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House Democrats take first step toward impeaching President Trump

The drive to remove President Trump from office is formally under way with just nine days before his term ends and five days after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The drive to remove President Trump from office is formally under way tonight.

    At the same time, the "NewsHour" confirmed that a third member of the Trump Cabinet has resigned. He is Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security. He had criticized the president after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Woman:

    Without objection.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Just feet from windows broken by last week's mob, today in the House chamber, a first step toward removing the president.

    House Democrats attempted to fast-track a resolution calling for Vice President Pence to activate the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

  • Man:

    "To declare President Donald j. Trump incapable…"

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That amendment removes the president from office upon receiving written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office from the vice president and majority of Cabinet officers.

  • Man:

    I object.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    House Republicans temporarily blocked it, delaying it a day.

    This as more and more video appears showing just how violent the mob became. These pictures show the crowd which marched to the Capitol after hearing President Trump's speak, attacking and overwhelming police.

    In a letter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave the vice president an ultimatum: Act within 24 hours, or the House will move forward with impeachment, charging incitement of insurrection.

    That debate is planned to begin Wednesday morning.

    But in an interview that aired Sunday, Pelosi told CBS' "60 Minutes" the 25th Amendment is her preferred option.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi:

    It gets rid of him. He's out of office. But there is strong support in the Congress for impeaching the president a second time. This president is guilty of inciting insurrection. He has to pay a price for that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey supports impeachment generally, but agreed over the weekend that he prefers another way.

  • Sen. Pat Toomey:

    I think the best way for our country, Chuck, is for the president to resign and go away as soon as possible. It does not look at though there is the will or the consensus to exercise the 25th Amendment option. And I don't think there's time to do an impeachment.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina said Sunday the House could wait until well after the inauguration to send impeachment articles to the Senate, at a point when Democrats would run the chamber.

  • Rep. James Clyburn:

    Let's give president-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running, and maybe we will send the articles sometime after that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    President-elect Biden weighed in today, while getting his second of two vaccination shots in Delaware.

  • President-elect Joe Biden:

    I think it's critically important that there be a real serious focus on holding those folks who engaged in sedition and threatened people's lives, defaced public property, caused great damage, that they be held accountable.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Meanwhile, there is a growing business backlash. Marriott, Dow, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, among others, announced they would halt donations to lawmakers who voted against certifying the Electoral College results. Ford and Microsoft will suspend all political donations until they review the events of last week.

    And the payment company Stripe said it will no longer process payments for the president's campaign Web site. The social media app Parler, which became a preferred forum for far right speech, was pulled from Google, Apple and Amazon.

    Meanwhile, there was more on the security failures that led to the Capitol's breach. Following his resignation, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund told The Washington Post he did ask House and Senate security officials to put the D.C. National Guard on standby ahead of the protests. But he said the request was declined because of optics.

    The top security officials, the sergeants at arms of both chambers, have also resigned. Police have made at least 90 arrests since last Wednesday, as investigators comb through thousands of images and video. Investigators are also looking at the organization of the attacks and the sinister motivation.

    Over the weekend, videos emerged of rioters searching for Speaker Pelosi, and chanting "Hang Mike Pence."

  • Rioters:

    Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Today, the National Guard announced it is deploying at least 10,000 troops to Washington, D.C., ahead of the inauguration; 5,000 more could be requested.

    The city's mayor also said she requested a pre-emergency declaration from President Trump.

  • Mayor Muriel Bowser:

    This is necessary because the inauguration poses several unprecedented challenges that exceed the scope of our traditional planning processes, the COVID-19 pandemic, and of course, the domestic terror attack on the United States Capitol.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The Department of Homeland Security announced it will begin enhanced security for inauguration this week, rather than next. And the National Park Service closed the Washington Monument for nearly two weeks to visitors, citing credible threats.

    This as the FBI warned today that armed protests are being planned in all 50 state capitals beginning this weekend and going through inauguration.

    Now banned from Twitter, President Trump had no public events or statements today at the White House.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa joins me now, along with our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor.

    Hello to both of you.

    And, Lisa, to you first.

    You just gave us a sense of where things stand in the Congress. Do you have a clearer sense of exactly how all this would unfold at the Capitol?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I do.

    I will give you what we think is the most likely plan for timing. However, it is fluid. There are still many details to be worked out. Let's look at a graphic here.

    And the first thing that we — as we reported, House Democrats announced today that they plan to have impeachment debate on the floor of the House Wednesday morning 9:00 a.m., Eastern time. And they do plan to hold the impeachment vote Wednesday.

