Pressure was mounting on Donald Trump on Saturday, as Democrats in the House prepared to impeach him a second time and after a first Republican senator called publicly for his removal and Twitter banned his account, removing his most powerful means of spreading lies and incitements to violence.
Democrats in the House were preparing articles charging Trump with inciting an insurrection and having “gravely endangered the security of the United States” and its institutions.
From the Senate, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said: “I want him to resign. I want him out. He has caused enough damage.”
Seeking to overturn election defeat by Joe Biden, Trump incited a riot at the heart of US government. On Wednesday, the president looked on from the White House as a mob he told to “fight like hell” breached the Capitol, faced off with police outside the House chamber and entered the Senate and offices of congressional leaders, smashing and stealing as they went.
Five people died, including a police officer who confronted rioters and a rioter shot by a law enforcement officer. Multiple arrests have been made.
Trump has called for calm and promised to respect the transfer of power on 20 January but he has also continued to claim the election was stolen by means of massive electoral fraud. It was not.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, spoke to the leader of the US military, seeking to ensure Trump cannot launch a nuclear attack in his remaining days in office.
The speaker also called for Trump’s removal via the 25th amendment, which provides for the ejection of a president deemed unable to fulfil his duties. The Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, was reportedly among officials to discuss such a course. But it seems unlikely to succeed, particularly as cabinet members who would participate in the process have resigned.
A second and high-speed impeachment therefore looms, with House Democrats set to initiate proceedings as early as Monday. In his first impeachment, over approaches to Ukraine for dirt on political rivals, Trump was acquitted by a Republican-held Senate.
Some Republicans in the House have now called for Trump to go but on Friday Murkowski became the first GOP senator to do so, telling the Anchorage Daily News: “I think he should leave.
“He’s not going to appear at the inauguration. He hasn’t been focused on what is going on with Covid. He’s either been golfing or he’s been inside the Oval Office fuming and throwing every single person who has been loyal and faithful to him under the bus, starting with the vice-president.
“He doesn’t want to stay there. He only wants to stay there for the title. He only wants to stay there for his ego. He needs to get out. He needs to do the good thing, but I don’t think he’s capable of doing a good thing.”
Murkowski’s intervention was dramatic, echoing the delegation of Republicans who went to Richard Nixon and told him to resign before he was impeached over Watergate in 1974. But Trump seems unlikely to go voluntarily – unless, some speculate, he attempts to grant himself a pre-emptive pardon first – and many more Republican senators would have to turn for the president to be convicted and removed, if a trial could be held before inauguration day.
Trump will be vulnerable to prosecution, either state or federal, after leaving the White House. But if he was successfully impeached he would also lose all benefits of life after the Oval Office, including pension and Secret Service protection.
Murkowski also said she was considering leaving her party.
“If the Republican party has become nothing more than the party of Trump,” she said, “I sincerely question whether this is the party for me.”
If she did, the Senate would tip further from the Republicans. It is now split 50-50, two Democratic wins in Georgia runoffs this week giving control via the casting vote of the vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris.
Twitter’s move to ban Trump came on Friday evening. The company, which had previously removed Trump tweets, cited repeated violations of rules and risks including the “further incitement of violence”.
Twitter said two tweets sent on Friday were “highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the US Capitol”. Plans for “future armed protests” were spreading, the company warned, “including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on 17 January”.
Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic senator on the congressional committee overseeing inauguration ceremonies, told CBS News: “There’s going to have to be major, major reviews of what happened and changes made in terms of beefing up security.”
A 7ft “non-scalable” fence was being erected around the Capitol, where it was set to remain for at least 30 days. A state of emergency was declared in Washington, until the day after the inauguration. More than 6,200 national guard personnel would be in the city this weekend, Mayor Muriel Bowser said.
Amid widespread anger over how easily the rioters gained entry to the Capitol, some who broadcast their activities on social media or were photographed in the act have been arrested.
In Seattle on Friday night, the interim police chief said two city officers were apparently in Washington on Wednesday. The officers, who were not identified, were placed on administrative leave.
In a statement, Adrian Diaz said “events that unfolded at the US Capitol were unlawful and resulted in the death of another police officer”. Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, was reportedly struck in the head with a fire extinguisher while “physically engaging” rioters. He collapsed and later died in hospital. About 60 officers were reported injured.
Andrew Myerberg, director of the Seattle Office of Police Accountability, told the Seattle Times: “There’s a picture that circulated on social media of the two officers at the protest rally. So, yes, we believe they were there, but we don’t know all the facts yet, so that’s why we’re doing the investigation.”