A growing number of Democrats — more than three dozen, at last count — are calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, pointing to his role in inciting rioters to storm the Capitol on Wednesday and the damage he could cause in the final two weeks of his term.
The collection of lawmakers, who span the party’s ideological spectrum, is dominated by Democratic House members. But the list also includes Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a sign of the immediate and widespread shock caused by the assault on the Capitol. One Republican, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, also called for Trump’s removal from office.
The violence by a pro-Trump mob attempting to halt the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win resulted in lawmakers, staff and reporters being forced to shelter in both the House and Senate as rioters shattered glass and forced entry into each chamber. One women on the grounds was shot and killed.
Within hours of the stunning scenes — which came after Trump’s incessant false claims of a rigged election have been buoyed by a large number of Republican lawmakers — calls emerged for impeachment, Trump’s removal from office under the 25th Amendment and measures against congressional colleagues who encouraged the president’s conspiracy theories.
“Despite the seditious attempt to overthrow our democracy, we in Congress will fulfill our duty to ensure the will of the people and the integrity of our democracy are upheld. But the next days and weeks remain dangerous,” said Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) in a statement. “Donald Trump is a traitor to our country and our Constitution. He must be removed from office and prevented from further endangering our country and our people.”
With only two weeks until Biden’s swearing in, however, it is unlikely that the impeachment process will succeed in Trump’s removal from office, let alone be taken up by the Senate. A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not immediately respond to a question about whether the speaker supported the calls for a second impeachment.
Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), who represents a swing district, told POLITICO that impeaching the president for a second time is an “incredibly serious matter.”
“The president encouraged a violent attack on the United States Capitol to prevent Congress from exercising our constitutional duties,” said Malinowski, who was in the Capitol when the building was breached. “That’s about as impeachable an act as I can think of. I would want to make sure if we move forward that we do it swiftly and in a bipartisan way and I don’t think that that’s impossible.”
“Right now there is a profoundly solemn sense that this can’t be allowed to stand,” Malinowski said of the thinking among his colleagues. “A Rubicon was crossed today. But our first order of business needs to be to finish what we started in certifying the election [and then] additional steps might be warranted to express our revulsion with the president’s actions.”
A former State Department official in the Obama administration, Malinowski compared the events to something he might have “observed or experienced in another country” but said it was “the logical end point” of the president’s rhetoric.
Some Democrats had been floating the idea of removing Trump from office after he made a recent call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and asked him to “find” more votes to enable him to win, but it was considered a non-starter by moderates. The siege of the Capitol on Wednesday, which left House members scared for their own lives as well as those of their aides, changed the equation.
“Not since its burning in 1814 has so much damage been done to this building, a building that symbolizes to the world the strength and greatness of our democracy,” said Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.), the only Democrat to flip a GOP-held House seat in 2020, in a statement. “It has never been more urgent for my colleagues to uphold the pillars of our democracy and put an end to the conspiracy theories that fueled this insurrection attempt.”
As of mid-evening Wednesday, at least 32 House members have announced that Trump should be impeached. It is unclear how many more lawmakers beyond that are behind it.
A staffer for a House member involved in the impeachment efforts said the plan has “substantial support,” but could not immediately provide an exact number of lawmakers who are backing it.
House leadership has not actively discouraged members from the impeachment effort, according to two House aides. But other senior staffers said the more likely scenario is that they will send members home as soon as results are certified and not ask them to return until inauguration.
“This is on Donald Trump, period,” tweeted Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) “He called folks to D.C. and gave them marching orders. He needs to be impeached and removed immediately.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who announced that she is drawing up articles of impeachment, said on Twitter that "it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath."
Several liberal outside groups, including the Working Families Party, Sunrise Movement, Indivisible, Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Public Citizen, have also called for Trump to be removed, and some have asked their members to urge Congress to support impeachment.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) joined calls for impeachment, telling POLITICO that Trump’s “actions qualify for treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
"I really question, actually, President Trump’s mental state,” Chu said. “If I were a member of the Cabinet, I would invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him."
The 25th Amendment would enable Vice President Mike Pence to become acting president if he and a majority of the Cabinet declare the president is unable to execute his duties.
Other House members are calling for additional accountability after Wednesday’s riot. Freshman Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) plans to introduce a resolution calling for an investigation into whether the House Republicans who “sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election” by challenging the electoral count had “violated” the Constitution or House rules and should face sanction or expulsion.
Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), a progressive freshman who backs impeachment, said in an interview with POLITICO that “the people responsible for the security of the United States Congress today have to be investigated.”
“I was locked on the House floor for a significant period of time and with very little security. There was at some point a very loud banging sound from a mob of domestic terrorists,” he said. “We were told to look under our seats and to pull out gas masks in case tear gas needs to be used. My life literally flashed before my eyes, and I know that’s true for many of the approximately 200 other members of Congress who were on the House floor at the time.”
Jones said he and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus told fellow Democrats who were bunkered down with them after evacuating the House that “if these protesters had been Black, they would not have been able to get 100 yards within the Capitol — they would have been gunned down.”
Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a former Army Ranger, was in the House chamber when Capitol Police were forced to draw guns on rioters as they breached the Capitol. Crow, who was sheltering in an undisclosed location as he spoke to POLITICO after being evacuated from the House floor, said he was still trying to “grapple” with what happened.
“There was a moment where I wasn’t sure we were going to make it out and we were trapped for about 20 minutes in the gallery, about 15 or 20 members, as the mob had us surrounded and we were barricading ourselves into the floors. They were trying to ram down the doors and barricades,” said Crow. “I am extremely angry at Donald Trump but even more so those who have allowed Donald Trump to do this.”
But Crow said he was unsure of pursuing impeachment just yet. “We still have to have that discussion and I have to wrap my brain around what happened today,” he said. ”Definitely he will not be president on January 20th and we will move forward. But what happens between now and then, obviously we need to try to figure out the days ahead.”
As for whether his Republican colleagues challenging the electoral count should be expelled — as some of his colleagues called for — Crow said “I don’t know,” but “we have to do something, we can’t let what happened today go without some consequence and some action.”
"I served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Crow added. “I love this country and was always willing to defend it and give my life, if necessary, overseas. I never, in a million years would have thought that I would be in a situation like this as a member of Congress on the House floor in the United States Capitol in 2021.”
Heather Caygle and Tyler Pager contributed to this report.
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