WASHINGTON - Two Republican senators now say President Donald Trump should resign in the wake of deadly riots at the Capitol and support for the House drive to impeach him a second time is gaining momentum.
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey on Sunday joined Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski in calling for Trump to "resign and go away as soon as possible" after a violent mob of his supporters broke into the Capitol on Wednesday. Murkowski, who has long voiced her exasperation with Trump’s conduct in office, told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday that Trump simply "needs to get out."
Toomey said even though he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses in encouraging loyalists in the Capitol siege, he did not think there was enough time for the impeachment process to play out. Resignation, Toomey said, was the "best path forward, the best way to get this person in the rearview mirror for us." The senator was not optimistic that Trump would step down before his term ends on Jan. 20.
House leaders, furious after the violent insurrection against them, appear determined to act despite the short timeline.
Late Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent a letter to her colleagues reiterating that Trump must be held accountable. She told her caucus, now scattered across the country on a two-week recess, to "be prepared to return to Washington this week" but did not say outright that there would be a vote on impeachment.
"It is absolutely essential that those who perpetrated the assault on our democracy be held accountable," Pelosi wrote. "There must be a recognition that this desecration was instigated by the President."
Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, said "it may be Tuesday, Wednesday before the action is taken, but I think it will be taken this week."
Clyburn, D-S.C., a close ally of President-elect Joe Biden, suggested that if the House does vote to impeach, Pelosi might hold the charges — known as articles of impeachment — until after Biden’s first 100 days in office. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has said an impeachment trial could not begin before Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.
"Let’s give president-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running," Clyburn said. "And maybe we will send the articles some time after that."
Clyburn said lawmakers "will take the vote that we should take in the House" and that Pelosi "will make the determination as when is the best time" to send them to the Senate.
Another idea being considered is to have a separate vote that would prevent Trump from ever holding office again. That could potentially only need a simple majority vote of 51 senators, unlike impeachment, in which two-thirds of the 100-member Senate must support a conviction.
Toomey indicated that he might support such a vote: "I think the president has disqualified himself from ever certainly serving in office again," he said. "I don’t think he is electable in any way."
The Senate is set to be split evenly at 50-50, but under Democratic control once Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and the two Democrats who won in Georgia’s Senate runoff last week are sworn in. Harris will be the Senate’s tie-breaking vote.
While many have criticized Trump, Republicans have said that impeachment would be divisive in a time of unity.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said that instead of coming together, Democrats want to "talk about ridiculous things like ‘Let’s impeach a president’ who isn’t even going to be in office in about nine days." Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said Trump’s actions "were clearly reckless," but "my personal view is that the president touched the hot stove on Wednesday and is unlikely to touch it again."
Still, some Republicans might be supportive.
Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said he would take a look at any articles that the House sends over. Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a frequent Trump critic, said he will "vote the right way" if the matter is put in front of him. But, he said, "I honestly don’t think impeachment is the smart move because I think it victimizes Donald Trump again."
The Democratic effort to stamp Trump’s presidential record — for the second time and days before his term ends — with the indelible mark of impeachment once more has advanced rapidly since the riot at the Capitol. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I, a leader of the House effort to draft impeachment articles accusing Trump of inciting insurrection, said Saturday that his group had grown to include 185 co-sponsors.
Lawmakers planned to formally introduce the proposal on Monday in the House, where articles of impeachment must originate.
The articles, if passed by the House, could then be transmitted to the Senate for a trial, with senators acting as jurors who would ultimately vote on whether to acquit or convict Trump. If convicted, Trump would be removed from office and succeeded by the vice president. It would be the first time a U.S. president has been impeached twice.
Potentially complicating Pelosi’s decision about impeachment is what it means for Biden and the beginning of his presidency. While reiterating that he has long viewed Trump as unfit for office, Biden on Friday sidestepped a question about impeachment, saying what Congress does "is for them to decide."
A violent and largely white mob of Trump supporters overpowered police, broke through security lines and windows and rampaged through the Capitol on Wednesday, forcing lawmakers to scatter as they were putting the final, formal touches on Biden’s victory over Trump in the Electoral College.
The crowd surged to the domed symbol of American democracy following a rally near the White House, where Trump repeated his bogus claims that the election was stolen from him and urged his supporters to march in force toward the Capitol.
A Capitol Police officer died after he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher as rioters descended on the building and many other officers were injured. A woman from California was shot to death by Capitol Police and three other people died after medical emergencies during the chaos.
Outrage over the attack and Trump’s role in egging it on capped a divisive, chaotic presidency like few others in the nation’s history.
Trump, has few fellow Republicans speaking out in his defense, and the White House declined to comment on the new GOP calls for resignation. He’s become increasingly isolated, holed up in the White House as he has been abandoned in the aftermath of the riot by many aides, leading Republicans and, so far, two Cabinet members — both women.
Toomey appeared on CNN’s "State of the Union" and NBC’s "Meet the Press." Clyburn was on "Fox News Sunday" and CNN. Kinzinger was on ABC’s "This Week," Blunt was on CBS’ "Face the Nation" and Rubio was on Fox News Channel’s "Sunday Morning Futures."
Superville reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe, Lisa Mascaro and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.