was a conversation unlike any other, because it followed an action unlike any other.
It is the hope of Members that the President will immediately resign. But if he does not, I have instructed the Rules Committee to be prepared to move forward with Congressman Jamie Raskin’s 25th Amendment legislation and a motion for impeachment. Accordingly, the House will preserve every option – including the 25th Amendment, a motion to impeach or a privileged resolution for impeachment.
With great respect, our deliberations will continue.”
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE NANCY PELOSI
At least three drafts of Articles of Impeachment are being circulated by Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and David Cicilline (D-RI).
NewsNation is told a condensed document will be coming.
Articles of impeachment are expected to be introduced on Monday, with a House vote as soon as Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the planning and granted anonymity to discuss it, The Associated Press reported.
A draft of the impeachment resolution charges Trump with abuse of power, saying he “willfully made statements that encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — imminent lawless action at the Capitol.”
On her call with colleagues, Pelosi grew emotional talking about Wednesday’s events. She told the lawmakers they had a choice to make on impeachment, according to a person on the call who was granted anonymity to discuss it.
Pelosi and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer have called on Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to force Trump from office. It’s a process for removing the president and installing the vice president to take over.
But action by Pence or the Cabinet now appears unlikely, especially after two top officials, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao suddenly resigned in the aftermath of the violence at the Capitol and would no longer be in the Cabinet to make such a case.
In her statement late Friday, Pelosi also mentioned including legislation introduced in October by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD). It would establish a “Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office.”
“The legislation will enable Congress to ensure effective and uninterrupted leadership in the highest office in the Executive Branch of government by creating the body and process called for in Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” according to a statement from Raskin’s office.
Basically, Congress never setup the body the 25th Amendment called for when it was adopted 50 years ago.
“In emergency situations, Congress could pass a concurrent resolution requiring the Commission to examine the President, determine his/her ability to execute the powers and duties of the office, and report its findings to Congress. If presidential incapacity exists, the Vice President would immediately assume the role of Acting President,” Raskin’s office said.
The legislation calls for a 17-person commission:
- Four physicians and four psychiatrists selected by the Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader and Senate Minority Leader each.
- Four retired statespersons (e.g., former Presidents, Vice Presidents, Attorneys and Surgeons General, Secretaries of State, Defense, and Treasury) to serve, selected by the Democratic and Republican leaders of each chamber.
- A 17th member, who acts as the Chair of the Commission.
“In order to avoid conflicts of interest and both civilian and military chain of command issues, none of the members can be current elected officials, federal employees, or members of the active or reserve military,” Raskin’s office said.
Trump had encouraged loyalists at a rally Wednesday at the White House to march on the Capitol where Congress was certifying the Electoral College tally of Biden’s election.
President-elect Joe Biden told reporters Friday afternoon it’s up to Congress whether to pursue a second impeachment of President Donald Trump, but he expected lawmakers to be ready to move on his agenda as soon as he is inaugurated.
Biden’s comments came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a Friday letter to lawmakers that House Democrats would move to impeach Trump again if he did not resign immediately. Pelosi and other lawmakers have pressured Trump to step down after Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob that lawmakers in both parties said was incited by Trump.
Asked what he’d tell lawmakers about Pelosi’s push for impeachment, Biden responded, “I’d tell them that’s a decision for the Congress to make. I’m focused on my job.”
Biden added that he would be speaking with Pelosi and Democratic leadership later Friday.
Amid mounting calls for his removal from office, Trump finally denounced Wednesday’s violence that left five people dead, including a police officer. In a video released on Thursday evening, the Republican president also promised a smooth and orderly transition of power later this month, though he stopped short of abandoning his claims of fraud.
In the immediate aftermath of the assault, which halted a session of Congress held to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s election win, Trump had declined to condemn the incident, instead telling supporters he loved them and repeating his assertion that he was being cheated of victory.
Friday afternoon, the White House issued a statement on the discussions regarding possible impeachment:
As President Trump said yesterday, this is a time for healing and unity as one Nation. A politically motivated impeachment against a President, who has done a great job, with 12 days remaining in his term will only serve to further divide our great country.
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 of massive electoral fraud and a rigged vote.
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.
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.
Is there enough time for impeachment?
With Trump’s term almost expired, it was not clear whether there would be enough time to complete the impeachment process.
Pelosi has not announced a decision, though she told a news conference on Thursday that rank-and-file Democrats in her caucus wanted action.
If impeached in the Democratic-led 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 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. In the event of an impeachment, the Senate must vote with a two-thirds majority to convict and remove a president from office.
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 presidents in history have been impeached, and none has ever been impeached twice.
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.
The Trump campaign and its allies filed dozens of lawsuits challenging the vote counts but state and federal courts rejected almost all of them. Election officials have said there is no evidence to back Trump’s claims.
At least two Republicans, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger, said Trump must go.
Several 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.
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 election results from some states, 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.
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 U.S. political parties.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report; reporting by Susan Cornwell and Joseph Ax