Democrats in the House of Representatives have stepped up their bid to impeach Donald Trump in the waning days of his presidency, contending that he should be held accountable for the unprecedented mayhem by thousands of his supporters at the US Capitol.
The move to impeach Trump gained momentum on Sunday with the House Democrats announcing to introduce the article of impeachment against the outgoing Republican president on Monday.
This comes hours after the House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a Dear Colleague letter to the Democratic members laid the ground rules for the move and gave an ultimatum to Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution.
The 25th Amendment allows for the president to be removed from office by the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet.
“On Monday, I intend to help introduce a resolution impeaching President Trump for high crimes and misdemeanours,” Congressman Brad Schneider said on Sunday.
Describing the ground rules, Pelosi said, first thing Monday morning, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer will request Unanimous Consent to bring up the Raskin resolution which calls on the Vice President to convene and mobilise the Cabinet to activate the 25th Amendment to declare the President incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting President.
“If we do not receive Unanimous Consent, this legislation is planned to be brought up on the Floor the following day. We are calling on the vice president to respond within 24 hours. Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor,” Pelosi said.
“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this president represents an imminent threat to both. As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this President is intensified and so is the immediate need for action,” she wrote.
The calls for Trump's impeachment intensified after thousands of pro-Trump rioters on Wednesday stormed the US Capitol, interrupting a joint session of Congress where lawmakers were set to certify President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' win in the November 3 election. Five people died in the incident.
Trump would be succeeded by Biden on January 20 as mandated by the Constitution.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton called on the House and Senate to pass a resolution censuring President Trump for an attempted coup in trying to overturn the results of the presidential election and incitement of insurrection for the attack on the Capitol last week.
Norton, who has also co-sponsored several impeachment resolutions since the attack on the Capitol, said censure is the only remedy that can pass both chambers immediately and, unlike impeachment, will not delay President-elect Biden's agenda in the Senate. Norton will introduce the censure resolution on Monday.
“President Trump is a clear and present danger to the United States and has committed impeachable offenses,” Norton said.
“The Vice President and Cabinet should remove him under the 25th Amendment and, if not, Congress should remove him from office and bar him from ever holding federal office again,” she said.
The Senate is out of regular session until January 19. It would take unanimous consent for the Senate to return before then.
In the case of impeachment, once the House transmits the impeachment resolution to the Senate and after the Senate comes back into session, it must take up the resolution. Whether an impeachment resolution is taken up in the Senate at the beginning of the Biden administration or later, it will delay Senate consideration of Biden's legislative agenda and nominees.
In addition, it is an open constitutional question whether a president can be impeached after leaving office.
Top Republican Senator Marco Rubio described the impeachment move as unfortunate.
“It's unfortunate that instead of unifying us right now, Biden and the Democrats have chosen to use this as an opportunity to talk about ridiculous things like ‘let's impeach a president' who isn't even going to be in office in about nine days,” he told Fox News.
“Joe Biden ran as a guy who is going to unify the country, and he's going to spend the first couple weeks of his presidency, not confirming his nominees, not dealing with the pandemic, but the first couple weeks of his presidency is going to be about removing a president that is already not in office,” he said.
Republican Congressman James Comer said that he is opposed to yet another Trump's impeachment that will further inflame tensions in the US.
“We need to lower the temperature and unify Americans behind issues we can all agree on,” he told Fox News.
If the process does go ahead, Trump could become the only president in US history to have been impeached twice.
The House of Representatives approved articles of impeachment last year related to Trump's efforts to pressure Ukrainian officials to conduct investigations that could help him in the 2020 election. The Senate, where the Republicans had a majority, acquitted him in February last year.
White House spokesman Judd Deere on Friday called the impeachment effort "politically motivated" and said it would "only serve to further divide our great country."
US President-elect Biden, asked about impeachment, told reporters last week that "what the Congress decides to do is for them to decide."