US riots: Calls to impeach Donald Trump intensify; Joe Biden addresses nation

KEY POINTS:
• Congress has certified US President-elect Joe Biden’s victory on a day that saw a time-honored ceremony become a nightmare of unprecedented political terror.
• Biden has addressed the nation, saying the riots at Capitol Hill were “one of the darkest days in our history”.
• A growing list of lawmakers have called for Trump’s removal, either by using the 25th amendment or through impeachment.
• Facebook and Instagram have banned Donald Trump indefinitely.
• A violent throng of pro-Trump rioters spent hours running rampant through the Capitol. A woman was fatally shot, windows were smashed and the mob forced shaken lawmakers and aides to flee the building, shielded by Capitol Police.
• Police have released photos of people they want to identify, including a man in a horned furry hat.

A growing list of lawmakers has called for US President Donald Trump’s removal from office, either by using the 25th amendment or through impeachment.

They include Presumptive Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment.

“What happened at the US Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president,” Schumer said in a statement on Thursday.

“This president should not hold office one day longer.

“If the vice president and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president.”

CNN said the US faces “13 potentially perilous days before the departure”.

Trump said earlier there will be an “orderly transition on January 20th” after Congress certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, hours after he appeared to excuse the violent occupation of the US Capitol by his supporters.

Trump acknowledged defeat in the November election for the first time, after a day of chaos and destruction on Capitol Hill perpetrated in his name by supporters that halted business in Congress for more than six hours.

“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” Trump said in a statement posted to Twitter by aides.

His personal account was locked by the social media company for posting messages that appeared to justify the assault on the seat of the nation’s democracy.

Trump added, “While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”

Trump had encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol to protest lawmakers’ actions, expressed empathy for the mob, which violently forced its way inside, clashed with police and forced lawmakers into hiding.

“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” Trump wrote in a message that was later deleted by Twitter.

He added, “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”In an earlier video he had praised the protesters as “special” people and said he understood their pain.

Biden addresses the nation

Joe Biden has described yesterday’s riots at Capitol Hill as “one of the darkest days in our history”, calling it not a protest but “chaos”.

Speaking to the nation from the The Queen Theater in Wilmington at an event to announce the nominees to lead the Justice Department, the President-elect condemned the pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol as “domestic terrorists.”

“It was not dissent. it was not disorder. It was not protest.

“Don’t call them protesters. They were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists.”

He said the event was predictable, given Trump’s attacks on the hallmarks of democracy, such as his criticism of the free press.

Biden said one of his granddaughters, Finnegan, sent him a text yesterday comparing the level of security which guarded the Lincoln Memorial last summer, as demonstrators protested the police killing of George Floyd, with the level of security around the National Mall.

“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they would have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol.

“We all know that’s true. And it’s unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.”

Pelosi to Pence: Remove Trump

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for Mike Pence to remove Donald Trump from office.

Addressing media this morning (NZT), she said Trump incited yesterday’s riots and his ability to fuel violence was underestimated.

“The violence targeting Congress are [sic] horrors that will forever sting our nation’s history, instigated by the President of the United States.”

Pelosi said yesterday’s riots were seditious. “The people are sovereign and they hold the power to choose their leaders through the ballot. Reject this attempted coup on the part of President Trump.”

Pelosi said Republican congressmen who encouraged the mob and promoted conspiracy theories must be held accountable.

Pelosi told media she hopes an outcome on the President’s status would come today, but she has not given Pence a time limit.

She acknowledged the courageous efforts from Republican members of Congress who have spoken out.

Locked out

Twitter locked Trump’s account yesterday for the first time as it demanded he remove the tweets and threatened “permanent suspension”.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced Trump will be blocked from using both Facebook and Instagram “for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.” Twitter is yet to confirm if it will continue locking his accounts.

Zuckerberg says the ban is extended “indefinitely”, extending at least until Biden takes over as president.

Facebook and Instagram removed Trump’s video post yesterday, in which the President called for rioters to go home – but in which he also said “we love you”.

