Trump commits to orderly transition of power as calls mount for his removal
Police officer dies to due injuries sustained during Trump supporters’ assault on Capitol
US president Donald Trump bowed to pressure and committed to an orderly transition of power last night, as calls grew in Washington for his removal from office over Wednesday’s assault on the US Capitol.
In a video message posted to his re-activated Twitter account, Mr Trump said that a new administration will be in place on January 20th – the first time he has acknowledged that Joe Biden will be the next US president, adding that he was focused on a “smooth, orderly, seamless transition of power”.
“Serving as your president has been the honour of my lifetime,” he said, an apparent admission that his presidency was over.
Having encouraged supporters to march to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Mr Trump struck a new tone in the new video.
“America is and must always be a nation of law and order,” he said, reading from a pre-prepared script. “The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction: You do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law: You will pay.”
But he also hinted at a political comeback. “And 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.”
The video was released as US education secretary Betsy DeVos became the latest cabinet member to resign, and amid growing pressure from senior Democrats and former Trump officials for US vice-president Mike Pence to invoke the 25th amendment to the constitution, that sets out how a sitting president can be removed from office.
Mr Pence, who spent Wednesday in the US Capitol after it was forced into lockdown due to an invading mob of Trump-supporting demonstrators, remained out of public view yesterday.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi said last night that Mr Pence had not returned her call from herself and senate minority leader Chuck Schumer placed on Thursday morning. “The president’s dangerous and seditious acts necessitate his immediate removal from office. We look forward to hearing from the vice-president as soon as possible and to receiving a positive answer as to whether he and the Cabinet will honour their oath to the Constitution and the American people.”
Calls for Mr Trump’s removal from office intensified over the past 24 hours as the fall-out from Wednesday’s attack on the US Capitol reverberated across a shaken country.
Ms Pelosi warned yesterday that the House of Representatives could bring impeachment proceedings against Mr Trump for a second time, if Mr Pence did not invoke the 25th amendment.
“We have 13 days of Donald Trump to deal with, who is a danger to our country,” she said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
“What’s next? What happens today? Who knows. What we do know is that he must be contained.”
Mr Trump’s removal would have to be instigated by the vice-president and the cabinet. A number of House Democrats, including Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote to Ms Pelosi last night urging her to reconvene the House to immediately begin impeachment proceedings against the president.
Several Trump allies resigned from administration positions yesterday. In submitting her resignation, Ms DeVos joined transportation secretary Elaine Chao, wife of senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, and former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney who resigned as Northern Ireland envoy. Most of those defecting were due to lose their positions in the coming weeks as Mr Biden assumes the presidency.
In her resignation letter, Ms DeVos told the president that there was “no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had” on events in the Capitol. “It is the inflection point for me.”
The incoming president’s victory was affirmed in the early hours of Thursday morning after members of congress resumed the certification process in the Capitol.
Speaking in Delaware where he introduced his new pick for attorney general, Merrick Garland, Mr Biden excoriated Mr Trump for unleashing an “all-out assault on the institutions of our democracy” and using language “that has long been used by autocrats and dictators all over the world to hold on to power.” He branded those who attacked the Capitol as “rioters,” “insurrectionists” and “domestic terrorists”.
Separately, the head of the US Capitol Police announced he will resign later this month, following this week’s chaotic scenes which saw the police force overwhelmed by Trump supporters who ransacked the building. Earlier, he defended his officers’ conduct during the riot as “heroic,” though Ms Pelosi and other members of congress called on him to resign after Wednesday’s massive security failure.
US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died of injuries suffered when the mob assaulted the legislative building, the force said on Thursday, bringing to five the number dead from the riot.
“Officer Sicknick was responding to the riots . . . and was injured while physically engaging with protesters,” police said in a late-night statement.
He succumbed on Thursday after being taken to hospital following his collapse upon returning to his divisional office, the statement said.
Metropolitan homicide officials will investigate the death of Mr Sicknick, who joined the US Capitol Police in 2008, along with the Capitol force and its federal partners, police said.
Meanwhile, publisher Simon & Schuster cancelled plans to publish a book on tech companies by Senator Josh Hawley, who objected to the certification of the election results in two states during this week’s joint session of Congress. Mr Hawley, a first-term senator from Missouri, described the decision as “Orwellian” and an attack on the first amendment. – Additional reporting: Reuters