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Trump defiant on Capitol attack, as House accelerates push for impeachment

President Trump projected defiance as he faces his greatest political peril yet with an unprecedented second impeachment. He denied any responsibility on Tuesday for the riot that engulfed the halls of the U.S. Congress last week. Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump is projecting defiance as he faces his greatest political peril yet, an unprecedented second impeachment.

    He denied any responsibility today for the riot that engulfed the halls of Congress last week.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The nation still reeling, and President Trump with no regrets. The president emerged in public for the first time since extremist supporters stormed the Capitol. He rejected all talk of involuntary removal or a second impeachment.

  • President Donald Trump:

    It's really a continuation of the greatest witch-hunt in the history of politics. It's ridiculous. It's absolutely ridiculous.

    For Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to continue on this path, I think it's causing tremendous danger to our country, and it's causing tremendous anger. I want no violence.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    At his rally last Wednesday, President Trump urged the crowd to march to the Capitol. He's since been denounced for inciting the mob.

    But, today, he insisted his words had been — quote — "totally appropriate."

    That brought new condemnation from the Senate's top Democrat, incoming Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer:

    What Trump did today, blaming others for what he caused, is a pathological technique used by the worst of dictators. Trump causes the anger, he causes the divisiveness, he foments the violence and blames others for it. That is despicable. Donald Trump should not hold office one day longer.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    House Democrats agree. Tonight, they will vote on a resolution calling for Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove the president from office.

  • The resolution states:

    "These insurrectionary protests were widely advertised and broadly encouraged by President Trump."

    Today, the House Rules Committee debated the measure. On full display, deep partisanship. Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin and Democrats demanded action.

  • Rep. Jamie Raskin:

    It's up to the vice president, and we're not trying to usurp his authority in any way. We're trying to tell him that the time of the 25th Amendment emergency has arrived. It has come to our doorstep. It has invaded our chamber.

    They can help to lead us out of the nightmare we have been plunged into by this sequence of events.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But Republicans, including Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, echoed the president's claims of a witch-hunt.

  • Rep. Jim Jordan:

    Let's be clear. Democrats have been wanting to remove President Trump from office since he won the election in 2016. They failed with the Russia investigation. They failed with the Mueller investigation. And they failed with their first impeachment investigation. So, here we are again.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Jordan also refused to say whether president-elect Biden won the election fairly.

    For his part, Vice President Pence has signaled he is not open to using the 25th Amendment. Instead, last night, he and the president met, after days of not speaking. They reportedly agreed to work together for the remainder of their term.

    Today, President Trump said — quote — "The 25th amendment is no risk to me."

    But, if that's the case, House Democrats say, tomorrow, they will vote on impeachment.

    At the same time, more details emerged about President Trump's real-time response to the assault on the Capitol. The Washington Post reported that the president ignored pleas for help from lawmakers. Instead, he chose to watch the violence unfold on TV.

    And a report by Axios said he blamed anti-fascists, or Antifa, for the violence. There is no evidence to back up that claim. But defenders of President Trump keep repeating it.

    The hunt for those who assaulted the Capitol is also in full swing.

  • Steven D’Antuono:

    I want to stress that the FBI has a long memory and a broad reach. So, even if you have left D.C., agents from our local field offices will be knocking on your door if we find out that you are part of the criminal activity at the Capitol.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Acting U.S. attorney for D.C. Michael Sherwin also said they're forming a task force to build charges tied to sedition and conspiracy.

    Meanwhile, state capitols are bracing for new violence. The FBI indicated that, in the coming days, there could nationwide protests by armed groups.

    In Michigan, Attorney General Dana Nessel says the state capitol is still not safe. That comes despite a new rule banning the open carry of firearms. Today, the FBI also met with other federal agencies and Pentagon leadership on inauguration security. And senators received a briefing from the Secret Service and the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

    Back at the U.S. Capitol, yet more fallout. Three lawmakers have now tested positive for the coronavirus. They were part of a group hunkering down during the Capitol siege with Republicans who were not wearing masks. The video shows some even refusing masks handed out during the lockdown.

