The Latest On House Democrats' Move To Impeach Trump
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Democratic lawmakers are making one thing crystal-clear after last week's insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. They want President Trump gone from office as quickly as possible, and they're moving rapidly to try to accomplish that. The House is being called back to Washington and could vote on an article of impeachment this week. Some lawmakers, including Democratic Congressman David Cicilline, say the Senate should prepare to do the same.
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DAVID CICILLINE: The Senate should come back immediately. Once we pass it, they should take it up immediately. This is urgent. This president represents a real danger to our democracy.
CHANG: But Joe Biden will be inaugurated in just nine days, and it's not clear whether lawmakers will have the support or the time they need to oust Trump. To talk about all of this, we're joined now by NPR's Claudia Grisales, who covers Congress, and NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, who covers the White House.
Hey to both of you.
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi there.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello.
CHANG: All right. Claudia, in addition to an article of impeachment, congressional Democrats have also been calling on Vice President Pence to lead the charge on removing the president through the 25th Amendment. Where does that effort stand now?
GRISALES: Congress said they would give Pence 24 hours to respond to their calls. And we should note that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she and incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer literally called him. They were on hold for about 20 minutes last week trying to get a response.
That said, without any response from Pence at this point, House Democrats are moving forward with their plans to pass their own legislation. This is led by Maryland Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin to create a commission that determines fitness of the president to hold office. So it establishes a panel that will be tied to the 25th Amendment. They tried to pass it on a quick voice vote today, but they were stopped by Republicans. Democrats say they expected this might happen, and now they expect to hold a roll call vote for the entire chamber tomorrow night on this.
CHANG: OK, tomorrow night - Ayesha, are there any signs that Vice President Pence is actually considering this idea of leading the charge under the 25th Amendment?
RASCOE: No, there isn't any public sign that that will happen. Pence has not directly commented on it, but he met with Trump tonight for the first time since the riot. And a senior administration official said that Pence and the president pledged to continue to work together on behalf of the country for the remainder of their term, and that seems to be the key statement right there. Pence was inside the Capitol with some members of his family during the riot. And Trump had put enormous pressure on him to overturn the results, but Pence did not relent in that.
CHANG: OK. Well, then if Pence does not go along with this, Claudia, where does that leave Democrats and their plans to potentially impeach President Trump a second time?
GRISALES: It leaves them moving very quickly. They introduced their article of impeachment today, and they expect to vote on it now on Wednesday. The sponsor of that article of impeachment, Cicilline, who we heard at the top, also told reporters that they already reached 214 co-sponsors as of this morning. And they're confident that they will have the majority of the chamber ready to approve this. I spoke to Cicilline after he introduced that article on the floor. Let's take a listen.
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CICILLINE: I think there's broad consensus in our caucus that this president must be impeached and removed from office. He presents a clear and present danger to our democracy. He incited an insurrection against the government of the United States that resulted in the death of five individuals, dozens of people injured, violence here at the Capitol.
GRISALES: And Cicilline went on to say that this was an attempted coup that we saw last Wednesday to stop the process of affirming Biden's win. He and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters that they prefer to have the article delivered to the Senate without delay after it's approved on the House floor. There's some division here as whether it should be done quickly or held back because there's concerns of derailing the first few days of President-elect Joe Biden's agenda. Cicilline told me he doesn't have any Republican sponsors as of yet, but he expects Republicans to vote in support of impeachment come Wednesday.
CHANG: OK. Well, President-elect Biden was asked about impeachment today. He said people should be held accountable for what happened.
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JOE BIDEN: It's critically important that there be a real, serious focus on holding those folks who engaged in sedition and threatened people's lives, defaced public property, caused great damage - that they're held accountable.
CHANG: OK, but that leaves the question open, Ayesha - how do you hold people accountable while you're trying to govern? I mean, how is that going to shape his early days in office, you think?
RASCOE: Pursuing impeachment, you know, as we saw last year, really sucks up all the oxygen in Washington. So that would mean less of a focus on the day-to-day things that Biden wants to do early on, like a new coronavirus aid package. Biden has said that he's talking to people in the Senate and that he hopes that they could spend half their days on impeachment and possibly half on his agenda if that's the way things move forward.
CHANG: And how are President Trump and the administration holding up with all of this going on, I mean, as Trump's time in office runs out?
RASCOE: We haven't heard from the president since he was banned on Twitter Friday night. Tomorrow, he is planning to go to Alamo, Texas, to talk about the wall and immigration. This is part of this effort to highlight his legacy. Otherwise, you know, there's been very little in the way of normal business. And tonight, the acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf - we got news that he is stepping down, the third Cabinet secretary to quit since last week's events. He did not say it was because of the riots, but Homeland Security has been in the spotlight because of what happened.
CHANG: That is NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, who covers the White House, and NPR's Claudia Grisales, who covers Congress.
Thanks to both of you.
GRISALES: Thank you.
RASCOE: Thank you.
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