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‘There must be no violence’: Donald Trump releases video statement on Capitol riots after historic second impeachment

Donald Trump has released a video statement after he became the only president in US history to be impeached twice.

In a video released via the White House’s official Twitter account on Thursday, Mr Trump did not respond to the vote but “unequivocally” condemned the attack on the Capitol, stating: “No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence, no true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement or our great American flag.”

“If you do any of these things you are not supporting our movement, you are attacking it. And you are attacking our country,” Mr Trump said. 

“There has been reporting that additional demonstrations are being planned in the coming days … Every American has their voice heard in a respective and peaceful way, that is your First Amendment right, but I cannot emphasise that there must be no violence, no law-breaking, or no vandalism of any kind.”

Hours earlier, Mr Trump had issued a similar statement through the White House Press office calling for an end to future violence, which was read live on the House floor. 

“We know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, told her fellow politicians. “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

Mr Trump became the only United States president to be impeached twice after the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted 232 to 197 in favour of the resolution.

Ten Republican representatives joined Democrats in supporting Mr Trump’s second impeachment a week after he incited a deadly attack by his supporters on the Capitol building.

A pro-Trump mob swarmed the Capitol shortly after the Republican president delivered an incendiary speech to thousands of supporters and repeated false claims of an election stolen from him due to widespread voting fraud.

The House voted on a single article of impeachment formally charging Mr Trump with inciting insurrection.

The US House of Representatives debates the second impeachment of President Donald Trump.

The US House of Representatives debates the second impeachment of President Donald Trump.

US House of Representatives

But the Senate’s top Republican has rejected Democratic calls to reconvene the Senate for an immediate trial, all but ensuring Mr Trump will not be ousted before his term ends next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed on Thursday he would not reconvene the Senate, which is currently on recess, before its scheduled restart on 19 January – one day before President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration – stating there was no way a “fair or serious” trial could take place in that time. 

“Given the rules, procedures, and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachment trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-Elect Biden is sworn in next week,” he said. 

Reuters had earlier reported that Republican Senate leadership was discussing whether to initiate a trial as early as Friday, ahead of Mr Biden’s inauguration on 20 January.

Mr Trump’s supporters on 6 January breached the Capitol, sent politicians fleeing and left five dead in their wake, including a police officer.

Ms Pelosi said Mr Trump has engaged in a “war on democracy,” and that the “insurrectionists” and “domestic terrorists” who stormed the Capitol were “sent here by the president.”

No US president ever has been removed from office through impeachment. Three – Mr Trump in 2019, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868 – previously have been impeached by the House but were left in power by the Senate.

Republicans made speeches urging the House not to impeach Mr Trump in the interest in promoting national healing, with some accusing Democrats of recklessness.

Politicians remained on edge after last week’s violence, and large numbers of National Guard troops wearing fatigues and carrying rifles were stationed outside and inside the building.

Under the US Constitution, impeachment in the House triggers a trial in the Senate. Senator McConnell has said no trial could begin until the Senate was scheduled to be back in regular session on 19 January, only a day before Mr Biden is due to be sworn in.

‘Cancel the president’

Republican congressman Jim Jordan, a prominent Trump ally who led his party’s opposition to the first impeachment in 2019, accused Democrats of pursuing an impeachment drive that he said began soon after Mr Trump’s inauguration in 2016.

“Why? Politics and the fact that they want to cancel the president,” Mr Jordan said on the House floor.

Politicians delivered speeches on the House floor while wearing masks as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the US.

If President Trump is impeached, a two-thirds majority of the Republican-led Senate is needed to convict him, meaning at least 17 Republicans in the 100-member chamber would have to find him guilty.

If Mr Trump is removed from office before his term ends, Vice President Mike Pence would become president and fill out his term.

Mr Trump’s actions have weakened his grip over his party. While no Republican senators have said they would vote to convict, two – Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania – have called on Mr Trump to resign.

The House convened in the same chamber where politicians hid under chairs and donned gas masks last Thursday as rioters clashed with police in the halls of the Capitol after Trump urged supporters to march on the building.

Security was exceptionally tight as National Guard troops massed at the iconic Capitol ahead of Donald Trump's impeachment vote.

Security was exceptionally tight as National Guard troops massed at the iconic Capitol ahead of Donald Trump’s impeachment vote.

Getty

In a break from standard procedure, Republican leaders in the House have refrained from urging their members to vote against impeaching President Trump, saying it was a matter of individual conscience.

“Instead of moving forward as a unifying force, the majority in the House is choosing to divide us further,” Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole said on the House floor.

Mr Cole was one of 139 House Republicans who voted against certifying the election results hours after the violence.

“The president of the United States instigated an attempted coup in this country,” Democratic Representative Jim McGovern said on the House floor before a procedural vote on moving forward with impeachment. “People died. Everybody should be outraged. If this is not an impeachable offence, I don’t know what the hell is.”

Some Republicans called for the creation of a commission to study the events surrounding the siege as an alternative to impeachment.

The article of impeachment accused President Trump of “incitement of insurrection,” saying he provoked violence against the US government in a speech to thousands of supporters near the White House shortly before the Capitol siege. The article also cited Mr Trump’s 2 January phone call asking a Georgia official to “find” votes to overturn Mr Biden’s victory in the state.

During his 6 January speech, Mr Trump falsely claimed he had defeated Mr Biden, repeated unfounded allegations of widespread fraud and irregularities in a “rigged” election, told his supporters to “stop the steal,” “show strength,” “fight much harder” and use “very different rules” and promised to go with them to the Capitol, though he did not.

“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” President Trump told his supporters.

Democrats could also use an impeachment trial to push through a vote blocking Mr Trump from running for office again.

Only a simple Senate majority is needed to disqualify Mr Trump from future office, but there is disagreement among legal experts as to whether an impeachment conviction is required first.

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