WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump is on the verge of being indicted for the second time in an unprecedented election on Wednesday, a week after he called on a crowd of loyalists to “fight like hell” against election results just before storming the US Capitol in a deadly siege.
While Trump’s first accusation in 2019 did not bring any Republican votes in Parliament, a small but significant number of leaders and lawmakers are breaking with the party to join the Democrats, saying Trump violated his oath to protect and defend American democracy.
The astonishing collapse of Trump̵
“If it is not an invincible event to invite a mob to rebel against your own government, then what is it?” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., A draftsman of the article on the charge.
Trump, who would become the only U.S. president to be charged twice, faces a single charge of “inciting rebellion.”
The four-page accusation resolution trusts Trump’s own burning rhetoric and the false thoughts he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a White House rally on Jan. 6 attacking the Capitol, by building his case for high-profile crimes and misdemeanors as required by the Constitution.
Trump took no responsibility for the riots, suggesting that it was driven to remove him rather than his actions around the bloody uprising that divided the country.
“To continue on this path, I think it causes enormous danger to our country, and it causes enormous anger,” Trump said Tuesday, his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence.
A Capitol police officer died of injuries sustained during the riots, and police shot and killed a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies. Legislators had to fight for safety and hide as insurgents took control of the Capitol and delayed by hours the final step in concluding the City victory.
The outgoing president gave no sympathy to the dead or wounded, but said only, “I want no violence.”
At least five Republican lawmakers, including third-place GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, were not affected by the president’s logic. Republicans announced they would vote to accuse Trump and split the Republican leadership and the party itself.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame for this attack,” Cheney said 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 accusations as a weakened leader after losing his own re-election as well as the Republican Senate majority.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is said to be angry at Trump, and it is unclear how a lawsuit against the indictment will play out. In the House, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California distorted a top ally of Trump, instead proposing a slight distrust, but that possibility crumbled.
So far, Republican rep. 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 that they would also join Cheney to vote on charges.
The House first tried to push Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to intervene and passed a resolution Tuesday night urging them to invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution to remove Trump from office. The resolution called on Pence to “declare what is obvious to a terrified nation: that the president is incapable of carrying out his duties and powers successfully.”
Pence made it clear he would not do so and said in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that it was “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden.”
The debate over the decision was intense after lawmakers returned to 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 is “loco” – crazy.
In opposition, the Republican rep said. Jim Jordan from Ohio that the “cancellation culture” was just trying to cancel the president. He said Democrats had been trying to reverse the 2016 election ever since Trump took office and ended his term in the same way.
While House Republican leaders allow lawmakers to vote their consciences by accusation, it is far from clear that there will then be a two-thirds vote in the evenly distributed Senate needed to convict and remove Trump. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend, urging Trump to “walk away as soon as possible.”
With just over a week left in Trump’s term, the FBI warned ominously of potential armed protests of Trump loyalists before Biden’s inauguration. Capitol Police urged lawmakers to be vigilant.
With new security, lawmakers were required to pass metal detectors to enter the house chamber, not far from where the Capitol police with weapons pulled had blocked the door against the rebels. Some Republican lawmakers complained about the screening.
Biden has said it is important to ensure that the “people who engaged in agitation and life-threatening destruction of public property caused great damage – that they are held accountable.”
Rejecting concerns that a lawsuit against prosecutors would fall in his first days in office, the president-elect urges senators to split their time between taking their priorities to confirm their nominees and approve COVID-19 relief while also conducting the trial .
The indictment draws on Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat against Biden. Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly rejected cases challenging election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no evidence of widespread fraud.
Like the decision to invoke the 25th Amendment, the prosecution proposal also describes Trump’s pressure on government officials in Georgia to “find” more votes, and his White House rally to “fight like hell” by going to the Capitol.
While some have questioned accusing the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, under the Ulysses Grant administration, War Minister William Belknap was indicted by the House on the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.
Associated Press authors Alan Fram and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that Trump’s first accusation was in 2019, not last year.