Donald Trump believes that ‘ANTIFA people’ were behind Wednesday’s riot, he told the most senior Republican in the House, but does accept some blame for the unrest that killed five people.
Kevin McCarthy, the fiercely loyal House Minority Leader, told House Republicans on Monday that Trump bears some blame for last week’s deadly Capitol riots and has accepted some responsibility, Politico reported, citing four Republican sources on a private call.
Trump has not publicly acknowledged any responsibility for the attack, which unfolded after he staged a rally on Wednesday and called on his supporters to ‘fight’ the election result and ‘persuade’ Republicans not to certify Joe Biden‘s victory.
The ensuing chaos at the Capitol resulted in the deaths of four rioters and one Capitol Police officer; dozens of injuries; and extensive damage throughout the ransacked building.
McCarthy strongly pushed back against Trump’s claim that the rioters were Left-wing agitators intent on discrediting Trump and his followers – a claim made by staunchly pro-Trump congressman Matt Gaetz, and repeated by Fox News’ anchors and pundits.
‘It’s not ANTIFA, it’s MAGA,’ McCarthy replied, according to Axios.
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Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader, told Trump that he was wrong to blame ANTIFA for Wednesday’s chaos
Trump on Wednesday had told his supporters they needed to ‘fight’ to overturn the election
People shelter in the House gallery as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday
‘I know. I was there,’ McCarthy said, according to a White House official and another source familiar with the call.
McCarthy later reiterated his position during a two-hour meeting with Republicans in the House, telling them there is ‘undisputedly’ no evidence that people linked to ANTIFA participated in the insurrection.
The theory that anti-Trump agitators stirred up the unrest has been decisively debunked. Those arrested so far for their part in the riots have in many cases a long and public history of supporting the president: none of those detained has been a supporter of ANTIFA.
Trump, during the tense 30 minute conversation with McCarthy on Monday morning, also continued to insist that the election had been stolen from him.
McCarthy, exasperated, told him: ‘Stop it. It’s over. The election is over.’
After Trump told his supporters to march down Pennsylvania Avenue, he retreated to the White House to watch it on TV
Capitol Police were woefully unprepared to meet the mob which marched on Trump’s orders
The rioters easily barged past the Capitol Police and stormed the building
The mob overran the Capitol Police shortly after Trump urged them to ‘fight’ on his behalf
Police try to hold back protesters pushing into a doorway at the Capitol on Wednesday
WHAT DOES THE 25TH AMENDMENT SAY? CAN TRUMP’S CABINET REALLY TOPPLE HIM?
The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution deals with presidential authority in the event of death or removal from office, and was ratified in 1967, in the wake of John F Kennedy’s assassination.
What does the 25th Amendment say?
It is in four sections, all dealing with the president leaving office during his or her elected term.
The first section states that the vice president takes over the Oval Office if the president dies or resigns – or is removed – something which the original Constitution did not clearly state.
Presidents of course can be removed by impeachment, a feature of the constitution from the start. They can also be removed through the 25th Amendment – of which more below.
Section II states that if the vice president dies, or resigns – or is fired – both the House and Senate have to confirm a new vice president. Until 1967, presidents could change vice presidents mid-term on their own if they got the vice president to agree to resign – not something that actually happened, but which was possible in principle.
Section III makes clear that a president can temporarily delegate his powers to the vice president, and later reclaim them when he – or she – is capable of serving. This is most often invoked if a president is under the influence of surgical anesthetic for a short period of time.
Section IV is the amendment’s most controversial part: it describes how the president can be removed from office if he is incapacitated and does not leave on his own.
The vice president and ‘a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide’ must write to both the president pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, saying that ‘the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.’
The term principal officers of the executive departments would normally mean the cabinet secretaries.
So at least eight of the president’s 15 most senior Cabinet members together with the vice president must agree that a president should be removed before any plan can move forward.
Notifying the House Speaker and the Senate president pro tempore is the act that immediately elevates the vice president to an ‘acting president’ role.
The deposed president can contest the claim, giving the leaders of the bloodless coup four days to re-assert their claims to the House and Senate.
Congress then has two days to convene – unless it is already in session – and another 21 days to vote on whether the president is incapable of serving. A two-thirds majority in both houses is required to make that determination.
As soon as there is a vote with a two-thirds majority, the president loses his powers and is removed, and the vice president stops acting and is sworn in as president.
