On Thursday, congressional Democrats including both Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Donald Trump needs to be removed from office for his role in inciting the mob attack on the Capitol that took place during Electoral College counting Wednesday. Some Democrats wanted to begin impeachment proceedings immediately. Others, like Pelosi and Schumer, said they would first like to see if Vice President Mike Pence invokes the 25th Amendment process to take away Trump’s authority.
As of Thursday night, Pence was reportedly unwilling to do so; whether or not he changes his mind, developments overnight and this morning have strengthened the case, and the visible support, for removal.
Most notably, Capitol Police announced Thursday night that an officer named Brian Sicknick has died of injuries that he “sustained while on duty” Wednesday. The New York Times, quoting “two law enforcement sources,” reports that Sicknick was struck with a fire extinguisher, and police say he collapsed after returning to his office. A murder investigation is underway.
At about the same time, Secretary of Education (and well-connected Republican donor) Betsy DeVos became the second Cabinet officer to resign since Wednesday’s events, writing in a public letter to the president, “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.” Hours earlier, the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page had called on Trump to step down over what it described as his “impeachable” role in an attack on the legislative branch.
On Friday morning, Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse—who voted not to call witnesses in Trump’s previous impeachment trial, and then to acquit the president—told CBS that he believes Trump has “disregarded the oath of his office” and that he would consider voting to convict him if the House moved to impeach again. He also spoke about the subject to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, noting to Hewitt that National Guard reinforcements for local police officers did not arrive at the Capitol until late Tuesday. The Times reported earlier this week that Trump initially resisted requests to deploy the Guard even as police were being overrun; Sasse told Hewitt he’d like to find out more about the delay, implying that any active role Trump played in it would make him more culpable for the violence that followed.
At around noon Friday, Nancy Pelosi issued a statement in which she called on Republicans to join her in asking Trump to resign. Wrote Pelosi: “If the President does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action,” by which she meant impeachment. Pelosi would almost certainly not make a statement without knowing that she had enough votes to impeach the president, but removal would require a two-thirds vote to convict in the Senate, and thus the support of a double-digit number of Republican senators besides Sasse. On that subject, while South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted Friday that he does not support removal, the Times’ Maggie Haberman reports that two Republican sources told her that “more R senators favor impeachment than people would expect.”
That balance could be tipped as more details emerge about the scope of the threat the Wednesday breach presented and continues to present. Pelosi’s office says one of its laptops was stolen, for example, while a Reuters journalist who was at the Capitol says he heard three occupiers say they wanted to find and kill Mike Pence. As with many things, the more that comes out about Wednesday, the worse it looks for Donald Trump.