Pelosi Moves Cautiously Over Trump as Biden Looks to Agenda

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moving cautiously as she faces pressure from angry Democrats to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time, while President-elect Joe Biden is making it clear he wants to focus on his agenda and fighting the coronavirus.

With many House Democrats demanding impeachment after Trump encouraged a mob that stormed the Capitol this week, Pelosi said Friday that Democrats “will preserve every option” to force Trump from office unless he resigns immediately.

That could either be through the very unlikely prospect that Vice President Mike Pence invokes the 25th Amendment to declare the president incapable of governing or by impeachment in the House, which would require the Senate to act and convict Trump.

She also could just let the clock run out on Trump’s presidency. Another possibility -- that Trump’s remaining advisers might simply convince him to resign -- seems remote.

By Saturday afternoon, Representative Ted Lieu of California said there were 180 cosponsors to the Article of Impeachment he drafted with fellow Democrats and House Judiciary Committee staff. Democrats hold 222 seats in the House.

“We will introduce the Article of Impeachment this Monday during the House’s pro forma session,” Lieu said on Twitter.

Pelosi said Friday that she’s instructed the House Rules Committee to be ready to move forward with an impeachment case, but she stopped short of saying that would be brought for a vote.

“With great respect, our deliberations will continue,” Pelosi said in a statement. If Democrats follow through, Trump would become the first American president to be impeached twice.

For Democratic leaders there’s little risk in pressuring Trump’s cabinet and Pence, but impeachment would put the spotlight on Trump instead of on preparing for Biden’s incoming administration. It could also mean a Senate impeachment trial during the first days of Biden’s presidency, forcing the chamber to set aside other business, including confirming a new cabinet.

Biden on Friday, when asked about impeaching Trump, said that was a judgment for Congress to make. But he also appeared to suggest tapping the brakes on such a politically fraught move when there’s only a dozen days until his inauguration and he wants to begin tackling his agenda.

“It’s important we get on with the business getting him out of office. The quickest way that that will happen is us being sworn in on the 20th,” Biden said at a news conference in Wilmington, Delaware. “I am focused now on us taking control as president and vice president on the 20th, and to get our agenda moving as quickly as we can.”

Pelosi told House Democrats in a conference call early Friday afternoon that she would be talking to Biden to get his view about how they should proceed, according to a person who listened to the call. A statement from the president-elect’s transition team later said Biden spoke to Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer but it made no mention of any discussion of what actions to take on Trump.

The text of the proposed impeachment resolution includes a single article accusing Trump of “Incitement of Insurrection” and says he engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by “willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States” in connection with the storming of the Capitol Wednesday by throngs of his supporters.

“We can do this by way of privileged resolution, when we’re meeting in pro forma on Monday, we can introduce it. Then, the leadership will decide whether or not we will take it up and whether they will call us back into session,” Representative David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat and one of the resolution’s sponsors, said on CNN.

Any attempt to impeach Trump would be running up against the calendar as well as against divisions among Republicans over how to contain the president during his final days in office. The House would have just days to act before Biden’s inauguration, and it’s not clear that the Senate could move ahead with a trial within a week. Convicting Trump would require support from a significant number of GOP senators.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has stayed mum on any next steps regarding Trump, sent a memo to GOP senators late Friday that outlines what the the timetable would be for any impeachment trial. It said that the Senate is in recess and it would require unanimous consent in the chamber to act on any articles impeachment trial before Jan. 19. A trial would not begin until Trump’s term expired and then would require the Senate to remain in session daily until a verdict is rendered.

Pelosi said the House also would move forward with legislation drafted by Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin to establish an permanent independent commission to accelerate the process of removing a president under the 25th Amendment of the Constitution if incapacity is found.

Pelosi in a letter to Democrats earlier on Friday warned that Trump is “unhinged” and said she sought assurances from the nation’s top military commander that safeguards are in place in case he initiates an armed conflict or tries to launch a nuclear strike.

Setting Blame

Democrats and some Republicans have blamed Trump for encouraging his supporters to march on the Capitol as lawmakers were formally counting the Electoral College votes affirming Biden’s victory in the presidential election. There were at least five deaths and dozens of injuries stemming from the mob’s clashes with police.

Calls for Trump to resign have been growing in Congress, including among some Republicans. GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the latest to urge the president to step down, telling the Anchorage Daily News that she questioned her future as a Republican if the party doesn’t break with the outgoing president.

“I want him to resign. I want him out,“ Murkowski said in a Friday interview with the newspaper.

Other Republicans implored Pelosi and Democrats not to go ahead with another impeachment.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been one of Trump’s closest allies, said if Pelosi pursued Trump’s impeachment now, it would “do more harm than good.” He appealed to Biden, who has said he wants to govern in a spirit of bipartisanship. “I’m hopeful President-elect Biden sees the damage that would be done from such action.”

Trump on Thursday appeared to be trying to quell the furor and head off any clamor for his ouster within the GOP. He released a video message in which he condemned the attack on the Capitol, and said he was prepared for a smooth transition to Biden’s administration.

But on Friday, Trump said he wouldn’t attend Biden’s inauguration, breaking decades of precedent, and praised his supporters in a tweet. Twitter Inc. on Friday permanently banned Trump’s personal account for repeated rules violations, marking the most high-profile punishment the social media company had ever imposed.

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