Democrats in the House of Representatives are expected to introduce articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump tomorrow and vote as soon as Wednesday (NZ time). Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has sent a letter to her Democratic colleagues saying that they will proceed with impeachment.
Pelosi said the House will act with solemnity but also urgency with just days remaining before Trump is to leave office on January 20. "In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both," she said.
"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."
Pelosi said that first the House will try to force Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to oust Trump by invoking the 25th Amendment. House leaders will work to swiftly pass legislation to do that. If it is blocked by Republicans, which is almost certain, the House will convene for another vote the following day.
Pelosi explained that the resolution calls on Pence "to convene and mobilise the Cabinet to activate the 25th Amendment to declare the President incapable of executing the duties of his office". Under the procedure, the Vice President "would immediately exercise powers as acting President," she wrote.
Pence is not expected to take the lead in forcing Trump out, although talk has been circulating about the 25th Amendment option for days in Washington.
Next, the House would move to consider the articles of impeachment, Pelosi said. The day for an impeachment vote was not set.
The Democrats' impeachment strategy would be to condemn Trump's incitement of the insurrection at the US Capitol but delay an impeachment trial in the Senate for 100 days. That would allow the incoming Biden administration to focus on other priorities as soon as he is inaugurated.
Representative Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat and a top Biden ally, laid out the strategy in a recent CNN interview. "Let's give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running," Clyburn said.
Pressure is mounting for Trump to leave office amid alarming concerns of more unrest ahead of Biden's inauguration. Two Republicans now want Trump to resign immediately.
Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania has joined Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in calling for Trump to "resign and go away as soon as possible".
"I think the President has disqualified himself from ever, certainly, serving in office again," Toomey said. "I don't think he is electable in any way."
Murkowski, who has long voiced her exasperation with Trump's conduct in office, said that Trump simply "needs to get out". A third Republican, Senator Roy Blunt, did not go that far, but warned Trump to be "very careful" in his final days in office.
House leaders, furious after the insurrection at the US Capitol, appear determined to act despite the short timeline.
Late Saturday (US time), Pelosi convened a conference call with her leadership team and 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".
"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."
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.
The Senate was set to be split evenly at 50-50, but under Democratic control once Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and the two Democrats who won Georgia's Senate runoff elections last week are sworn in. Harris would be the Senate's tie-breaking vote.
House Democrats were considering two possible packages of votes: one on setting up a commission to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office and one on the impeachment charge of abuse of power.
While many have criticised Trump, Republicans have said that impeachment would be further divide an already fractured country.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio said that instead of coming together, Democrats want to "talk about ridiculous things like 'Let's impeach a president'" with just days left in office.
Still, some Republicans might be supportive.
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse said he would take a look at any articles that the House sent over. Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger, a frequent Trump critic, said he would "vote the right way" if the matter were put in front of him.
The Democratic effort to stamp Trump's presidential record — for the second time — with the indelible mark of impeachment has advanced rapidly since the riot.
The impeachment articles, if passed by the House, could then be transmitted to the Senate for a trial, with senators acting as jurors 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 US president had 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 had long viewed Trump as unfit for office, Biden on Friday sidestepped a question about impeachment, saying what Congress did "is for them to decide".