10 Jan 2021

Banished by Twitter, an isolated Trump faces looming impeachment threat

8:47 am on 10 January 2021

With only days left in his presidency, Donald Trump - silenced by Twitter and shunned by a growing number of Republican officials - faces a renewed drive by Democrats to remove him from office after he incited his supporters to storm the US Capitol.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: President Donald Trump arrives at the "Stop The Steal" Rally on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Donald Trump acknowledges supporters at his "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington that preceded the occupation of the Capitol. Photo: AFP

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top congressional Democrat, threatened to impeach Trump for an historic second time unless he resigned "immediately," a move the pugnacious president is unlikely to consider.

Democratic members are circulating formal charges that could lead to impeachment and may introduce them in the House as soon as Monday. Pelosi has also asked members to draft legislation aimed at invoking the US Constitution's 25th Amendment, which allows the removal of a president unable to fulfil the duties of the office.

Trump "has done something so serious -- that there should be prosecution against him," Pelosi told CBS' 60 Minutes, according to an early excerpt of the interview.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Pro-Trump supporters storm the Capitol. Photo: 2021 Getty Images

The intensifying effort to oust Trump from the White House has drawn scattered support from Republicans, whose party has been splintered by the president's actions. Democrats have pressed Vice President Mike Pence to consider the 25th Amendment, but a Pence adviser has said he opposes the idea.

The odds that Trump will actually be removed before 20 January, when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in, remain long. Any impeachment in the House would trigger a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, which is scheduled to be in recess until 19 January and has already acquitted Trump once before.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent a memo to his fellow Republican senators suggesting a trial would not begin until Trump was out of office, a source familiar with the document said. A conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds vote.

Democrats will take control of the Senate later this month, after Georgia certifies two runoff elections won by Democratic challengers.

Twitter permanently cut off Trump's personal account and access to his nearly 90 million followers late on Friday (US time), citing the risk of further incitement of violence, three days after Trump exhorted thousands of supporters to march on the Capitol as Congress met to certify Biden's 3 November election victory.

The resulting assault, viewed with shock around the world, left a police officer and four others dead in its wake, as rioters breached the Capitol and forced lawmakers into hiding for their own safety.

A Florida man who was photographed smiling and waving as he carried Pelosi's lectern from the House chambers amid the chaos was arrested by federal law enforcement on Friday. Dozens of others face federal and state charges.

Fears for inauguration

Experts are warning there could be further violence from far right extremist groups on 20 January, the day Biden will be sworn in as president.

Online posts from hate groups and right-wing provocateurs are calling for civil war, the deaths of top lawmakers and attacks on law enforcement.

The chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks and counters hate, Jonathan Greenblatt, says white supremacists and extremists feel emboldened after last week's attack on the US Capitol building.

He says violence could get worse before its gets better.

A researcher into cyber-security John Scott-Railton, says he is terribly concerned about the inauguration.

He says while the broader public was shocked by this week's violence, among hate groups and the far-right, the riot is being seen as a success.

Trump proposes new social media platform

Twitter's decision stifled one of Trump's most potent tools. His frequent posts helped propel his 2016 presidential campaign, since which he has used the site to fire up his base and attack his political opponents from both parties.

ANKARA, TURKEY - JANUARY 7: In this photo illustration, smart phone screen shows twitter account of U.S. President Donald Trump and a computer screen displaying the logo of Twitter are seen in Ankara, Turkey on January 7, 2021. Ercin Erturk / Anadolu Agency

Photo: AFP

Trump later used the official @POTUS government account to lash out at Twitter, vowing that the 75 million "great patriots" who voted for him "will not be SILENCED!" He said he was considering building his own social media platform.

Twitter quickly deleted those posts and soon after suspended the Trump campaign account as well.

The suspension came a day after a subdued Trump denounced Wednesday's violence in a video in which he also vowed to ensure a smooth transition of power.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted on Thursday and Friday found 57 percent of Americans want Trump to be removed immediately from office following the violence.

A small but growing number of Republicans have joined calls for Trump to step down, and several high-ranking administration officials resigned in protest.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said Friday that Trump should resign immediately and suggested she would consider leaving the party altogether if Republicans cannot separate themselves from him.

"I want him out. He has caused enough damage," she told the Anchorage Daily News.

Senator Lisa Murkowski(R-AK) asks a question during a US Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine covid-19, focusing on an update on the federal response in Washington, DC,

Senator Lisa Murkowski: "I want him out. He has caused enough damage." Photo: AFP

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a frequent Trump critic, told CBS News he would "definitely consider" impeachment because the president "disregarded his oath of office".

Trump allies, including Senator Lindsey Graham and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, however, urged Democrats to shelve any impeachment effort in the name of unity.

"Impeaching President Donald Trump with 12 days remaining in his presidency would only serve to further divide the country," said White House spokesman Judd Deere.

A copy of draft articles of impeachment circulating among members of Congress charged Trump with "inciting violence against the government of the United States" in a bid to overturn his loss to Biden.

The House impeached Trump in December 2019 for pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden, but the Senate acquitted him in February 2020. Only two other presidents have been impeached, and none has been impeached twice.

Trump spent months falsely claiming the election was stolen from him due to widespread fraud. Dozens of courts across the country have thrown out lawsuits seeking to challenging the results, and election officials in both parties have said there is no evidence to support his allegations.

Pope 'astonished'

Pope Francis said on Saturday people working against democracy must be condemned whoever they are, and lessons should be learned from this week's attack on the US Capitol.

"I was astonished because they are people so disciplined in democracy," the pontiff told Italy's Canale 5 news channel in his first public comments on the events.

"There is always something that isn't working (with) people taking a path against the community, against democracy, against the common good," the pope said.

"Thank God that this has burst into the open and is clear to see well, because you can put it right," Francis said, adding: "Yes, this must be condemned, this movement, no matter who is involved in it."

Pope Francis gathers his thoughts during Easter Sunday Mass on April 12, 2020 behind closed doors at St. Peter's Basilica in The Vatican.

Pope Francis: "Yes, this must be condemned, this movement, no matter who is involved in it." Photo: AFP

He said violence could flare anywhere and it was important to understand what had gone wrong and to learn from history.

"(Fringe) groups that are not well inserted into society sooner or later will commit this sort of violence," he said.

- Reuters /CNN

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