A second Republican senator called for Donald Trump’s resignation on Sunday, accusing the president of descending into “madness” over his incitement of a mob of supporters that ransacked the US Capitol in Wednesday’s deadly riots.
The Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey spoke as Democrats prepared to introduce articles of impeachment against Trump in the House of Representatives on Monday, and a new poll revealed a majority of Americans believes he should be removed from power before Joe Biden is sworn in to replace him.
“The president’s behaviour after the election was wildly different than his behaviour before he descended into a level of madness and engaged in activity that was just absolutely unthinkable and unforgivable,” Toomey told CNN’s State of the Union, tying Trump’s goading of the mob to months of false claims of election fraud.
“The behaviour was outrageous. And there should be accountability. I think the president has disqualified himself from ever serving in office again.”
A growing list of Republicans have slammed Trump for encouraging the insurrection. Toomey echoed calls by Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski for the president to stand down.
“It’s the best path forward, the best way to get this person in the rearview mirror,” he said. “There’s no question there’s a lot of a very objectionable behaviour over the way. I just think that what we witnessed this week is orders of magnitude more egregious than anything we’ve ever seen from Donald Trump before.”
Toomey said he doubted there was time before Trump leaves office on 20 January for a Senate impeachment trial, even if the House votes for it this week. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said that is the case.
But James Clyburn, the House majority whip, suggested Democrats were in no rush to send articles to the upper chamber, and might wait until after the new administration had confirmed cabinet picks through the Senate confirmation process.
“Let’s give President Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running and maybe we’ll send the articles sometime after that,” he told CNN. “[House speaker Nancy Pelosi] will make the determination as to when is the best time to get that vote and get the managers upon it and move that legislation over to the senate.”
In the survey by ABC News and Ipsos, 56% of respondents said Trump should be removed before inauguration day, 20 January. A higher number, 67%, held Trump responsible for the violence at the US Capitol that left five dead.
At the Ellipse near the White House on Wednesday, the president told supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn an election defeat he claims without evidence was caused by voter fraud. Shortly after that a mob broke into the Capitol, smashing, stealing and confronting law enforcement.
Multiple arrests have been made, including of men who brought firearms and explosives to Washington. Rioters were reportedly seen with handcuffs, indicating plans to kidnap lawmakers. Outside, protesters brandished a gallows and noose. Inside, chants of “Hang Mike Pence” were heard, directed at the vice-president who was presiding over the electoral college process.
House Democrats are prepared to introduce articles of impeachment on Monday, accusing Trump of having “gravely endangered the security of the United States” and its institutions”. It will be Trump’s second impeachment. He survived the first, over approaches to Ukraine for dirt on political rivals, when he was acquitted by a Republican-held Senate last year.
No president has been removed from office via impeachment. Nor has any president been impeached twice. The president is reported to be preparing his legal defence.
Attempts to invoke the 25th amendment to the US constitution, which provides for the removal of a president deemed incapable and his replacement by the vice-president, seem sure not to succeed.
Some Republicans have called for Trump to resign in favour of Pence, thereby echoing Richard Nixon’s decision to hand power to Gerald Ford in 1974. Trump and Pence have reportedly not spoken since the Capitol riot. Such a step also seems unlikely.
Two-thirds of the Senate must vote for a president to be impeached and removed. Though Murkowski of Alaska has said Trump should go, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska has also indicated support for impeachment, such a majority seems unlikely.
If Trump does not pardon himself – a move which would imply guilt and may not work anyway – or gain a pardon from a successor, he will be vulnerable to federal prosecution after leaving office. State investigations are not subject to any pardon.
In the ABC-Ipsos poll, 94% of respondents who said they were Democrats but only 13% of Republicans supported Trump’s removal. A majority of independents, 58%, also said he should go. Asked if they trusted Biden to protect US democracy, 94% of Democrats said they did. But in a sign of the partisan division which four years of Trump have only deepened, only 14% of Republicans agreed.
Speaking to the Guardian on Saturday, Trump’s niece, the psychologist and author Mary Trump, pointed to the political price Republicans may pay for inaction.
“If they don’t vote to convict him,” she said, “they will own this disaster for ever. It will burn them down.
“In less than two weeks, [Trump] won’t have the Oval Office to protect him from lawsuits, bankruptcies and criminal indictments. I don’t know what he’s going to do, but we need to understand he’s capable of doing anything. And the clock is ticking.”
House speaker Nancy Pelosi this week sought assurances from the head of the US military that Trump would not have access to the nuclear codes.
“This is not a time to deliberate,” Mary Trump said. “It’s time to act quickly.”