Democrats will launch a second attempt to remove Donald Trump from office on Monday when they introduce articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives over the rampage on Capitol Hill by the president’s supporters.
Democratic Congressional aides said they had gathered more than 170 signatures of support for impeachment in two days — a sign of the intense anger felt in Congress at the pro-Trump mob which stormed the Capitol building earlier this week.
While members of Congress were pushing this weekend to impeach the president for “incitement of insurrection”, law enforcement agencies were arresting several of his supporters for their role in Wednesday’s violence.
The justice department announced on Saturday that three men — Jacob Anthony Chansley, Derrick Evans and Adam Johnson — had all been charged in connection with the riots.
Mr Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, is a well-known supporter of the QAnon conspiracy movement, and was allegedly pictured on Wednesday standing at vice-president Mike Pence’s Senate seat, bare-chested, wearing horns and carrying a spear. He has been charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Mr Evans is a recently elected member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. The Department of Justice said in a statement that he live-streamed to his Facebook page a video in which he is allegedly seen entering the doorway into the Capitol Building and shouting: “We’re in, we’re in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!”
The DOJ said Mr Johnson was the man depicted in a widely circulated photograph carrying Democratic speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s lectern inside the building.
Ms Pelosi has not yet declared whether she will hold a vote on the articles of impeachment, but supports “moving forward” with the process if Mr Trump does not resign. Mr Biden himself is lukewarm on the move, saying he wants to focus on the transition.
Any vote is likely to pass the Democratically controlled House, making Mr Trump the first president in history to be impeached twice. It would then go to the Senate, which is not expected to reconvene for important business until January 19 — the day before Mr Biden’s inauguration — according to a memo from Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in the chamber, obtained by the Washington Post.
A billboard on a bus stop on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest in Washington on Saturday advertises a message from the FBI seeking information related to the Capitol Hill violence © Getty Images
That would mean the question of a Senate trial would probably fall to a Democratic-controlled Senate in the first Biden term. If Mr Trump were to be convicted, the Senate could vote to bar him from running from office again, scuppering any 2024 run.
Members of both parties have condemned the president for egging on his supporters at a rally in Washington on Wednesday shortly before they burst into the Capitol building. There they smashed furnishings, fought with police and posed for photographs. Five people were killed, including a US Capitol police officer. Mr Trump continues to claim, without foundation, that he lost the 2020 election only through massive fraud.
David Cicilline, a Democratic member of the House judiciary committee, distributed draft articles of impeachment among his colleagues on Friday, accusing Mr Trump of “wilfully inciting violence against the government of the United States”.
Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House minority leader who supported Mr Trump’s effort to deny the certification of Mr Biden’s electoral college victory on Wednesday, opposes the president’s impeachment, saying it would widen divisions.
But other Republicans appear to be more amenable as the party is torn over its future post-Trump. Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska who is a frequent Trump critic, said he would “definitely consider” any articles of impeachment drawn up by Democrats.
Jacob Anthony Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, of Arizona, stands with other supporters of Donald Trump as they demonstrate on the second floor of the Capitol near the entrance to the Senate. Chansley has now been charged © REUTERS
“I believe the president has disregarded his oath of office,” Mr Sasse added. “What he did was wicked.”
Adam Kinzinger, a member of the House of Representatives, has called on Mr Pence to invoke the 25th amendment, under which the vice-president can remove the president’s powers if a majority of the cabinet agrees that he is not able to fulfil his duties.
Lisa Murkowski, the Republican senator from Alaska, said this weekend she wanted Mr Trump to resign. Neither have said, however, how they would vote in an impeachment proceeding.
The Capitol siege followed a weeks-long effort by Mr Trump to overturn November’s election result, which has failed repeatedly in the courts.
The president’s critics accuse him of putting undue pressure on Republican state officials to help overturn Mr Biden’s election victory. The Washington Postrevealed on Saturday that Mr Trump had made a call last month to Georgia’s lead elections investigator, in which he urged the official to “find the fraud”. This followed revelations of a taped call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, in which he urged the Republican official to “find” the 11,780 votes he would need to win the state.
Mr Trump was last year impeached by the House but acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate over allegations he pressured the president of Ukraine to help uncover dirt on Mr Biden.
Mr Trump was looking increasingly isolated over the weekend after Twitter banned his account from its platform, denying him his most cherished communication platform.
The social media company’s move sparked fierce denunciation from Mr Trump’s supporters.
“Big Tech’s PURGE, censorship & abuse of power is absurd & profoundly dangerous,” tweeted Ted Cruz. The Texas Senator led the group of Republicans who refused to certify Mr Biden’s electoral college win, citing the president’s unfounded claims of electoral fraud.