Liz Cheney, a top Republican in the House of Representatives, said she would vote to impeach Donald Trump, saying he “summoned the mob” in the US Capitol attack that left five people dead.
The declaration by Ms Cheney, a Wyoming lawmaker who is viewed as a possible future Republican presidential candidate, came on Tuesday as pressure grew from within Mr Trump’s own party for his removal.
“The president . . . summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” said Ms Cheney, the daughter of former vice-president Dick Cheney. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the US of his office and his oath to the constitution.”
John Katko, a New York Republican also vowed to vote for impeachment in the House. In a statement, he said Mr Trump had “encouraged this insurrection . . . by deliberately promoting baseless theories that the election was somehow stolen”.
The New York Times reported that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, was happy that the Democrats were pushing to impeach Mr Trump because he believed that it would help Republicans to purge the president from the party after four years of turmoil.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Trump said the effort to impeach him for a second time was “causing tremendous anger” as he denied any responsibility for the attack on the US Capitol by his supporters
In his first unscripted remarks since the rampage that led to the deaths of five people, Mr Trump said the move to impeach him was a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics”.
“I think it’s causing tremendous anger . . . and tremendous danger to our country,” Mr Trump told reporters on Tuesday as he prepared to fly to the US-Mexico border to tout his record on immigration.
“We want no violence,” he added, as he defended a fiery speech he gave to supporters before an angry pro-Trump mob launched stormed the Capitol: “People thought what I said was totally appropriate.”
His remarks came as the House of Representatives prepared to vote on a measure that will pave the way for impeachment unless Mike Pence, the vice-president, seeks to force him from the White House by invoking the 25th amendment, which allows a president who is deemed unfit to be removed from office.
Mr Pence is not expected to respond to the demand to invoke the amendment, setting the stage for the second impeachment of Mr Trump a week ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration as president.
After his arrival in Alamo, Texas, later on Tuesday, Mr Trump said he faced no danger of being removed by the 25th amendment.
“The 25th amendment is of zero risk to me but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration,” Mr Trump said.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, has said the lower chamber of Congress will vote to impeach the president as early as Wednesday on a charge of “incitement of insurrection” over his culpability for the attack on the Capitol.
As the Trump presidency comes to a dramatic end, the FBI has warned of possible armed protests at state capitals, while officials stepped up security in Washington to prevent more violence at the inauguration on January 20. Mr Trump on Monday declared a state of emergency in the nation’s capital.
The attack on the US Capitol has resulted in a rift between Mr Trump and Mr Pence. The two did not speak after the Wednesday rampage until a meeting on Monday, according to US media reports.
As Mr Pence hunkered down during the assault, Mr Trump slammed him on Twitter for not preventing the Senate from certifying Mr Biden’s victory.
While Mr Pence has privately expressed reservations about how Mr Trump handled the situation last week, he has shown no indication that he will work with the Democrats to remove the president.
Several Republicans, including Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, have called on Mr Trump to resign. Very few GOP senators have signalled that they will vote to convict Mr Trump if the Senate holds a trial after his impeachment in the House.
Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who will become Senate majority leader next week, described Mr Trump’s comments on Tuesday as “despicable” and repeated calls for him to resign or be impeached.
“What Trump did today, blaming others for what he caused, is a pathological technique used by dictators,” Mr Schumer added.
Mr Trump has become increasingly isolated in his final days, with three Cabinet secretaries and his deputy national security adviser resigning in the wake of the attack, alongside a handful of administration staffers.
Twitter and Facebook have both blocked Mr Trump from using his accounts on their platforms, depriving him of his most valuable form of communication.
Axios reported that Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House minority leader who has been a close ally, rejected claims by Mr Trump in a phone call that the attack on the Capitol was perpetrated by antifa. Mr Trump frequently claims, without evidence, that far-left “anti-fascist” activists are to blame for violent protests in the US.
In a highly unusual message to the military, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs, said the “violent riot” last week was a “direct assault on the US Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process”.
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