Trump’s response to the violence underscored his months-long obsession with trying to overturn the results of the election, spending the final days of his presidency angrily stewing and lashing out at Republicans for perceived disloyalty.

Trump spent much of yesterday watching the insurrection on television from his private dining room off the Oval Office.

But aside from sparing appeals for calm issued at the insistence of his staff, he was largely disengaged as the nation’s capital descended into unprecedented scenes of chaos as a mob of thousands tried to halt the peaceful transition of power.

Instead, a White House official said, most of Trump’s attention was consumed by his ire at Pence, who said he would not overturn the will of voters in the congressional electoral count.

A day of violence

A violent throng of pro-Trump rioters spent hours yesterday running rampant through the Capitol. A woman was fatally shot, windows were smashed and the mob forced shaken lawmakers and aides to flee the building, shielded by Capitol Police.

The rampage began shortly after Trump repeated his unfounded claims of election fraud to thousands of rallying demonstrators he’d invited to Washington. Many then surged to the Capitol after he incited them to go there as lawmakers debated the electoral votes.

More than six hours after the violence erupted, lawmakers resumed their session.

Thirteen Republican senators and dozens of GOP representatives had planned to force debate and votes on perhaps six different states’ votes.

The assault on the Capitol made some Republicans squeamish about trying to overturn Biden’s win, and challenges were lodged only against Arizona and Pennsylvania. Both efforts lost overwhelmingly.

Biden defeated Trump by 306-232 electoral votes and will be inaugurated on January 20.

Pence defied the President last night as he affirmed Biden’s November victory, putting an end to Trump’s futile efforts to subvert American democracy and overturn the results of the election.

In a move that infuriated Trump and left his own political future far less certain, Pence acknowledged he did not have the power to unilaterally throw out electoral college votes as Trump and some of his attorneys had wrongly insisted.

Under normal circumstances, the vote-tallying procedure would be a mere formality — the final step in the complicated technical process of electing a new Administration. But after losing court case after court case and with no further options at hand, Trump and his allies had zeroed in on January 6 as their last-ditch chance to try to influence the outcome.

They spent days in a futile bid trying to convince Pence that the Vice-President had the power to reject electors from battleground states that voted for Biden, even though the Constitution makes clear the Vice-President’s role in the joint session is largely ceremonial, much like a master of ceremonies.

Pence’s move was an expected outcome, but one that carved a dramatic fissure between Trump and Pence, his once most loyal lieutenant. In a dramatic split screen, Pence released the statement just after he arrived at the Capitol yesterday to tally the votes and as the President was telling thousands of supporters gathered near the White House that Pence could overturn them if he wanted.

“If Mike Pence does the right thing we win the election,” Trump wrongly told supporters, who later marched through Washington and stormed the Capitol. He repeatedly returned to Pence throughout his speech, voicing frustration as he tried to pressure the Vice-President to fall in line.

“Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn’t, it’s a sad day for our country,” he said.

Trump, who has spent the past two months refusing to acknowledge his defeat, later tweeted his disapproval.

“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our constitution, giving states a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify,” he wrote. “USA demands the truth!”

Pence, too, was fuming.

“I’ve known Mike Pence forever,” Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma told Tulsa World. “I’ve never seen Pence as angry as he was today.”

“He said, ‘After all the things I’ve done for [Trump],”‘ Inhofe added.

Despite claims by Trump and his allies, there was not widespread fraud in the election. This has been confirmed by a range of election officials and by William Barr, who stepped down as Trump’s Attorney-General last month. Neither Trump nor any of the lawmakers who objected to the count have presented credible evidence that would change the outcome.

While Pence’s allies had made clear that he intended to defy Trump and hew to the Constitution, the Vice-President’s move was nonetheless a significant departure for a man who has spent the past four years defending the President at every turn and carefully avoiding his ire.

Pence is eyeing his own run for President is 2024, and the episode could damage his prospects, especially if Trump — or supporters who were wrongly convinced Pence had the power to change the outcome — maintain a grudge. Even out of office, Trump is expected to remain the de facto leader of the Republican Party and a political kingmaker for years to come.

– AP

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