Pressure is growing on President Trump to leave office before his term ends due to his role in the deadly riots that consumed Capitol Hill this week.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) on Friday became the first Senate Republican to call on Trump to resign after he whipped up a crowd he summoned to Washington, D.C., to protest President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory.
Democrats have drawn up articles of impeachment citing an “incitement of insurrection” and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has said he’d consider voting to remove Trump from office if the House votes to impeach him again.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are pushing Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would require the support of half of the president’s Cabinet. There had been limited talk among administration officials about the 25th Amendment but it seems unlikely now that two of the president’s Cabinet secretaries have resigned.
The president is increasingly isolated. He has been abandoned by his allies and has few defenders, as administration officials resign in disgust and blame the president for inciting the deadly riot.
Most Republicans may be content with Trump riding out the final 12 days of his administration.
There appears to be minimal GOP support for impeachment, and efforts to oust him through the 25th Amendment have stalled.
Trump also seems unlikely to resign on his own. One source close to the president flatly rejected the prospect of Trump resigning before Jan. 20.
Biden on Friday indicated that there is such little time left that the best option may just be to ride it out.
“It’s important we get on with the business of getting him out of office,” Biden said. “The quickest way that will happen is us being sworn in on the 20th. What action happens before or after that is the judgment of Congress to make, but that’s what I’m looking forward to — him leaving office.”
“If we were six months out, we should be doing everything to get him out of office, impeaching him again, trying to invoke the 25th Amendment, whatever it took to get him out of office. But I’m focused now on us taking control as president and vice president on January 20,” he added.
That the president could be impeached as soon as next week underscores the fury lawmakers are feeling as they assess the president’s culpability in the deadly Capitol Hill riots.
“I want him to resign,” Murkowski told the Anchorage Daily News. “I want him out. He has caused enough damage.”
As of Friday, at least eight administration officials — including two members of Trump’s Cabinet — had resigned from their positions after the riots.
Some plan to remain in their roles to wait the following two weeks out. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow plans to stay on for the remainder of Trump’s term but will take some vacation during the final two weeks. Other officials, like national security adviser Robert O’Brien, have been urged to remain on by GOP senators amid fears there could be a mass exodus of officials. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has remained silent publicly since the violent episode on Wednesday that took place in the halls he once worked.
In determining whether to finish his term, Trump must consider protecting himself from legal action now that five people have died during the raid on Congress, including a Capitol Hill police officer.
Trump has reportedly mused about potentially issuing himself a pardon after a slew of commutations to his political allies that have been criticized by some as an abuse of power. Trump’s lawyers are advising him on how to protect himself from criminal charges and those discussions could impact how and when he leaves office.
Acting U.S. attorney Michael Sherwin said this week the Justice Department had not ruled out charging the president, saying his office would go after “anyone who had a role and where the evidence fits a crime.”
Conservative legal experts wondered if there was enough time to go through impeachment deliberations in the short time before the president is scheduled to leave office.
“Given the time frame involved, it seems unlikely they could figure out a way to make any of these things happen,” said Mark Braden, the former chief counsel for the Republican National Committee. “If it was December, all or any of this might succeed. But right now I don’t know that you can get there.”
Still, there is roiling anger at Trump among Republicans and the riot has made it easier for many in the party to call for extreme measures over what they view as a threat to public safety.
One former White House official, ex-communications director Alyssa Farah, told CNN on Friday that Trump should “seriously consider” resigning from office and acknowledged that he lied to the American public about the election.
Trump’s own resignation is a long shot, according to aides. It could be an option for him if he believes he will be impeached and removed, which would prevent him from running for president again in 2024.
Most expect him to ride out the rest of his term. He is likely to issue pardons, perhaps even to his family or himself in his final days, before flying to Florida.
The president said Friday he will not attend Biden’s inauguration, becoming the first outgoing president since 1876 to not do so. There is speculation that Trump and his family will leave on the 19th for Mar-a-Lago.
Current and former allies are cautiously hopeful that Trump will not do further damage to the nation or foment more unrest in his limited time left in office, suggesting the prospect of legal jeopardy could rein him in.
In taped remarks released late Thursday, Trump condemned the violence at the Capitol without ever acknowledging the role he or his supporters played in it. He called for tempers to cool and said he would focus on ensuring a smooth transition.
But in a reminder of his unpredictability, Trump issued a tweet on Friday morning that was far more encouraging of his backers and did not give any indication the president was prepared to cede the stage.
“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future,” Trump tweeted. “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”