Trump’s grip on GOP loosens as Rep. Cheney backs impeachment – Latest News, Breaking News, Top News Headlines

While President Trump denied any responsibility in the assault on the US Capitol that left five people dead, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives number 3 announced that she would vote for the impeachment.

This marked the biggest Republican defection yet and could open the door for other Republican House members to join Democrats during the historic Wednesday night vote.

“The President of the United States summoned this mob, rallied the crowd, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing, ”Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) Said in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal on the part of a president of the United States in his charge and his oath to the Constitution.”

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence – responding for the first time to calls for Democrats to take constitutional action to remove Trump from office – refused to do so, and implored House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and House Democrats who did not pass the resolution urging him to invoke the 25th Amendment.

“I urge you and all members of Congress to avoid actions that further divide and inflame the passions of the moment,” Pence said in a letter. “Work with us to lower the tension and unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. I promise you that I will continue to do my part to work in good faith with the incoming administration to ensure an orderly transition of power. “

Pelosi had given Pence, who until recently was one of Trump’s most loyal supporters, until Wednesday to act to impeach Trump.

Earlier that day, Trump, making his first public appearance since the January 6 attack, flatly denied inciting his supporters and denounced the move to impeach him a second time.

“The impeachment hoax is a continuation of the largest and most cruel witch hunt in the history of our country,” Trump said, as he left for a trip to Alamo, Texas, to visit the border wall. “It is causing tremendous anger, division and pain, far greater than most people will ever understand, which is very dangerous for the US, especially at this very difficult time.”

He insisted that his speech to supporters shortly before the riot on Capitol was “entirely appropriate.”

Those words weren’t what some Republicans expected to hear, and they seemed to hasten Trump’s loss of power and influence in the final days of his presidency.

Late in the afternoon, Rep. John Katko, a moderate Republican from upstate New York, became the first in his party to announce that he would vote to impeach Trump. Cheney became second, followed by Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Nearly a dozen others are believed to be considering a vote for impeachment.

It’s a stark contrast to 2019, when no Republican in the House of Representatives dared to vote to impeach Trump over his pressure on Ukrainian officials to investigate then-presidential rival and now president-elect Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. . That loyalty was long a source of pride for Trump.

Democratic lawmakers have prepared a single impeachment article, accusing the president of inciting an insurrection. With Democratic control of the House and defections by Republicans, Trump is almost certain to become the only US president to be challenged twice.

Amid security concerns, metal detectors were installed at the entrance to the Chamber on Tuesday night. Lawmakers were also subjected to a metal detector scan, another ignominious first on Capitol Hill in response to widespread concern about renewed violence surrounding next week’s inauguration.

The FBI warned on Monday that Trump supporters were planning armed protests in all 50 state capitals and on the U.S. Capitol in the coming days.

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they had opened a broad investigation of possible sedition and conspiracy in connection with the attack on the Capitol. The FBI has opened more than 170 files, with charges already filed against more than 70 people.

Michael Sherwin, the acting prosecutor in Washington, told a briefing that the number of people charged is likely “to grow into the hundreds.”

“We are seeing cases of significant serious crimes linked to sedition” and conspiracy that could carry prison terms of up to 20 years, Sherwin said.

In an extraordinary message to all members of the military on Tuesday, the military’s top leadership called the attack on the Capitol on January 6 “a direct assault on the US Congress, the Capitol building and our constitutional process.”

The email, signed by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley and the uniformed chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force and National Guard, noted that Biden would be inaugurated. next week and he would become commander in chief.

Military leaders told the troops that their job was to “support and defend the Constitution,” adding that “any act that disrupts the constitutional process not only goes against our traditions, values ​​and oath, but also goes against the law”.

During his brief public appearances on Tuesday, Trump insisted that “we do not want violence.” He said there was nothing wrong with his speech at the rally in front of the White House last week, when he urged his supporters to march on Capitol Hill as Congress conducted the ceremonial recount of electoral votes to formalize Biden’s victory. .

“They have analyzed my speech and my words and my last paragraph, my last sentence, and everyone thought it was totally appropriate,” Trump said.

Senator Rob Portman (Republican of Ohio) issued a statement blaming Trump and saying that the president would also be responsible for more violence in Washington and state capitals if he does not explicitly and unambiguously address the nation and urge his supporters to that they retire.

While lawmakers worried about the prospect of more violence, they were also battling exposure to the coronavirus. The attack on the Capitol threatened to become a super-spreading event, as lawmakers were forced to gather in locked rooms in secure rooms where some refused to wear masks. By Tuesday, several members of the House had tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.

The outbreak prompted House leaders to impose rules during Tuesday’s debate that included fines for failing to meet the mask requirement on the House floor. Lawmakers could be fined $ 500 for a first offense and $ 2,500 for a second offense.

Before the impeachment vote, House members debated a resolution designed to pressure Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment provision to impeach an unfit president. The measure was expected to pass Tuesday night but would not be binding.

The discussion exposed persistent divisions in Congress over Trump’s action, despite the widespread blame he has received for encouraging last week’s attack.

Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) described the efforts to impeach Trump as politically motivated. “The continued calls to impeach the president or impeach him with the Amendment … a week before he leaves … I don’t think it’s very healthy,” Jordan said.

Democrats lambasted Jordan for continuing to cling to the false claims of widespread voter fraud that inspired the violent mob.

“I’m surprised that after everything that’s happened, we can’t get a definitive answer,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Chair of the Hours Rules Committee, after pressuring Jordan to recognize the Biden’s win.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Reacting to Trump’s defense of his comments to supporters shortly before the riot, told reporters on Capitol Hill: “I know you always think your words are perfect. They were perfectly horrible. “

Times writers Jennifer Haberkorn, Tracy Wilkinson, David S. Cloud, and David Lauter contributed to this report.

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