Amid calls for his removal, Trump appears to concede election for the first time

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Mr Trump condemned Wednesday’s violence, saying that rioters had defiled the seat of American democracy.

Amid calls for his removal, Trump appears to concede election for the first time

Supporters of US President Donald Trump clash with police inside the Capitol in Washington on Jan 6, 2021.

Amid calls for his removal, Trump appears to concede election for the first time

Protesters breach the barricades of the US Capitol in Washington on Jan 6, 2021.

Amid calls for his removal, Trump appears to concede election for the first time

Police clear the US Capitol Building with tear gas as supporters of President Donald Trump gather outside, in Washington, on Jan 6, 2021.

Amid calls for his removal, Trump appears to concede election for the first time

Members of the US Congress run for cover as protesters try to enter the House Chamber in the Capitol on Jan 6, 2021.

Amid calls for his removal, Trump appears to concede election for the first time

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they storm the US Capitol in Washington on Jan 6, 2021.

Amid calls for his removal, Trump appears to concede election for the first time

Supporters of US President Donald Trump in the Capitol Rotunda after breaching the building’s security in Washington on Jan 6, 2021.

Amid calls for his removal, Trump appears to concede election for the first time

Members of the National Guard and Washington police keep a small group of demonstrators away from the Capitol on Jan 6, 2021.

Amid calls for his removal, Trump appears to concede election for the first time

The US Capitol is seen behind heavy-duty security fencing the day after the building was sieged, in Washington, on Jan 7, 2021.

Amid calls for his removal, Trump appears to concede election for the first time

Nirmal GhoshUS Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON – Calls for United States President Donald Trump’s removal grew on Thursday (Jan 7), alongside criticism of the security failure that allowed a mob of his supporters to invade the Capitol a day before.

But on Thursday evening, the President for the first time appeared to concede the election.

Returning to Twitter since a 12-hour ban by the platform, Mr Trump struck a conciliatory note in a taped video message.

“We have just been through an intense election and emotions are high. But now tempers must be cooled and calm restored,” he said.

“A new administration will be inaugurated on Jan 20. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”

He added: “Serving as your president has been the honour of my lifetime… And to all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed, but I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning.”

Mr Trump also condemned Wednesday’s violence, saying that rioters had defiled the seat of American democracy.

“Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness, and mayhem,” he said.

Calls for removal

As investigators began piecing together bits of information and evidence on the unprecedented storming of the Capitol while Congress was in a joint session to count Electoral College votes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Vice-President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment.

The provision is normally used to temporarily transfer power to the vice-president while a president undergoes, say, a surgical procedure. It has never been used to remove a president from office against his will. The Cabinet would have to make such a determination.

If Mr Pence does not invoke the 25th Amendment, Congress may be prepared to impeach the president a second time, Ms Pelosi said. The House impeached Mr Trump in 2019, but the Republican majority in the Senate acquitted him.

“The President of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America,” Ms Pelosi told a news conference. “In calling for this seditious act, the President has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people.”

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer chimed in with a statement: “What happened at the US Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the President. This President should not hold office one day longer.”

 

Biden tears into Trump

Separately, in a blistering speech while revealing his top Justice Department appointees, President-elect Joe Biden flayed Mr Trump, saying that the storming of the Capitol was “an unprecedented assault on our democracy”.

Mr Biden called the mob “insurrectionists” and “domestic terrorists”.

He said: “I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming. But that isn’t true. We could. For the past four years, we’ve had a president who has made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, and the rule of law clear in everything he has done. He has unleashed an all-out assault on the institutions of our democracy. And yesterday was but the culmination of that unrelenting attack.”

Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois became the first Republican lawmaker to call for invoking the Constitution’s 25th Amendment mechanism.

“Here’s the truth: the President caused this,” he said in a video statement. “The President is unfit and… unwell. And the President now must relinquish control of the executive branch voluntarily or involuntarily.”

He added: “It’s time to invoke the 25th Amendment and to end this nightmare.”

But many Republicans opposed using the 25th Amendment at this late stage. In practice, it would be fraught and cumbersome, and the President can challenge it.

As for impeachment, it takes time. Mr Trump has only 13 days left in office – his term ends at 12pm on Jan 20. It may be possible to hold debates and a vote in the House but there may not be time to do the same in the Senate.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls for Trump’s ‘immediate removal from office’

 

Security failure

Meanwhile, heads are set to roll in the Capitol’s security set-up.

Senator Schumer said he would fire the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, while Ms Pelosi called for the resignation of the Capitol Police chief.

On Thursday evening, the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Representatives resigned over the storming of the Capitol where the mob overran the Capitol Police.

Even with advance news of the rally and open chatter in online forums that the Capitol was a target, security at the Capitol was far lighter than at events such as the Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

“We spend US$750 billion (S$994 billion) on defence, and the Pentagon, and we… couldn’t control an insurrection in the US Capitol,” Democratic Congressman Pramila Jaypal said on Thursday.

Congressman Tim Ryan told reporters that as many as 60 Capitol Police officers were injured, including 15 hospitalised and one in critical condition. Many were hit on the head with lead pipes, he said.

But video has also emerged of some Capitol Police officers at one entry point inexplicably allowing the mob to come into the building.

 

 

Volatile situation

Meanwhile, security analysts are also warning that the US remains in a highly volatile phase.

At a briefing for the media by the National Task Force on Election Crises, a network of law and security specialists, Ms Rachel Kleinfeld, non-resident associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: “What we’re dealing with, in this case, is a well-known facet of far weaker democracies, which is a personal army that a politician has cultivated, which he uses to threaten opponents.”

More right-wing rallies are scheduled for Washington, DC – and other state capitals – in the coming days, including on Inauguration Day.

“We’re in a very fragile and vulnerable time for our country,” Ms Kleinfeld warned.

Right-wing groups see the storming of the Capitol as “a gigantic triumph for their movement, a recruiting tool, and a fund-raising tool, suggesting that… upcoming events are going to be larger”, she added.

“So I think we have real worries, particularly around our inauguration for… President-elect Biden.”

 

 
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