Nation & World: Trump on verge of 2nd impeachment after Capitol siege

photo by: Associated Press

President Donald Trump speaks with reporters as he walks to Air Force One upon departure, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is on the verge of being impeached for a second time, the House planning the unprecedented vote one week after he encouraged a mob of loyalists to “fight like hell” against election results and the U.S. Capitol became the target of a deadly siege.

While the first impeachment of Trump last year brought no Republican votes in the House, a small but significant number of leaders and other lawmakers are breaking with the party to join Democrats on Wednesday, unwilling to put American decency and democracy at further risk, even with days remaining in the president’s term.

The stunning collapse of Trump’s final days in office, against alarming warnings of more violence ahead by his followers, leaves the nation at an uneasy and unfamiliar juncture before Democrat Joe Biden is inaugurated Jan. 20.

“If inviting a mob to insurrection against your own government is not an impeachable event, then what is?” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a drafter of the articles of impeachment.

Trump, who would become the only U.S. president twice impeached, faces a single charge of “incitement of insurrection.”

The four-page impeachment resolution relies on Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a White House rally on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, in building its case for high crimes and misdemeanors as demanded in the Constitution.

Confronting his potential place in history, Trump warned lawmakers off it, suggesting it was the drive to oust him rather than his actions around the bloody riot that was dividing the country.

“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” Trump said Tuesday, his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence.

A Capitol police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. Lawmakers had to scramble for safety and hide as rioters took control of the Capitol and delayed by hours the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory.

The outgoing president offered no condolences for those dead or injured, only saying, “I want no violence.”

At least five Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, were unswayed by the president’s logic. The Republicans announced they would vote to impeach Trump, cleaving the Republican leadership, and the party itself.

“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” said Cheney in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Unlike a year ago, Trump faces impeachment as a weakened leader, having lost his own reelection as well as the Senate Republican majority.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is said to be angry at Trump, and it’s unclear how an impeachment trial would play out. In the House, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California, a top Trump ally, scrambled to suggest a lighter censure instead, but that option crumbled.

So far, Republican Reps. John Katko of New York, a former federal prosecutor; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Air Force veteran; Fred Upton of Michigan; and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state announced they, too, would join Cheney to vote to impeach.

The House tried first to push Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to intervene, passing a resolution Tuesday night calling on them to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office. The resolution urged Pence to “declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”

Hours before the vote, however, Pence made it clear he would not do so. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Pence said it was “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden.”

Debate over the resolution was intense after lawmakers returned the Capitol for the first time since the siege.

Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, argued that Trump must go because, as she said in Spanish, he’s “loco” — crazy.

In opposition, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said the “cancel culture” was just trying to cancel the president. He said the Democrats had been trying to reverse the 2016 election ever since Trump took office and were finishing his term the same way.

While more Republicans may vote to impeach — and leaders are allowing them to vote as they wish — it’s far from clear there would then be the two-thirds vote in the evenly divided Senate needed to convict and remove Trump. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling for Trump to “go away as soon as possible.”

Unprecedented events, with just over a week remaining in Trump’s term, are unfolding as the FBI warned ominously of potential armed protests by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden’s inauguration. Capitol Police urged lawmakers to be on alert.

With new security, lawmakers were required to pass through metal detectors to enter the House chamber, not far from where Capitol police, guns drawn, had barricaded the door against the rioters. Some Republican lawmakers complained about the screening.

Biden has said it’s important to ensure that the “folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage — that they be held accountable.”

Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down his first days in office, the president-elect is encouraging senators to divide their time between taking taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID-19 relief while also conducting the trial.

The impeachment bill draws from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden. Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.

Like the resolution to invoke the 25th Amendment, the impeachment bill also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes and his White House rally rant to “fight like hell” by heading to the Capitol.

While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the Ulysses Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.


BRIEFLY


Michigan plans to charge ex-Gov. Snyder in Flint probe

FLINT, MICH. (AP) — Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, his health director and other ex-officials have been told they’re being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, The Associated Press has learned.

Two people with knowledge of the planned prosecution told the AP on Tuesday that the attorney general’s office has informed defense lawyers about indictments in Flint and told them to expect initial court appearances soon. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The AP could not determine the nature of the charges against Snyder, former health department director Nick Lyon and others who were in his administration, including Rich Baird, a friend who was the governor’s key troubleshooter while in office.


U.S. shifts gears to speed up vaccinations as cases rise

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing a slower-than-hoped coronavirus vaccine rollout, the Trump administration abruptly shifted gears Tuesday to speed the delivery of shots to more people. The move came as cases and deaths surged to alarming new highs.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced a series of major changes to increase the supply of vaccines, extend eligibility to more seniors and provide more locations for people to get shots. Administration officials describing the new policies conveyed a notable sense of urgency.

One change will have some teeth to it. Azar said going forward the federal government will base each state’s allocation of vaccines partly on how successful states have been in administering those already provided.


Prosecutors considering sedition charges in Capitol riot

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI warned law enforcement agencies ahead of last week’s breach of the U.S. Capitol about the potential for extremist-driven violence, and prosecutors are now weighing sedition charges against at least some of the Trump loyalists who stormed the building, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The statements by FBI and Justice Department officials were intended as both a defense of federal law enforcement preparations before the deadly riot, especially amid fresh revelations of an FBI report warning of violence, and as a warning to participants that they are still subject to arrest and felony charges even if they have left Washington.

Misdemeanor counts, including trespassing, against some of the dozens arrested so far may still be upgraded to sedition charges that are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, said acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin in Washington.


Justices say women must obtain abortion pill in person

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ordered Tuesday that women must visit a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic in person to obtain an abortion pill during the COVID-19 pandemic, though similar rules for other drugs have been suspended during the public health emergency.

Eight days before President Donald Trump leaves office, the justices granted a Trump administration appeal to be able to enforce a longstanding rule on getting the abortion pill, mifepristone. The pill need not be taken in the presence of medical professionals.

The court split 6-3, with the liberal justices in dissent. The new administration could put the in-person requirement on hold after Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.


Officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck will be tried alone

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former Minneapolis police officer who held his knee to George Floyd’s neck for minutes will be tried separately from the three other former officers accused in Floyd’s death, according to an order filed Tuesday that cites limited courtroom space due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Derek Chauvin will stand trial alone in March while the other three former officers will be tried together in the summer. In his order, Judge Peter Cahill cited the limitations of physical space during the coronavirus pandemic, saying it is “impossible to comply with COVID-19 physical restrictions” given how many lawyers and support personnel the four defendants say would be present.

Prosecutors disagreed with the judge’s decision. A defense attorney for former officer Thomas Lane said he believed a separate trial would be better for his client, while the other defense attorneys either declined to comment or did not return messages.

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