President Trump promised a smooth transition in a video message posted on Twitter Thursday night, saying that his supporters had pursued post-election challenges in good faith, but “now tempers must be cooled and calm restored.”
Trump’s comments are the closest he has come to acknowledging his loss, and they follow escalating calls for his removal, coming hours after the nation’s top congressional Democrats demanded he be removed from office for his role in the deadly sacking of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on officials to immediately invoke the 25th Amendment, warning that they are prepared to begin impeachment proceedings if the Cabinet and vice president do not act.
Though that extraordinary step is unlikely to succeed, it is a sign that a growing number of Democrats and Republicans now believe Trump is too dangerous to remain president.
Trump “invited an armed insurrection against the United States of America,” Pelosi told reporters a day after a pro-Trump mob incited by the president stormed the Capitol, vandalizing the building and forcing lawmakers to evacuate. One woman was fatally shot and three people died of other causes.
Over the course of the day, a growing chorus of officials — including current Cabinet secretaries and Trump allies — strongly chastised the president, who stayed out of sight until his evening message, in which he denounced the mob attack, adding “to those who broke the law, you will pay.”
Reading off a script in a flat voice, Trump claimed he immediately deployed the National Guard to help secure the building and expel the intruders. Other officials have disputed that account. Trump also claimed his attempts to overturn the election results were simply his efforts to “ensure the integrity of the vote.”
“Now, Congress has certified the results,” he said. “A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”
Late Wednesday night, lawmakers certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, the proceeding they were in the middle of when the pro-Trump riot began. The Senate voted 92 to 7 to reject a Republican challenge to Biden’s victory; the House dismissed the challenges in a 282 to 138 vote.Video Player is loading.PauseCurrent Time 0:40/Duration 3:15Loaded: 26.49%Unmute0HQCaptionFull screenInside the White House as Trump raged and Congress confirmed Biden’s win
Shortly after Congress affirmed Biden’s win, Trump released a statement pledging “an orderly transition,” even as he continued to falsely claim the election was riddled with fraud. The statement was tweeted by White House social media director Dan Scavino as Trump remained locked out of his account.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” Trump said.
Hours earlier, Trump had encouraged his followers to march on the Capitol and sympathized with the rioters even as the insurrection was underway, calling them “great patriots” and explaining away the lawless siege as the consequence of a stolen election.
Even some Trump allies, who rarely rebuke the president and often take pains to defend his behavior in public, tried to distance themselves from the president, criticizing Trump’s behavior as unacceptable.
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Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who served the entire four years of Trump’s presidency, announced her intention to resign, effective on Monday. Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), became the first Cabinet secretary to leave over the insurrection.
In an email to the department staff, Chao cited the actions taken in Trump’s name.
“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.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also submitted her resignation Thursday, citing the president’s role in the riot on Capitol Hill.
“There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” she wrote in a letter to President Trump.
She said her resignation is effective Friday.
Acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf called on Trump to denounce the violence carried out by “some supporters” of the president. Wolf said he does not plan to quit.
Former attorney general William P. Barr called Trump’s conduct “a betrayal of his office and supporters.”
Barr’s direct condemnation of Trump was especially notable because of his record of defending previous Trump excesses, including the forcible clearing of peaceful protesters from the park opposite the White House last summer. Those protesters were airing complaints about racial injustice and police brutality.
Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former acting chief of staff, said Thursday he is resigning from his current post as a special envoy to Northern Ireland in the wake of the “international travesty” at the Capitol.
During an appearance on CNBC, Mulvaney said Trump is “not the same as he was eight months ago” and suggested the violence at the Capitol could have been avoided if Trump had pledged an orderly transition weeks ago.
“I can’t do it,” he said. “I can’t stay.”
Former homeland security secretary and Trump chief of staff John F. Kelly, now a Trump critic, urged the Cabinet to meet and discuss Trump’s removal, telling CNN that he would vote for that if he were he still a Cabinet member.
Former Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster tweeted that the main reason for the attack on Congress “is the sad reality that President Trump and other officials have repeatedly compromised our principles in pursuit of partisan advantage and personal gain.”
One set of proposed impeachment articles was circulated Thursday by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who invited colleagues to join her efforts because “our country, our democracy, and our national security remain in danger” as long as Trump is in office.
The drumbeat on Capitol Hill for the president’s removal grew louder when Schumer, the soon-to-be Senate majority leader, said in a statement that Trump “should not hold office one day longer” after inciting an “insurrection against the United States.”
Schumer said Vice President Pence and the Cabinet should invoke the emergency provisions of the 25th Amendment and move to strip Trump of his power ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration.
“If the Vice President and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president,” Schumer said.
Pelosi and Schumer made a joint phone call to Pence Thursday asking him to consider invoking the 25th Amendment, but they didn’t reach him, Schumer told reporters Thursday. “They kept us on hold for 25 minutes and then said the vice president wouldn’t come on the phone,” he said. “So we are making this call public because he should do it and do it right away.”
Pence made no public appearances or statements Thursday.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) also came out in favor of Trump’s removal, the first Republican member of Congress to do so. Kinzinger has emerged over the past two months as an outspoken critic of Trump’s efforts to undermine the election.
Kinzinger said in a video that it was time to “end this nightmare.”
“The president caused this. The president is unfit and the president is unwell, and now the president must relinquish control of the executive branch, voluntarily or involuntarily,” he said.
But most Republicans remained on the sidelines, and some senior Republican officials applauded Trump when he briefly called into a members-only gathering at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting Thursday morning.
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel put Trump on speakerphone, according to people in the room.
“We love you!” some in the room shouted.
Trump made no mention of Wednesday’s violence at the Capitol, according to the people present, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the president’s remarks.
The practicalities of removing Trump are daunting, especially with less than two weeks left in his term. While the 25th Amendment could put Pence quickly into the presidency, it gives Congress review power that could make it tricky to keep Trump from reclaiming the office.
The Democratic-controlled House could swiftly impeach Trump, bypassing levels of committee review to put an impeachment resolution directly on the House floor. But that would break with modern precedent, which has involved a time-consuming period of investigation and legal foundational work.
Schumer’s call came after a mounting number of more junior Democrats issued public demands for Trump’s removal. They included the No. 3 Senate Democratic leader, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who called for Trump’s removal via the 25th Amendment early Thursday as Congress was still working to certify Biden’s electoral votes.
“As history watches, I urge Vice President Pence and the president’s Cabinet to put country before party and act,” Murray said.
Others calling for action Thursday included Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
“If the vice president and Cabinet fail to act, we have a duty to pursue impeachment,” she said.
Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), who was the only Republican to vote for Trump’s impeachment last year and spoke out against GOP attempts to undo the November election, said “time’s a little short” for impeachment and dismissed talk of invoking the 25th Amendment.
“I think we’ve got to hold our breath for the next 20 days,” Romney said.
Neither the House nor Senate is currently expected to meet again before Jan. 19 except in skeleton pro forma sessions. But lawmakers could be called back if circumstances warrant.