But if 21 days of debate and votes ends without a two-thirds majority, the president gets back his powers.
What could happen to trigger the 25th Amendment?
Vice President Mike Pence and eight of the 15 ‘principal’ Cabinet members would have to agree to notify Congress that President Donald Trump was incapable of running the country.
That group is made up of the Secretary of State, Treasury Secretary, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Interior Secretary, Agriculture Secretary, Commerce Secretary, Labor Secretary, Health and Human Services Secretary, Transportation Secretary, Energy Secretary , Education Secretary, Veterans Affairs Secretary and Homeland Security Secretary.
Their formal notification would go to the House Speaker and, in the senate, to the ‘president pro tempore’, the Senate’s most senior member. As soon as the letter is sent, Pence would become ‘acting president.’
Alternatively, Congress could set up its own mechanism to decide if he is fit for office – maybe a commission, or a joint committee. Pence would still have to agree with its conclusion and then write formally to the Speaker and president pro tempore.
Or another possibility is that the pool of ‘principal officers’ is considered to be bigger than the 15 and a majority of that group call Trump incapable.
What if Trump does not agree?
If Trump claims he is capable of holding office, he would write to the House Speaker and the president pro tempore of the Senate within four days, setting up three weeks of intense debate in both houses of Congress.
Trump would be removed from office if both two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate agreed with Pence and his cabal.
If either of both chambers fell short of that mark, Trump would retain his powers and likely embark on a wholesale housecleaning, firing Pence and replacing disloyal Cabinet members.
Are there any loopholes?
The 25th Amendment allows Congress to appoint its own panel to evaluate the president instead of relying on the Cabinet – the men and women who work most closely with Trump – to decide on a course of action.
It specifies that some ‘other body as Congress may by law provide’ could play that role, but Pence would still need to agree with any finding that the president is incapable of discharging his duties.
That commission could hypothetically include anyone from presidential historians to psychiatrists, entrusted to assess the president’s fitness for office.
Another loophole is that it does not spell out that the Cabinet is needed to agree, but says that the ‘principal officers’ of the departments are needed. That term is undefined in the constitution. In some departments legislation appears to name not just the secretary but deputies and even undersecretaries as ‘principal officers’, so many more people could be called in to the assessment of Trump’s fitness.
But Trump’s cabinet has a swathe of ‘acting’ cabinet officer – and it is unclear if they could therefore take part in removing him.
Could Trump fire Pence if he rebelled?
No. The vice president can resign or be impeached and removed – but he does not serve at the pleasure of the president.
Is there any precedent for this?
No. Only Section III, the voluntary surrender of presidential powers, has ever been used – and only very briefly.
In December 1978, President Jimmy Carter thought about invoking Section III when he was contemplating a surgical procedure to remove hemorrhoids.
Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both voluntarily relinquished their powers while undergoing procedures under anesthetic.
Section IV has also never been invoked, although there have been claims that Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff Donald Regan told his successor, Howard Baker, in 1987 that he should be prepared to invoke it because Reagan was inattentive and inept.
The PBS documentary ‘American Experience’ recounts how Baker and his team watched Reagan closely for signs of incapacity during their first meeting and decided he was in perfect command of himself.
McCarthy told Trump that he believes the president should call Biden and continue the tradition of meeting with him for a handover, prior to the inauguration.
He also said Trump should follow tradition and leave a welcome letter in the Resolute Desk for his successor.
Trump said he had not yet decided whether to do so.
Democrats are now poised to impeach Trump this week for ‘inciting an insurrection.’
Some Republicans are expected to join Democrats in the vote to impeach Trump, but the U.S. Senate is unlikely to convene in time to consider the article before Trump leaves office at noon on Jan. 20.
In a memo to Republicans ahead of the call Monday, McCarthy told fellow lawmakers he does not back impeachment and suggested other measures, including censure of the president.
Republicans have been left deeply shaken and divided by Wednesday’s events.
Some, such as Senators Lisa Murkowski and Pat Toomey, have said they want the president to resign.
Others are furious that it took Trump nearly 24 hours to release a video condemning the violence and lawlessness that overtook Capitol Hill, and saw the Senate chamber broken into by the mob.
