Members of Congress and senators had not yet emerged from a Capitol lockdown caused by a mob of violent, rioting supporters of President Trump before key Democrats began calling for impeaching the president and consequences for politicians who egged on the violence.
Progressive members of the U.S. House, including congresswomen who are members of the expanding so-called Squad, were among the first to call for Congress to dole out swift punishment to Trump and other Republicans who have stoked the conditions that led to this moment.
U.S. Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D) became the first member of Maryland’s delegation to call for Trump’s impeachment, just before the House returned to work at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Around 2:30 p.m., U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted to let her supporters know she was safe, and that “Running for our lives as Members of Congress in the United States is really devastating and totally shocking.”
An hour-and-a-half later, the Minnesota Democrat’s shock shifted to indignation. Omar announced to her Twitter followers that she is drawing up Articles of Impeachment, just minutes after Trump released a video message on his own Twitter account.
Trump dug in on his false statements that the election was stolen from him and called for protesters to go home.
“Donald J. Trump should be impeached by the House of Representatives & removed from office by the United States Senate,” Omar wrote. “We can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath.”
Omar, through a spokesman, declined a request to comment later Wednesday.
The House impeached Trump in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate acquitted him in February 2020.
Soon after Omar’s tweet, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, member of House leadership, and a fellow member of the House Progressive Caucus with Omar, tweeted that he is circulating a letter to gain signatures and then send to Vice President Mike Pence.
Cicilline called for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which could allow a majority of the Cabinet to remove the president and install the vice president as acting president if Trump is deemed unfit to do his duty.
“Vice President Pence can help put down this attempted coup if he wants to,” Cicilline tweeted. “If he doesn’t, then Congress should go ahead and impeach the President.”
Cicilline, who said he was in lockdown, was not immediately available for an interview.
Rep. Diana L. DeGette (D-Colo.), who has spent two dozen years in Congress, went even further, calling for Trump’s arrest.
“President Trump instigated a violent attack on our government in an attempt to remain in power against the will of the people,” she said in a statement. “He should be impeached, removed from office and arrested immediately.”
Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) appeared to signal on Twitter Wednesday afternoon that she, too, would support removal or impeachment. She wrote that Trump has been encouraging these “domestic terrorists” since before the election.
“He could have stopped them at any moment, but instead he whipped them into a frenzy and sicced them on the Capitol,” she wrote. “The Cabinet must remove him today or the House must impeach.”
Other Democratic members joined in: Newly elected U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia also tweeted that Trump bore “personal responsibility” and should be impeached; U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, a Californian, tweeted that Trump had “encouraged and incited the violence,” and that “he deserves to be impeached tomorrow and should be barred from ever holding federal office again.”
As the sun fell, more and more Democrats began calling for immediate action to impeach Trump.
Brown became the first member of the Maryland delegation to join the call. In a statement, he called Trump “a rogue Commander in Chief who represents a credible threat to our national security, our democratic institutions and the people of this country.”
“We cannot have a man actively orchestrating sedition leading our nation’s government for another fourteen days, let alone giving orders to our men and women in uniform,” Brown said. “As the world’s most powerful democracy, we cannot turn a blind eye to President Trump’s dangerous behavior to undermine our Constitution and subvert the will of the American people. We cannot wait until January 20th — Donald Trump is a subversive and must be removed from office.”
On late Wednesday evening, Maryland Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) joined the chorus of those urging Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
“While these offenses are impeachable, I believe the ability of the Vice President and cabinet secretaries to invoke the 25th Amendment — which would deem the President unable to discharge of his duties — is more expedient and appropriate at this time,” Ruppersberger said in a statement.
University of Maryland Law professor Michael Greenberger said Trump and his advisers could face possible federal indictment.
“Make no mistake — inciting an insurrection is a federal criminal act,” he said.
In an interview, Rep. David J. Trone (D-Md.) said that as a practical matter, there was not enough time to launch a lengthy impeachment process. He expressed confidence that prosecutors would eventually be able to mete out justice to Trump on a variety of fronts.
“My instinct is: I’d love to impeach him, but I’m afraid the time is short and that impeachment might lead to even more violence, and we’ve got to think about our police,” he said. “We’ve got to think about our citizens. That’s a tough battle.”
President-elect Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated on Jan. 20, so Congress would have just two weeks to act on impeachment, a process that in the past has stretched over months.
Just focusing on Trump was not enough for newly seated U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), however.
She tweeted the image of a draft resolution that calls on House committees to “investigate, and issue a report on, whether those Members of the House who have sought to overturn the 2020 Presidential election have violated their oath of office to uphold the Constitution or the Rules of the House of Representatives, and should face sanction, including removal from the House of Representatives.”
“I believe the Republican members of Congress who have incited this domestic terror attack through their attempts to overturn the election must face consequences. They have broken their sacred Oath of Office,” she tweeted out to her followers. “I will be introducing a resolution calling for their expulsion.”
Other Democrats expressed their support for Bush’s effort, including New York U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones and New Jersey U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, who both indicated they would support the drive to expel some of their colleagues from Congress.
Still, for many, more immediate concerns were at hand: The mob had interrupted the counting of electoral votes to certify the election, and many members expressed that it is imperative for them to get back to work and continue their constitutional duty.
Among them was Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat who said in a short interview that he is calm and determined to return to the House chamber and ratify the election.
“I’m itching to get all clear and finish electoral ballot counting,” he said. “We cannot be deterred by this intimidation or violence. Today the truth will prevail, at last.”
Daniel Newhauser is a Washington-based freelance reporter.
Maryland Matters reporters Bruce DePuyt and Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.