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After day of resignations and calls for his ouster, Trump changes tune, promises transfer of power

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 7, 2021

Three people stand and wave flags above morning traffic Thursday from a pedestrian overpass near the Capitol in Olympia. The day before, supporters of President Donald Trump protested in Olympia against the counting of electoral votes in Washington, D.C., to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.  (Associated Press)
Three people stand and wave flags above morning traffic Thursday from a pedestrian overpass near the Capitol in Olympia. The day before, supporters of President Donald Trump protested in Olympia against the counting of electoral votes in Washington, D.C., to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. (Associated Press)
By Laurel Demkovich and Orion Donovan-Smith The Spokesman-Review

WASHINGTON – Amid a wave of resignations and growing calls for his removal from office, President Donald Trump released a video Thursday evening acknowledging the incoming Biden administration and calling for calm a day after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to violently halt his departure.

In stilted language that contrasted sharply with his months of baseless allegations that the election was stolen from him, Trump promised “a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”

A day earlier, the outgoing commander in chief encouraged a rally of his supporters to march to the Capitol and “take back our country” while roughly half of congressional Republicans heeded his calls to object to the Electoral College results. The pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol in a riot that left lawmakers locked in their offices and five people dead.

“This moment calls for healing and reconciliation,” Trump said in the video. “We must revitalize the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that bind us together as one national family.”

The announcement came toward the end of a day that saw Trump’s critics in Congress, including all nine Washington Democrats, endorse the idea of impeaching the president for the second time in 12 months or using a constitutional provision to remove him from office.

Several members of Trump’s administration resigned in protest throughout the day, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said she was “deeply troubled” by Wednesday’s events.

It was a largely symbolic gesture with less than two weeks left in his presidency after the officials had stood by through years of the president trumpeting debunked conspiracy theories and refusing to condemn right-wing extremists.

The Democratic members of Washington’s congressional delegation and Gov. Jay Inslee joined other Democrats nationally in calling for Trump’s Cabinet to remove him from office following Wednesday’s siege of the Capitol.

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1967 in the wake of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, allows a vice president to replace a president with the agreement of a majority of the president’s Cabinet and a two-thirds majority of both the House and Senate.

Inslee told reporters in an Associated Press Legislative Preview on Thursday that Trump needs to be removed “by any legal means necessary,” citing both the 25th Amendment and impeachment.

“We cannot abide the current risk to our security and freedom,” Inslee said. “I commend the members of Congress who are trying to move in that direction.”

A few congressional Republicans nationwide have expressed openness to the Cabinet removing Trump, but Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo said Thursday that would be a mistake.

“The country is too divided now, and invoking the 25th Amendment with less than two weeks left in this Administration would only make matters worse,” Crapo said in a statement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the Democratic-majority House was prepared to impeach Trump for a second time, nearly a year after lawmakers impeached him for charges related to asking for foreign interference in the November election. The Senate acquitted the president last year and GOP senators have not indicated that they would convict him after another impeachment.

Speaking Thursday along with Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who will become Senate majority leader after Democrats won twin runoff elections in Georgia this week, Pelosi said Trump directing his supporters to the Capitol constituted sedition.

“In calling for this seditious act, the president has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people,” Pelosi said. “While it’s only 13 days left, any day can be a horror show for America.”

Invoking the 25th Amendment requires Pence and a majority of the Cabinet to vote to remove Trump from office due to his inability to “discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Many have said Wednesday’s U.S. Capitol siege makes for a dangerous situation in the next two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

Both Washington senators and all seven Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Washington – Suzan DelBene, Pramila Jayapal, Derek Kilmer, Rick Larsen, Kim Schrier, Adam Smith and Marilyn Strickland – also have called for Trump’s removal from office through the 25th Amendment.

“The most immediate way to ensure the President is prevented from causing further harm in coming days is to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him from office,” Sen. Patty Murray said in a statement. “As history watches, I urge Vice President Pence and the President’s Cabinet to put country before party and act.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell released a statement Thursday afternoon supporting the effort to remove Trump from office through the 25th Amendment or impeachment.

“I supported impeaching the President before for his misuse of his office,” Cantwell said. “And I will support impeachment again for abusing power and attempting to interfere in the election results in Georgia.”

Jayapal tweeted her support for using the 25th Amendment.

“We must hold the man who incited today’s dangerous assault on America fully accountable,” she said.

Strickland also joined the call, labeling Trump as “not only unfit to serve, but also unstable.”

Inslee also called on the Republican Party to do “some serious soul searching” and stand up against those saying the election results are fraudulent.

“It’s the heart of this violence,” he said.

Laurel Demkovich and Orion Donovan-Smith's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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