Trump supporters, egged on by the president himself, stormed the Capitol on Wednesday
The mostly maskless crowd flooded the halls of the Capitol with little resistance from Capitol Police
Rioters stormed the hallways of Congress plundering items and desecrating the building
Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress
A MAGA rioter who put his feet up on Nancy Pelosi ‘s desk was arrested along with a man who brought 11 Molotov cocktails, two handguns and an assault rifle to the Capitol on Wednesday
They were further incensed by a report in The Washington Post, published on Monday, which claimed that Trump was slow to respond to their appeals for help because he was too gripped by live television coverage of the carnage.
The paper reported that McCarthy contacted Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, while Senator Lindsey Graham phoned Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, to beg for help.
Kellyanne Conway, a longtime Trump confidante and former White House senior adviser, called an aide who she knew was standing at the president’s side.
Chris Christie, a close ally of the president’s and a former governor of New Jersey, said he’d spent the last 25 minutes trying to reach Trump directly.
‘The president caused this protest to occur; he’s the only one who can make it stop,’ Christie said.
‘The president has to come out and tell his supporters to leave the Capitol grounds and to allow the Congress to do their business peacefully. And anything short of that is an abdication of his responsibility.’
The president still failed to react.
‘He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,’ said one close Trump adviser.
‘If it’s TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.’
Trump watched with interest, pleased to see that his supporters were fighting so hard on his behalf, one close adviser told the paper.
Graham, one of Trump’s strongest supporters, admitted that the president was slow to realize the magnitude of the problem.
‘It took him awhile to appreciate the gravity of the situation,’ Graham told the paper.
‘The president saw these people as allies in his journey and sympathetic to the idea that the election was stolen.’
The MAGA mob holding down a cop and beating him with a baton on Wednesday in a shocking new video still. The officer shown has not been identified yet. It’s unclear if he is either of the cops who died. One was beaten with a fire extinguisher, according to police sources, and the other committed suicide after the riot
In a different incident from the riot, Capitol cop Eugene Goodman is seen running away from the mob, leading them from the Senate. He is being hailed as a hero
Donald Trump finally addressed his mob of supporters in a video Wednesday where he continued to claim the ‘election was stolen’
Truce! Trump speaks to Pence for the first time since last week’s Capitol riot drove a wedge between them – amid Pelosi’s bid to force the VP to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove the president
Mike Pence and Donald Trump met in the Oval Office on Monday night in a bid to repair their deeply-damaged relationship, which had been shredded by Wednesday’s rioting.
Trump on Wednesday unleashed his followers on Pence, accusing his vice president of failing to support him in his bid to overthrow the election.
A mob of MAGA-hatted rioters stormed the Capitol and roamed the corridors calling for Pence to hang. A gallows was even set up outside Congress.
One high-profile Trump supporter, attorney Lin Wood, praised by Trump for doing ‘good work’ on election fraud, called for Pence to face the firing squad.
Yet on Monday evening Pence, who reportedly did not speak to Trump during or after the insurrection, was at the White House for a meeting described by aides as cordial.
CNN reported that Pence and his aides wanted to show that the country was not in total disarray.
‘Need to telegraph to our allies and adversaries that we have a fully functioning government,’ the source said.
Mike Pence, pictured with Trump in the Oval Office in September, met the president Monday
John Roberts, Fox News’ White House correspondent, tweeted a summary of the meeting
Fox News’ White House correspondent, John Roberts, reported that a senior administration official said: ‘The two had a good conversation, discussing the week ahead and reflecting on the last four years of the administration’s work and accomplishments.’
The official said that the two men united in their contempt for the rioters, disowning those who stormed the Capitol.
‘They reiterated that those who broke the law and stormed the Capitol last week do not represent the America First movement backed by 75 million Americans, and pledged to continue the work on behalf of the country for the remainder of their term.’
Pence, once known for his loyalty and subservience to the president, angered Trump both with his refusal to overturn the election, and with his announcement that he will attend Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration. Trump has confirmed he will not be there.
Pence, a devout Christian, infuriated Trump with his position on the election, and Trump tried repeatedly to change his mind.
‘Do the courageous thing, Mike,’ Trump said in one meeting, The Washington Post reported.
‘It will be bad for you and for the country if you don’t,’ Trump said at another time, according to an official describing the meeting.
Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff, began readying for an inevitable clash between the two men, a person who talked to him told the paper, and never considered that Pence could please the president.
Trump was attempting to convince Pence right until Wednesday morning, it was reported.
