Faced with removal and prosecution, Trump owns up defeat, slams Capitol raiders

Five people died in the hours-long assault on the seat of US democracy that had forced Vice-President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the certification process, his family, who were also there, and lawmakers to take shelter wherever they could behind furniture and under desks.
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally on Januar 6.(AP file)
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally on Januar 6.(AP file)
Updated on Jan 08, 2021 11:29 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj , edited by Vinod Janardhanan

President Donald Trump on Thursday finally acknowledged publicly that a “new administration” will be taking office shortly as calls grew for his removal from office and a top federal prosecutor said the president’s incendiary remarks to his supporters before they stormed the Capitol will be a part of an investigation into this shocking attack on US democracy.

“Now, Congress has certified the results, and new administration will be inaugurated on January 20. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth orderly and seamless transition of power,” Trump said in a two-and-a-half-minute video in which he also condemned the attack on Congress, essentially to distance himself from his supporters who carried it out to prevent it from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. On Wednesday, he had told them he loved them.

Five people died in the hours-long assault on the seat of US democracy that had forced Vice-President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the certification process, his family, who were also there, and lawmakers to take shelter wherever they could behind furniture and under desks.

Badly outnumbered, security personnel had withdrawn, yielding full control of the premises to the rioters clad in Trump campaign gear and carrying his flag, and those of the confederacy.

The outgoing president’s long overdue acknowledgement of his electoral defeat came hours after his supporters’ failed attempt to prevent the certification of Biden’s election, and amidst calls from top Democrats for his ouster, purely a punitive move to end his term just 12 days short of its expiry on January 20.

“I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the vice president to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th amendment. If the vice-president and cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment. That is the overwhelming sentiment of my caucus - and the American people by the way,” Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives told reports on Capitol Hill.

She added: “By inciting sedition as he did yesterday, he must be removed for office. While there’s only 13 days left, any day could be a horror show for America.”

But Pence was elusive. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer complained to reporters separately he and Pelosi had tried to call Pence to tell him to invoke the 25th amendment of the American constitution, which empowers the cabinet to remove the president for being “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”. But the vice-president did not take their call as, it was reported later, he is not convinced of the judiciousness of the move given the chaos in the White House and the administration.

Trump’s role in the attack on Congress will be part of a sprawling investigation that is underway to identify and prosecute the rioters. Asked if federal agents and prosecutors will look at the incendiary statements by speakers at a rally Trump’s addressed shortly before the mob set forth for the Capitol, interim US attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, told reporters on a briefing call: “Yes, we are looking at all actors here, not only the people that went into the building, but… were there others that maybe assisted or facilitated or played some ancillary role in this. We will look at every actor and all criminal charges.”

Trump had explicitly incited participants at the rally to march to Congress, promising to walk along with them — which he didn’t — to cheer lawmakers speaking in support of his election fraud claims. “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women,” Trump had told his supporters, referring to the certification process. “And we’re probably not going to be cheering, so much for some of them because you never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, had called for a “trial by combat” at that rally. And the president’s eldest son, Don Trump Jr, had called for a “message (to be sent) to all the Republicans who have not been willing to actually fight, the people who did nothing to stop the steal”.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022