    So, then, after that, the articles could be transmitted to the Senate. It seems right now a likely path for that is that it would happen after inauguration, as the whip, Clyburn, suggested today.

    Then, if that did happen, we would see probably a Senate trial in late January, early February.

    I will say there is also another option. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today said that he would like to trigger an emergency session of the Senate, which he can do, but only if Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell agrees. Together, those two men could call a Senate trial as soon as impeachment — the impeachment article is passed.

    So, that could be as soon as later this week. We don't have any reason to believe that McConnell would sign onto that, but we have not heard from him on that issue.

    Another thing, the president is not the only one that some lawmakers are calling for retributions against. The two U.S. senators, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who objected to the electoral count, there are some calling for them to be censured or have other infractions taken against them.

    In fact, some Democrats in the House are saying that they should resign for inciting a riot. And then also a number of House Republicans are facing those same calls.

    One — I want to raise one tweet that's getting a lot of attention, is this one by Representative Lauren Boebert. She sent this out as the protester, the rioters were crashing into the House floor, saying: "The speaker has been removed from the chambers."

    Many Democrats I spoke to are the most angry about that tweet, which they believe added to the threats to Speaker Pelosi. In their views, that was pointing out to them where to find Speaker Pelosi. Don't come to the chamber.

    Boebert says, no, she all along has been questioning the election, but that's it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So many strands of this story to follow, Lisa.

    So, Yamiche, let me turn to you now.

    For all the talk about removing the president or holding him accountable, we haven't heard or seen the president in the last few days. His social media accounts have been taken away.

    What do we know about what he's doing, what he's saying, and what the vice president, Mike Pence, is up to? I mean, the last we heard, the two of them were angry at one another.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That's right, Judy.

    In the aftermath of the siege on Capitol Hill, President Trump spent all day today furious, lashing out, and watching his personal, political and business opportunities evaporate. My understanding is that the president of the United States is not speaking to the vice president of the United States, which is a pretty incredible statement to say.

    The president is also not speaking to the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, or Senate Majority Leader, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    I was speaking to a source today. And I said, well, isn't the functioning of government important? Don't these people need to speak to each other? And they — that person said to me, why would they need to speak? Everyone just wants to see President Trump gone.

    So, that's President Trump's — that's the state of play here when it comes to the government.

    The other thing is the president, as you noted, he's kicked off Twitter, he's kicked off Facebook. He also is starting to lose business. The PGA National Tour says that they're not going to have their big golf tournament anymore at the Trump New Jersey Hotel.

    And, as a result, the president has apparently been fuming particularly about that. The other thing to note is that there are real questions about when the president is going to speak to the American people.

    There was some talk today that the president might come out to the Briefing Room. That didn't happen. He's going to be going to Texas tomorrow. The White House says it's really a victory lap so that he can talk about the 400 miles of border wall that were constructed, something that they say is a promise kept on his behalf, as opposed to the vice president.

    The vice president, I'm told, is trying to do work and trying to stay as busy as possible. He held a meeting with governors today. He's also going to be focused on COVID-19 and also these other things that are really still pressing issues in the United States.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, back to you.

    I understand you're learning more details about what exactly happened last Wednesday to members of Congress, to journalists, to police.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    I spoke to many members today. I was on the Hill. It was a difficult day on Capitol Hill. And I think it was a difficult and long weekend.

    I will focus on police. I know we're short on time.

    We learned over this weekend that a second Capitol Police officer who was there in the riots died. This one, Howard Liebengood, died by suicide. He's someone that I knew and other reporters knew, very good guy, fan of Tottenham Hotspurs. And it's a real loss.

    And I think that that is — kind of speaks to the real challenge for Capitol Police officers.

    I also want to say that I know these officers have been working 16-hour shifts. None of them have gotten time off since the riot, some of them 12-hour shifts now, just started today.

    I spoke to one officer. Both of the spouses in that family are officers. And they have had to ask their neighbors to help bring dinner to their children, because they have been working such long hours.

    Also getting details about the riots. We should be learning more over the next few days about what happened exactly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just finally, quickly, back to you, Yamiche, on reporting you have done about how all this is affecting president-elect Biden.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    President Biden wants to see President Trump held accountable, but he doesn't want to see his legislative agenda derailed.

    So, there are talks now that president-elect Biden has said he's talking to members of Congress to try to bifurcate the impeachment process, so that half-a-day would be spent on impeachment, half-a-day sent on confirming his Cabinet secretaries, and time spent on trying to pass that COVID relief bill that Joe Biden wants to pass as soon as he gets into office.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins following it all.

    Thank you both.

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