‘The president could say, ‘Mike I want you to go fly to Asia,’ and he would do it, or ‘Mike, I want you take over the coronavirus task force,’ and he would do it, never questioned a thing,’ said the former official.
‘Pence would spend hours in the Oval. Pence would come in, he’d get his daily brief and then he’d get word of when the president would be coming into the Oval and then he’d go over there and they’d spend hours together.
‘For them to not speak anymore is a paradigm I just never would have imagined.’
The meeting, however, appeared to suggest that the pair were attempting to patch things up, and that Pence was not going to press ahead with the 25th Amendment.
On Sunday it was reported that he had not yet made up his mind, although it was ‘unlikely’ he would press to remove the president.
On Monday, before their meeting, Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats pressed ahead with the articles of impeachment.
Impeachment is scheduled for consideration at 9am Wednesday, if Trump refuses to resign and Pence won’t initiate other procedures to remove him.
The impeachment effort itself will dominate the final week of Trump’s presidency, and is almost certain to come to a historic result: the first time in history a president has been impeached twice.
After the House vote, the articles are expected to move immediately to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated a trial, presided over by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, likely won’t start until the upper chamber returns on January 19.
Trump can still be impeached after he has left office.
Trump supporters scaled the walls of the Capitol and broke in, for the first time since 1814
Congress staffers barricade themselves after Trump supporters stormed inside the US Capitol
Pence could certainly be forgiven for having little inclination to save Trump from the 25th Amendment.
While Pence was sheltering from the mob on Wednesday, Trump, at 2:24pm, tweeted: ‘Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!’
Trump was watching the storming of the Capitol live on television, and left it to Pence to call up the National Guard and secure the building, according to multiple reports. Trump on Sunday took credit for summoning the reinforcements.
McConnell was evacuated from the Capitol, but praised Pence for his actions.
‘Although the Vice President and I were not together during the evacuation, he personally got very involved and stayed in close contact with me as we worked to secure urgently needed resources to thwart the mob and I appreciate those efforts greatly,’ McConnell said in a statement to The Washington Post.
McConnell told others he was enraged with Trump and planned to never speak to him again.
Pence skipped his speech to the Republican National Committee meeting, scheduled for the next day, and did not come to the White House.
He returned on Friday.
White House aides have been shocked and saddened by Trump’s turning on Pence, The Washington Post reported.
One senior administration official described it as ‘unconscionable, even for the president.’
‘We’re very lucky that Mike Pence is a decent guy and rational and levelheaded,’ said Joe Grogan, the former head of the Domestic Policy Council under Trump.
He told the paper: ‘If he had been replaced by someone as nuts as the people who have been surrounding the president as the primary advice givers for the last few months, we could have had even more of a bloodbath.
‘Imagine what would have happened if Pence was devious and vile and didn’t stand up for the Constitution.’
The social media giant permanently banned Trump on Friday night, citing risks of ‘further incitement to violence’.
A screenshot shows that of 1.26am, over 14,400 Twitter users had used the phrase.
Twitter confirmed in a statement to Newsweek that it had moved to block the phrase because it violated rules on trending subjects.
‘We blocked the phrase and other variations of it from trending. We want trends to promote healthy discussions on Twitter. This means that at times, we may prevent certain content from trending,’ a spokesperson said.
‘As per our Help Center, there are Rules for trends – if we identify accounts that violate these rules, we’ll take enforcement action.’
The phrase was no longer trending later in the day and it does not appear on the Twitter Trending USA site, which tracks trending topics.
On Twitter’s Help Center, it has a rule to prevent violent threats against individuals as well as the glorification of violence.
The threatening phrase surfaced online in the wake of Wednesday’s riot where Trump supporters – among them white supremacists, QAnon fanatics and Proud Boys – violently broke into the Capitol building in an attack that left five people dead.
Horrifying footage from the scene of the siege shows a mob chanting ‘Hang Mike Pence’ as they stormed the building.
A Reuters’ photographer covering the riot also claimed he heard at least three Trump supporters speak about hanging the Vice President from a tree as a ‘traitor’.
Jim Bourg, the Reuters News Pictures Editor in DC, tweeted Friday that he heard ‘many more’ speak about executing Pence as they stormed the Capitol and tried to hunt him down.
‘I heard at least 3 different rioters at the Capitol say that they hoped to find Vice President Mike Pence and execute him by hanging him from a Capitol Hill tree as a traitor,’ Bourg said.