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US elections 2020

Trump faces growing calls for removal, including by Republicans

Democratic leaders Schumer and Pelosi demand 25th Amendment

President Donald Trump gestures during a rally Jan. 6 in Washington held to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by Congress.   © Reuters

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK -- Calls to remove President Donald Trump from office before his term ends Jan. 20 grew louder by the hour Thursday, including from his own administration and the Republican Party, a day after rioters supporting the leader stormed the U.S. Capitol building.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called the Constitution's 25th Amendment "the quickest and most effective way" to remove Trump.

"It can be done today," Schumer tweeted, adding that otherwise "Congress must reconvene to impeach President Trump."

The 25th Amendment allows the vice president and a majority of the cabinet to remove the president from office should the leader be deemed unable to perform the duties. Vice President Mike Pence would take over as acting president in this scenario.

Later in the day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also called for invoking the 25th Amendment, telling reporters at an extraordinary news conference that she hoped to have an answer from Pence within the day.

If not, the House of Representatives is prepared to begin impeachment proceedings, she said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a news conference on Jan. 7, a day after violent protesters loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Congress.   © AP

"While it’s only 13 days left, any day can be a horror show for America," the speaker said.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, also called on Pence and the cabinet to remove Trump.

"I call for the vice president and members of the cabinet to ensure the next few weeks are safe for the American people and that we have a sane captain of the ship," Kinzinger said in a video message posted on Twitter.

"Section 4 of the 25th Amendment allows a majority of the cabinet and the vice president to assume the duties of the office of the presidency until the president is able to himself," he said. "It's time to invoke the 25th Amendment, and to end this nightmare."

An increasing number of Republican leaders and cabinet officials think Trump should be removed, CNN said Thursday. Four of them called for invoking the 25th Amendment, and two others said the president should be impeached, the network reported.

It is unclear whether Pence is on board with such action. Schumer told reporters that he and Pelosi had been trying to talk to the vice president but have been unable to.

"Speaker Pelosi and I tried to call the vice president this morning to tell him to do this. They kept us on hold for 25 minutes and then said the vice president wouldn't come on the phone," the Senate Minority leader said.

But according to Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, who spoke to Pence on Wednesday night, the vice president is seething.

 "I've known Mike Pence forever. I’ve never seen Pence as angry as he was today," he told his local newspaper, the Tulsa World. "I had a long conversation with him," Inhofe told the paper. "He said, 'After all the things I’ve done for [Trump].'"

Pence's daughter Charlotte Pence Bond congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Twitter Thursday.

Some within the State Department also are pushing to invoke the 25th Amendment, though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is closely aligned with Trump and may not support the move.

Tear gas is released as rioters backing President Donald Trump clash with Capitol Police in Washington on Jan. 6. Many blame Trump's rhetoric for stoking violence.   © Reuters

Impeachment is the more time-consuming option but Congress could subsequently bar Trump from seeking the highest office again. The Constitution allows for Congress to impeach and convict a president guilty of treason, bribery or other "high crimes," removing the leader from office. Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House of Representatives in late 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, but the Republican-controlled Senate declined to convict.

"I am drawing up Articles of Impeachment," tweeted Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a member of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. "We can't allow him to remain in office, it's a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath."

Democrats retain a majority in the House, meaning they would have the votes to approve articles of impeachment. But a conviction requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Almost 20 Republican senators would need to cross party lines to reach this threshold.

Despite growing pushback against Trump among Republicans, it is questionable whether enough lawmakers will risk the ire of staunch Trump supporters by backing an impeachment, especially when the president is already scheduled to step down.

A YouGov poll found that 45% of Republicans actively support the actions of those who stormed the Capitol, outnumbering the 43% who oppose them.

As those in Washington contemplate Trump's removal, American social media giants have moved to lock Trump's accounts, deeming the president's conduct too dangerous and likely to provoke violence. The president told rioters inside the Capitol "I love you" in a Wednesday video, and doubled down on his claims of the election being stolen from him.

Facebook on Thursday said it will lock Trump's account until the transition to Biden's presidency is complete. Twitter froze his account for 12 hours and required the president to take down the video.

At least a half-dozen senior officials in the Trump administration tendered their resignations following Wednesday's events, seen by many as an assault on American democracy itself.

Mick Mulvaney, formerly Trump's chief of staff and later U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland, told CNBC on Thursday that "I can't do it. I can't stay."

In a Nov. 7 op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Mulvaney had argued that if Trump loses, he will "concede gracefully," saying "I'm familiar with his manner and style and know a little about how he thinks."

Deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, a fluent Mandarin speaker who has played a key role in formulating the Trump administration's China policy, is also among those departing.

Elaine Chao, transportation secretary and wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, also resigned on Thursday. Formerly a loyal Trump aide, she is the first cabinet secretary to leave the administration after the chaos on Capitol Hill.

"Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the president stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed. As I'm sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside," Chao wrote in an open letter to staff and colleagues. "Today, I am announcing my resignation ... We will help my announced successor Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with taking on the responsibility of running this wonderful department."

Capitol Police officers stand outside of fencing that was installed around the Capitol grounds on Jan. 7.   © AP

Meanwhile, Washington remains on high alert. National Guard troops from surrounding states will stay in D.C. until Inauguration Day and possibly to the end of the month, according to NBC News. A 7-foot-tall, non-scalable fence reportedly will be installed around the Capitol grounds for at least 30 days.

Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen issued a statement saying, "The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that those responsible for this attack on our government and the rule of law face the full consequences of their actions under the law."

Prosecutors worked through the night with special agents and investigators from the U.S. Capitol Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Metropolitan Police Department and the public to gather evidence, identify perpetrators and charge federal crimes where warranted, Rosen said.

"Some participants in yesterday's violence will be charged today, and we will continue to methodically assess evidence, charge crimes and make arrests in the coming days and weeks to ensure that those responsible are held accountable under the law," he said.

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