House Democrats on Monday introduced an article of impeachment against Donald Trump for the second time, levelling an unprecedented charge against the US president of inciting an insurrection.
The move came as Democratic lawmakers pressed ahead with last-ditch efforts to force Mr Trump to leave the White House before the end of his term following an assault on the US Capitol last week by a mob of his supporters.
The Democratic-controlled House on Monday attempted to pass a separate resolution urging Mr Pence to convene the cabinet and activate the 25th amendment, which gives them the authority to strip the president of his power over his role in last week’s siege on Capitol Hill.
The resolution, drafted by Democrat Jamie Raskin of Maryland, says the president “willfully made statements that . . . encouraged . . . lawless action at the Capitol”. At least five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer. A second officer died by suicide at the weekend.
Because Republican lawmakers opposed the text, it did not receive unanimous consent and will be debated and most likely passed on Tuesday.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, told House members late on Sunday that the lower chamber of Congress will proceed with impeaching Mr Trump if Mr Pence did not respond to the resolution within 24 hours.
“In protecting our Constitution and our democracy, we will act with urgency, because this president represents an imminent threat to both,” Ms Pelosi wrote in a letter to House Democrats. “As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this president is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.”
Ms Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, have repeatedly urged Mr Pence, vice-president, to invoke the US constitution’s 25th amendment if Mr Trump does not resign.
Despite reports that Mr Pence is enraged by Mr Trump’s lack of intervention in the riots — which interrupted the counting of electoral college votes to certify that Joe Biden will be the 46th US president — the vice-president has so far signalled no support for using the 25th amendment.
Mr Trump, who was banned from Twitter and a host of other social media platforms at the end of last week, has shown no sign of standing down before Mr Biden’s inauguration on January 20. He is expected to make a trip to the US-Mexico border on Tuesday to tout his record on immigration.
Mr Trump was impeached at the end of 2019, on two charges — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — relating to his efforts to pressure the Ukrainian president into digging up dirt on Mr Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. He was acquitted after a Senate trial. Mitt Romney, the Utah senator and former presidential candidate, was the only Republican who voted to convict the president.
While Mr Trump is likely to be impeached a second time in the Democratic-controlled House, two-thirds of the Senate would need to vote to convict in order to remove him from office.
While a handful of Republican senators have expressed outrage over the president’s actions, more than a dozen would need to sign on to oust Mr Trump.
Democrats last week won two hotly contested Senate run-offs in Georgia, setting the stage for the upper chamber of Congress to be split 50-50, with vice-president Kamala Harris in a position to cast a tiebreaking vote. Ms Harris will be sworn in on January 20 along with Mr Biden.