    And the president also faces fallout of a different kind from big business. Today, Deutsche Bank, the biggest lender to his companies, says it will have no more dealings with him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Yamiche joins me now for more, along with our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins.

    Hello to both of you. So much happening today.

    Lisa, I'm going to start with you.

    New developments now, as the House moves closer to that second impeachment process. Tell us what you're learning.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Some extraordinary developments in just the past hour, Judy.

    The number three Republican in the House, Liz Cheney, has announced she will vote for impeachment.

    Reading from her statement, she wrote: "The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled this mob, could have intervened, but did not."

    Also, another House Republican, John Katko of New York, is also voting for impeachment. He wrote: "It cannot be ignored that President Trump encouraged this insurrection."

    At the same time, The New York Times is reporting another powerful Republican, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, is on board the idea of impeachment, and does not want to speak to President Trump any more. That is major news.

    And I can tell you, Mitch McConnell and those around him are some of the most disciplined people in Washington. For that news to leak out is significant.

    Finally, I have to say the mood at the Capitol, as you saw in Yamiche's piece, is very tense. Those supporting the president are ramping up their arguments, as you heard. But it does seem this crack in the Republican Party is opening up into a chasm over this issue.

    And some of the president's allies, including House leader, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, are now giving permission to members to vote their conscience on this issue. That's a very big deal.

    One more thing, Judy. This vote could move along quickly. I'm told that House Republicans do not have any plans to throw procedural hurdles in the way tomorrow on the road to impeachment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    These are gigantic political developments, Lisa. Thank you very much.

    And, as we have said, we're going to be covering this all from starting tomorrow morning here live, and you will be at the Capitol for us.

    So, separately to you, Yamiche, the FBI did hold that briefing today. Tell us more about what they are saying about what happened last week.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, today, the FBI and federal authorities made it very clear that they are planning to track down and charge anyone connected to the siege on the Capitol. They say that they are treating this like an international counterterrorism effort.

    That is pretty remarkable, considering, of course, these are Americans on domestic soil. But they say that they are looking at so many different people. They say that they are expecting that this is going to be hundreds of cases. Right now, they have about 170 cases opened. They have charged about 70 people so far.

    They say that the charges range from felony murder all the way up to simple — or all the way down to simple trespassing. They also say they're looking at theft of national security. They're look at theft of mail.

    They say that this could go from city to city. They say that they have already been in Dallas and Jacksonville and Cleveland, rounding people up for this. They made it very clear that, if people were involved in this, that you could and will be charged.

    Another thing to note, though, that, even though it's been about almost a week since this siege on the Capitol, the people that were briefing today, they weren't the FBI director or the head of Homeland Security.

    So, there's really a big question of whether or not the top, top federal officials, whether they're at some point going to come before the public to speak out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Fascinating, all of it.

    And we know, Yamiche, you're also following what is going on at the White House. You were reporting the president denying any responsibility for what happened. But you have been talking to people. What is he saying privately? What is he known to believe privately about how much responsibility he has for all this?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Despite a bipartisan push now to impeach President Trump, he's saying he has no regrets.

    He's also spreading disinformation and still saying things that are simply false in public and in private. The president today said that he believes that everything that he said on Wednesday before these people came and attacked our U.S. Capitol was totally appropriate.

    But let's remind people that he said the word fight or fighting in that speech more than 20 times. And he told people to march on the Capitol, and then went back to the security of the White House and watched all the violence play out on TV.

    He's also spreading the disinformation that this was really not his supporters, but that it was Antifa, anti-fascists, a group that he's called out and really made all sorts of information up about. And the FBI is saying there's no evidence of, that this was not Antifa.

    In fact, this was Trump — this was the Trump supporters who were at the Capitol. They were wearing his name. They were wearing his logos. So, what you see here is President Trump trying to deflect and deny the fact that he has any connection to this.

    Another thing to note is that the president today was on the Southern border, and he said the 25th Amendment, he doesn't have any risk of being hurt by that, or — so he feels as though the only way that he's going to be at least punished by this is through impeachment, not through Vice President Pence taking any sort of action against him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, so much to follow on this Tuesday. We thank both of you for more excellent reporting.

    Yamiche, Lisa, thank you both.

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