WASHINGTON - Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives pushed ahead Sunday to impeach Donald Trump in the waning days of his presidency, contending he should be held accountable for last Wednesday's mayhem that left five people dead at the U.S. Capitol as a mob of Trump supporters stormed past police into the building.
No final decision has been made, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could introduce an impeachment resolution on Monday accusing Trump of inciting an insurrection in a futile effort to block Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote in favor of President-elect Joe Biden.
Biden has taken a hands-off stance on the impeachment move against the outgoing president who has yet to concede the election, even though Trump has acknowledged there will be a "new administration" in Washington come January 20.
"In 10 days, we move forward and rebuild - together," Biden said Sunday on Twitter.
One of Pelosi's top congressional lieutenants, Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, told the "Fox News Sunday" show that the House could vote on impeachment within days even though Trump's four-year presidency ends next week with the inauguration of Biden, a long-time Washington political fixture who defeated Trump in the November election, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Given that Trump will be out of office within days, there is little likelihood that the Senate would hold an impeachment trial before his term ends, although it could still do so after he leaves, and if it convicts him, keep him from ever holding office again.
But Clyburn said the urgency to impeach Trump for a second time is paramount, separate from the Senate acquittal of him last February on allegations he pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden in advance of the November election.
"Our business is to impeach, basically an indictment," Clyburn said. "Our vote is our voice, and our vote is a voice of disapproval."
Clyburn said he recognizes that starting the impeachment process against Trump could draw attention away from the confirmation of Biden's Cabinet choices in the Senate, the incoming president's effort to boost the flagging U.S. economy and to ramp up vaccinations of Americans against the coronavirus that now has killed more than 372,000 people in the U.S. and infected 22.1 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
But Clyburn argued, "It does not mean the House shouldn't do its business. Let's do the people's work and then the Senate will decide" on how to proceed with a prospective impeachment trial. In a separate interview with CNN, he suggested the House could vote to impeach Trump and then delay sending the case to the Senate for trial until after the new president's first 100 days in office.
Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a long-time Trump critic, said she would introduce two articles of impeachment against Trump on Monday, "abuse of power" for pressuring election officials in the southern state of Georgia to overturn Biden's narrow win in the state and "incitement of violence for orchestrating an attempted coup against our country" with the storming of the Capitol.
At least 180 House Democrats have signed on to the impeachment effort, but that is short of the 218 majority in the 435-member House and no Republicans have voiced their support for it.
About two-thirds of the House Republican caucus voted last week against accepting the election results in the eastern state of Pennsylvania, one of a half dozen states Biden narrowly won to capture the presidency.
Trump and the White House have remained silent on the possible impeachment. The White House says Trump is scheduled to visit Texas on Tuesday to highlight his administration's work on a border wall separating the U.S. from Mexico.
Republican Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and head of the committee planning Biden's inauguration, told CBS News's "Face the Nation" show, that Trump's impeachment and removal from office "clearly is not going to happen between now and the last day he is in office."
Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, have called for Trump to resign, but the president has told advisers he does not plan to do so.
"I think at this point, with just a few days left, it's the best path forward, the best way to get this person in the rear-view mirror for us," Toomey said Sunday on CNN, in calling for Trump to quit voluntarily. "That could happen immediately. I'm not optimistic it will."
"I don't think there's any doubt, none in my mind, that the president's behavior after the election was wildly different than his behavior before," Toomey said. "He descended into a level of madness and engaged in activity that was just absolutely unthinkable and unforgivable."
Former acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who quit as Trump's special envoy to Northern Ireland last week to protest Trump's urging supporters to march to the Capitol, told Fox News that "something is very different" in Trump's actions in the post-election period as he faces defeat.
He said that Trump can claim successes during his presidency, but said, "All of that changed on Wednesday and I don't know why." Mulvaney once was a House member before joining the Trump administration but said that if he were now facing a vote to impeach Trump, he would have to consider it "really, really seriously."
Meanwhile, some U.S. diplomats have condemned Trump's incitement of the assault on the Capitol and called for use of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to declare him as incapacitated and remove him from office.
The overseas envoys, using what is known as the State Department's "dissent channel," said they feared last Wednesday's siege may badly undermine U.S. credibility abroad to promote democratic values.
"Failing to publicly hold the president to account would further damage our democracy and our ability to effectively accomplish our foreign policy goals abroad," said one of the cables that was sent to State Department leadership.
Dozens of Trump supporters who barged past police into the Capitol, ransacked congressional offices and skirmished with authorities have already been identified, often through their social media posts, and arrested.
Police are trying to determine how one policeman was killed, possibly hit with a fire extinguisher in a melee with Trump supporters. No one has been arrested in his death.