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President Donald Trump rejected any responsibility for the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters last week, calling remarks he delivered during a rally outside the White House before the attack “totally appropriate” and warning lawmakers not to impeach him a second time.
Trump on Tuesday said it’s “absolutely ridiculous” that the House is moving rapidly to impeach him for inciting an insurrection, saying the effort is causing “tremendous anger.”
The president defended remarks he made at a rally at the Ellipse that preceded the Jan. 6 riot, which left five people dead including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.
“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate, and if you look at what other people have said, politicians at a high level, about the riots during the summer, the horrible riots in Portland and Seattle and various other places, that was a real problem, what they said,” Trump said as he left for Texas to tour the border wall with Mexico.
Trump’s lack of remorse is likely to further motivate Democrats -- and a handful Republicans -- in Congress who are intent on ousting him over his role in inciting the violence.
The House is set to issue a largely futile ultimatum to Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet on Tuesday, demanding they invoke constitutional authority to remove Trump from office. It’s the first meeting of the House since the riot last Wednesday.
Pence is highly unlikely to take such action. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to go through with a vote on a single article of impeachment as soon as Wednesday. Asked when Trump’s impeachment might be sent to the Senate for a trial, Pelosi declined to specify.
“I’m not going to talk about that,” she told reporters at the Capitol. “One step at a time”
Trump’s defiance could also put the president’s Republican defenders in a tough spot, forcing them to answer for his latest comments about a riot that endangered their own safety.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday told colleagues he remains opposed to impeaching Trump, but is open to lesser options like a censure. He told fellow House Republicans on a conference call on Monday that Trump had acknowledged having some responsibility for the riot, according to a person familiar with the matter. Publicly, Trump has done no such thing.
The president had been largely silent after social media companies banned him last week from their platforms over concern his posts would incite further violence.
“It’s really a terrible thing they’re doing,” Trump told reporters Tuesday at the White House before boarding the presidential helicopter to Joint Base Andrews outside Washington. He added, “We want no violence. Never violence.”
But the president also slammed social media companies, saying “Big Tech has made a terrible mistake” in banning him from social media.
Democrats and several Republicans have decried Trump’s role in inciting a mob that went on to force its way into the Capitol in a chaotic scene that disrupted the counting of Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden.
Trump faces one charge -- incitement of insurrection -- in the impeachment resolution the House is expected to begin debating on Wednesday. Biden is scheduled to be inaugurated just one week later on Jan. 20.
Lawmakers have zeroed in on an hour-long speech Trump delivered to a “Save America” rally where his supporters demonstrated against Congress’ certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory, which the president has baselessly claimed was tainted by fraud.
Trump urged his supporters to march to the Capitol and “fight much harder” against his political opponents.
“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness,” the president said. “You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
Should Trump be impeached, he would be the first U.S. president to have drawn the rebuke twice. The historic events are unfolding as the nation braces for more violence surrounding Biden’s inauguration.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned that armed protesters could take to the streets in Washington and in several states beginning in the days ahead of the inauguration. The Washington Monument was closed to the public as a safety precaution and thousands of National Guard troops were mobilized to protect the capital.
“Everyone involved in this assault must be held accountable, beginning with the man most responsible for it – President Donald Trump,” Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and co-author of the impeachment resolution, said in a statement. “We cannot begin to heal the soul of this country without first delivering swift justice to all its enemies – foreign and domestic.”
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