Trump will skip inaugural; Dems weigh removal options

By George Cahlink, Geof Koss, Emma Dumain | 01/08/2021 01:38 PM EST

New barriers surrounding the Capitol following this week's riots. It will be there at least through Inauguration Day.

New barriers surrounding the Capitol following this week's riots. It will be there at least through Inauguration Day. Ken Cedeno/UPI/Newscom

President Trump announced today he won’t attend the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden after inciting a mob of supporters that tore through the Capitol earlier this week in a bid to overturn the results of the election.

"To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th," Trump tweeted this morning.

Trump is the first president in recent history not to attend the swearing in of his successor, a tradition long seen as showing the world a peaceful transfer of power.

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The president for weeks has denied the results of the election and only acknowledged for the first time yesterday — after growing calls for his removal — that Biden would be sworn in on Jan. 20.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) said this morning there is a silver lining in Trump’s deviation from the tradition of attending the swearing-in.

"I hope the American people know that he decided not to participate in a very important government function that every other president of the United States has done in their history, but we won’t be sidelined by his antics that day," she said.

Vice President Mike Pence, whom Democrats are pushing to help remove the president from office, is expected to attend the ceremonies.

Former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush are also expected to attend. Former President Carter will not be making the trip. It’s unclear whether Bill and Hillary Clinton will be there.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a letter to House members today that there is "growing momentum" for having Pence invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump but acknowledged she has yet to speak directly with the vice president and said Congress may be forced to act.

"If the president does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action," said Pelosi, who also said she has talked with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, about "preventing an unhinged president from using the nuclear codes."

Fifty-nine House Democrats wrote a letter today urging their leaders to call back the chamber as soon as Monday to "reckon with the assault on Democracy" resulting from the Jan. 6 riots.

They said they could take up proposals to impeach or censure Trump and consider legislation that would allow Congress to establish a special commission to invoke the 25th Amendment.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said on SiriusXM radio’s "The Joe Madison Show" that he supports Congress taking some sort of action regardless of whatever Pence decides to do.

"We don’t have to wait on Pence to make up his mind as to whether or not he would convene a meeting of the Cabinet and get the votes that are necessary to remove this man from office," Clyburn said. "What we need to be doing is pursuing articles of impeachment."

While he doubted Congress would be successful in evicting Trump prior to Jan. 20 given Senate Republicans’ unlikeliness to cooperate, especially given the narrow time frame, Clyburn stressed it was important for House Democrats to make Trump the first president "to be twice impeached."

Early media reports from a House Democratic caucus call on the issue indicated Pelosi would be discussing with Biden how to proceed.

GOP resistance

Any impeachment push would draw GOP resistance and face a high threshold in the Senate, where 66 votes are needed to remove the president from office.

In a series of Twitter posts this morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) cautioned against impeaching Trump again, arguing it is "time to heal and move on."

"If Speaker Pelosi pushes impeachment in the last days of the Trump presidency it will do more harm than good. I’m hopeful President-elect Biden sees the damage that would be done from such action," Graham wrote.

"Any attempt to impeach President Trump would not only be unsuccessful in the Senate but would be a dangerous precedent for the future of the presidency."

Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.), who voted against GOP objections to Biden’s win, today questioned the wisdom of pursuing impeachment at this late hour in Trump’s presidency.

"I’d like to see what their thought process is," Hill said on CNN this morning. "I don’t know that we need more brinkmanship here in the final 12 days of the Trump administration. I think we need more leadership."

Referencing news reports that Biden will stay focused on the transition and stay out of the impeachment debate, Hill said lawmakers should focus on ensuring a safe handing over of power.

"Shouldn’t we be putting the attention on the future and having a safe, sound and appropriate transfer of power at noon on Jan. 20, instead of calling all the attention into the passions of the House over this next 12 days to pursue another impeachment?" Hill said. "I don’t know that that’s the wisest counsel that the speaker is received."

‘Something … untoward’

Concerns over the security breakdown continued to reverberate across Capitol Hill.

Clyburn said he wanted law enforcement held accountable for letting the situation get out of control, which led to ransacked offices, destruction of property and loss of life.

A U.S. Capitol Police officer died last night after a rioter hit him in the head with a fire extinguisher. A rioter was shot dead after a confrontation with police near the House chamber.

Clyburn strongly suggested he believed Capitol law enforcement might have been "complicit" in allowing rioters into restricted or little-known parts of the building, wondering aloud how outsiders knew how to find his tucked-away office suite.

"My office, if you don’t know where it is, you ain’t going to find it by accident," Clyburn said. "And the one place where my name is on the door, that office is right off Statuary Hall. They didn’t touch that door, but they went into that other place where I do most of my work, they showed up harassing my staff. How did they know to go there? How come they didn’t go where my name was? … Something else was going on untoward here."

Drew Hammill, a top aide for Pelosi, said a laptop was taken from her office but it was only used for presentations.

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