Democrats vowed Sunday to forge ahead with plans to pave the way for President Trump’s early ouster from office, including attempting a second impeachment, while facing the reality that he will survive his final days.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said the House will begin with a resolution demanding that Vice President Mike Pence trigger the 25th Amendment and sideline Mr. Trump. If Mr. Pence doesn’t act by the middle of this week, then the House will move to bring articles of impeachment to the floor.
“In protecting our Constitution and our democracy, we will act with urgency, because this president represents an imminent threat to both,” she told fellow Democrats in a letter Sunday night. “As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this president is intensified, and so is the immediate need for action.”
Even if the House does rush articles of impeachment, the Senate won’t act on them until after President-elect Joseph R. Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.
But the prospect of punishing Mr. Trump on his way out of the White House and attempting to bar him from holding office again was attractive for many lawmakers, particularly Democrats who saw no downside to at least forcing the uncomfortable fight onto an already riven Republican Party.
More than 200 lawmakers are expected to be co-sponsors of the impeachment resolution, and passage in the House seems likely.
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But Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, told CNN’s “State of the Union” program they may delay sending it to the Senate to avoid any distractions for the new Biden administration in its first 100 days.
“We will take the vote that we should take in the House, and [Mrs. Pelosi] will make the determination as to when is the best time to get that vote and get the managers appointed and move that legislation over to the Senate,” Mr. Clyburn said. “Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running, and maybe we will send the articles sometime after that.”
Conviction on articles of impeachment requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate.
Senators are slated to be out of Washington until just before Inauguration Day, so even if the House does send articles of impeachment, the senators won’t act on them until after the change of power.
Conviction means removal from office, which would be moot once Mr. Trump leaves the White House, but a two-thirds vote for conviction in the Senate, even if delayed 100 days as Mr. Clyburn suggested, would bar the president from holding office again.
Mr. Trump became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached after a 2019 phone call with the Ukrainian president in which he seemed to condition U.S. aid on Ukrainian assistance with an investigation of Mr. Biden.
No president has ever been convicted by the Senate.
Mrs. Pelosi told CBS’s “60 Minutes” in an interview that aired Sunday that she would prefer the ouster of Mr. Trump under the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to deem the president unfit to serve.
But barring Mr. Trump from returning to office, which could happen under impeachment, is attractive to many.
Before last week’s events, Mr. Trump signaled that he might attempt to run again in 2024.
“I like the 25th Amendment because it gets rid of him, he’s out of office. But there is strong support in the Congress for impeaching the president a second time,” she said.
Mrs. Pelosi, in her letter Sunday, also said some Democrats want to trigger the 14th Amendment’s bar to holding office for anyone who “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or “given aid or comfort” to the enemy.
That was written to bar former Confederate leaders from regaining positions after the Civil War, but some Trump opponents argue that it also fits Mr. Trump’s actions in recent months to stir up anger among his supporters over the election, culminating in Wednesday’s incendiary speech and his supporters’ subsequent attack on the Capitol.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District of Columbia’s nonvoting member of Congress, said Sunday that she will write a resolution censuring Mr. Trump. She said that is the only punishment Congress can pass while he is still in office.
Congress could adopt the censure resolution in the president’s final hours, when the Senate returns.
“A censure resolution is the only way to send a bipartisan, bicameral message without delay to the country and the world that the United States is a nation of laws,” she said.
Democrats’ unity over demanding that Mr. Trump leave the White House immediately is matched by Republicans’ division.
Several have said they would support impeachment. Others said that won’t happen in the next 10 days but that the president should resign.
Others called the push for impeachment divisive given that Mr. Trump will cede his office next week anyway.
“That’s what we’re talking about here: Stoke up more division in this country, stoke up more fights, create more grievances,” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, told Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
He and other Republicans did say Mr. Trump bears some responsibility for the assault on the Capitol.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, urged Mr. Biden on Friday to “lower the temperature” and head off a divisive impeachment effort.
Mr. Biden, though, signaled last week that he won’t seek to derail Congress.
Mr. Trump has been stunningly silent in the past few days, in part because his favorite social media outlets for communicating have muzzled him.
His early attempts to circumvent bans by using alternate accounts were quickly squelched, and he spent the weekend with no public events.
Yet even without Twitter and Facebook, the president has the power of the White House communications office at his disposal. From Friday night through Sunday afternoon, the press office issued no reportable statements.
The last public communication, Mr. Trump’s schedule for the weekend, said: “President Trump will work from early in the morning until late in the evening. He will make many calls and have many meetings.”
Mr. Trump did issue a proclamation after 4 p.m. Sunday ordering flags at public buildings to be flown at half-staff out of respect for two U.S. Capitol Police officers. One died Thursday after sustaining injuries in the attack on the Capitol, and the other who responded to the attack died over the weekend while off duty.