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Tensions at the White House ‘are as high as they’ve ever been’

President Trump continued to make false claims about election fraud Thursday as more Democrats called for his impeachment a day after the attacks in Washington, D.C. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss what the final weeks of his administration may look like.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, what now for this president and the final weeks of his administration?

    Yamiche Alcindor has been tracking reaction at the White House, Lisa Desjardins tracking the fallout on Capitol Hill from yesterday's shocking events.

    We thank you both for being here and again for your extraordinary reporting yesterday.

    So, Yamiche — or, Lisa, to you first.

    We heard in John's report, the leaders, Democratic leaders of both the House and the Senate, calling for the president to be impeached. How serious is this talk on the hill?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I think that it's to be determined, Judy.

    Among the factors, there are questions about what Vice President, former Vice President and incoming President Biden wants to do. But the timeline is really the big issue. January 20 is the last day in office for President Trump.

    And the Senate trial of President Trump in — last year, that took 49 days. But let's go through exactly what could happen if an impeachment were to happen at its fastest possible pace.

    Now, impeachment can — articles can come immediately to the House floor. They do not have to go through the committee process, though that is what usually happens. There is the option to bring it immediately to the floor.

    Now, then it would go to that Senate trial. As I said, it took 49 days from the House to the finish of the Senate last time. But Senate trials can take just days, if the Senate really wants to, or weeks.

    There is another question here. Some at the Capitol are asking, can the president be impeached after he leaves office? One of the penalties of impeachment is that it prohibits a president from ever running for office again.

    That is something that some Republicans in the Senate would like to see, and it's something that appeals to them. So there is a possibility that impeachment after office would do that. However, it's never been tested. It's not clear if Congress has that power or not.

    And there's another issue, Judy. The Senate moving to Democratic control, when will that happen? We don't know when the two newly elected Democratic senators will be certified by the state of Georgia. That could happen, I'm told, any time from tomorrow until January 19.

    But once they are certified, the Senate will be 50-50. The tie-breaking vote will be Vice President Pence until January 20. So, the Senate remains Republican majority until Joe Biden becomes president. So, any Senate trial and the timing of it would be governed and determined by Mitch McConnell.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Very tricky, just in, I mean, as you say…

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I guess I should sum up all of this just to say, there are so many questions. We just don't know, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we're glad you're following it every day between now and when it becomes clear.

    But now to you, Yamiche.

    We also heard these calls in John's report and elsewhere coming from mostly Democrats for the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to be invoked. What is the real likelihood of that happening? And, frankly, how much support does the president have inside his own administration?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In the aftermath of the violent mob scenes that we saw on Capitol Hill and the president egging his supporters on, tensions at the White House are as high as they have ever been, with people inside the White House, allies of President Trump, people who work for the president openly talking about the 25th Amendment, and, of course, others streaming out of the White House, resigning by the dozens — or talking about resigning by the dozens.

    We have now seen eight resignations, at least, and each of these people are people saying that they — what they saw yesterday is motivating them to leave this administration, and the president's action troubled them enough to publicly break with the president.

    Now, there are critics who say some of these people are leaving too late, people that are talking about Elaine Chao and others who have left the administration after, of course, years of people criticizing the president.

    That being said, what we see here is a White House that is also on defense. We saw the White House press secretary come out. She said that this is the opposite of this White House. But there are people that are talking about the fact that the president, of course, was at a rally telling people to go to the Capitol.

    So, she didn't have any — she didn't take any responsibility for the president's own words. She didn't take any responsibility for the president's own actions.

    I will say, I have been talking to people who say the vice president is a bit reluctant, they think, to try to come up with the 25th Amendment, which would have — which would take Pence and a majority of the Cabinet coming together to decide that the president is unfit. They would then be able to send a letter to Congress.

    President Trump could push back on that with his own letter. It would be somewhat convoluted. So, there are people who say the timing of this, with President Trump only in office for another two weeks, is problematic.

    But the big sense is that the president is angry and isolated and facing people within his own government who do not think that he is fit for office at this point.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, Yamiche, separately from that, you have Republicans very critical of the president, whether they're calling for him to be removed or not, but they're criticizing him.

    What are you hearing about what they're saying about how he's navigating all this and his role in what happened?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The biggest question I have heard from Republicans, talking to them all day today, was, what is the path forward?

    You have people who are staunchly in President Trump's corner, with Sarah Palin, the former vice president nominee. You have others, like John Kelly, the former chief of staff, who said that President Trump is flawed and said that the Cabinet should be meeting to remove him.

    So, there are just big questions for the GOP. And then you have Joe Biden coming into office saying that the president — this is all a culmination of the president's actions.

    So, you have Democrats looking at the GOP and saying, that is a party that's in ruins, that's a party that should be broken up. So, there's a lot of nervousness there.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Lisa, back to you.

    A lot of discussion today about the security or lack of security at the Capitol yesterday. What is your reporting telling you about what people are saying about that, what might be the repercussions from that?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We expect leadership changes now.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for the resignation of this person, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund. Capitol Police have seen an increased turnover in Capitol Police. He would be the fourth Capitol Police chief in, I believe, eight years, to serve.

    Now, also being asked to resign by Speaker Pelosi, House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, also in charge of security of that chamber. And then being asked to resign or threatened being fired once Democrats take over is Senate Sergeant at Arms. That's Mike Stenger.

    These are the key security officials, along with the architect of the Capitol, and, obviously, a lot of questions, even from what just I saw, Judy

    I will tell you, Capitol Police day to day mostly deal with tourists. And I have had many sources say they think they prepare for threats like armed terrorists, truck bombs. This was a group, a protest group. Many sources have said to me today they're concerned about the fact this group was given a permit to protest within a football fields-length of the U.S. Capitol.

    And, simply, the police assumed it would be peaceful, did not have enough people on the ground to deal with them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it's a story that — so much conversation about what went wrong.

    And, Lisa, I can tell you that just in the minute when you have been talking, I'm hearing that there — that, reliably, we now have confirmed that the Capitol Police chief has resigned, effective now.

    So, a fast — all these are fast-moving stories.

    Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you both.

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