House Democrats, furious over the invasion of the Capitol by a mob, are preparing criminal referrals to the Justice Department to request that President Trump and some of his top advisers be investigated for inciting the violence, while also looking at a range of other options that include impeachment and invoking the 25th Amendment.
A senior congressional source told Yahoo News that while House Democrats are still “deeply traumatized” by Wednesday’s events, there was a mounting consensus among them that Congress needs to reconvene as soon as possible and take forceful action to respond to what was seen as an unprecedented attack on the institutions of government.
“What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by President Trump,” Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, said Thursday morning. “This president must not hold office one day longer.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later joined the chorus calling for Trump’s removal, saying he had “committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people. I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the vice president to remove the president by immediately invoking the 25th Amendment. If the vice president and Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment. That is the overwhelming consensus of my caucus and the American people, by the way.”
House leaders had adjourned following the early-morning vote certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the election. “Congress needs to get back into session now,” said Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey. “The executive branch is in a shambles. We have a president who is borderline deranged.
“The president incited and encouraged a violent attack on the U.S. Congress performing our constitutional duty,” he added. “There has to be consequences. We need to move quickly.”
But exactly what those consequences should be is very much up in the air at the moment. Several members have already started drafting articles of impeachment that they could introduce as privileged resolutions on the floor as soon as the House reconvenes, bypassing the usual committee process. Under that scenario, the House could vote to impeach Trump as early as next week, triggering a constitutional process that would require the Senate to hold a trial during the final days of Trump’s presidency.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., also called on Congress to act immediately. “If the 25th amendment is not invoked today, Congress must reconvene immediately for impeachment and removal proceedings,” she tweeted Thursday.
But other steps besides impeachment are being considered, including censure and demands for invocation of the 25th Amendment to declare the president unfit for office and replace him with Vice President Mike Pence. And while either the Cabinet or an ad hoc body or committee designated by Congress could invoke the 25th Amendment, it would still require Pence’s approval to move forward.
Also being considered are criminal referrals to the Justice Department that would be sent by the House on Jan. 21, when Biden appointees will be in charge. (It is unclear how quickly Judge Merrick Garland, whose nomination for attorney general was announced Thursday morning, will be confirmed, but with Democrats taking back control of the Senate, he is not expected to face any serious difficulties.)
Those criminal referrals could include a request that Trump’s own comments, along with those made at Wednesday’s rally by his son Donald Jr. and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, be investigated for incitement to violence and even sedition.
If the referrals proceed, they would also likely include a request that Trump be investigated for his taped comments last Saturday to the Georgia secretary of state asking him to “find” votes that would award him the state’s Electoral College votes. But in Trump’s case, he never explicitly called for violence during his rambling speech Wednesday, instead encouraging his thousands of supporters to march down to the Capitol — to be “strong” and buck up “weak” Republicans to act with the “kind of boldness” he said was needed to “take back our country.”
Giuliani was closer to the line, at one point calling for a “trial by combat” at the Capitol. And Trump Jr. condemned Republicans in Congress who were not standing with the president’s debunked claims of voter fraud, telling the crowd they needed to “stand up and fight.”
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