Democrat momentum for a fresh drive to quickly impeach Donald Trump gained support on Saturday, as a senior Republican said the president’s role in the deadly Capitol riot by a violent mob of Trump supporters was worthy of rebuke.
Senator Pat Toomey said he believed Mr Trump had committed “impeachable offenses”. But he stopped short of saying whether he would vote to remove the president from office at the conclusion of a Senate trial if the House sent over articles of impeachment.
“I don’t know what they are going to send over and one of the things that I’m concerned about, frankly, is whether the House would completely politicise something,” Mr Toomey said on Saturday on Fox News Channel, speaking of the Democratic-controlled House.
“I do think the president committed impeachable offenses, but I don’t know what is going to land on the Senate floor, if anything.”
The new Democratic effort to stamp Mr Trump’s presidential record — for the second time and days before his term ends — with the indelible mark of impeachment gained momentum on Saturday.
Democratic Representative David Cicilline, a leader of the House effort to draft impeachment articles — or charges — accusing Mr Trump of inciting insurrection, said his group had grown to include 185 co-sponsors.
Politicians plan to formally introduce the proposal on Monday in the House, where articles of impeachment must originate. A vote could be possible by Wednesday — exactly one week before Democrat Joe Biden becomes president at noon on January 20.
If passed by the House, the articles would be transmitted to the Senate for a trial, with senators acting as jurors who would ultimately vote on whether to acquit or convict Mr Trump. If convicted, Mr Trump would be removed from office and succeeded by the vice president.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, shared no details about her party’s plans as she addressed her hometown San Francisco constituents during an online video conference on Saturday.
“Justice will be done. Democracy will prevail. And America will be healed,” she said. “But it is a decision that we have to make.”
A violent and largely white mob of Trump supporters overpowered police, broke through security lines and rampaged through the Capitol on Wednesday, forcing politicians to scatter as they were putting the final, formal touches on Mr Biden’s victory over Mr Trump in the Electoral College.
The crowd surged to the domed symbol of American democracy following a rally near the White House, where Mr Trump repeated his bogus claims that the election was stolen from him and urged his supporters to march in force toward the Capitol.
Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died as a result of the siege.
“It has been an epiphany for the world to see that there are people in our country led by this president, for the moment, who have chosen their whiteness over democracy,” Ms Pelosi said of the attack.
“This cannot be exaggerated. The complicity, not only the complicity, the instigation of the president of United States, must and will be addressed.”
Senior House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries reiterated support for moving against what he deemed “an act of sedition that was incited and encouraged by Donald Trump”.
Speaking of Mr Trump, Mr Jeffries said on Saturday: “He should be impeached, convicted and thrown out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and forever banished to the dustbin of history.”
Outrage over the attack and Mr Trump’s role in egging it on capped a divisive, chaotic presidency like few others in the nation’s history. There are less than two weeks until Mr Trump is out of office but Democrats have made clear they do not want to wait that long.
Mr Trump, meanwhile, has few fellow Republicans speaking out in his defence. He’s become increasingly isolated, holed up in the White House as he has been abandoned in the aftermath of the riot by many aides, leading Republicans and, so far, two Cabinet members — both women.
Republican senator Ben Sasse, another Trump critic, said more important than what happens to Mr Trump “is what happens to the United States people and this union 12 days and beyond”.
But Mr Sasse also told CBS on Friday he would “definitely consider” whatever articles the House sent over because he believed Mr Trump “has disregarded his oath of office” to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.