Democrats are discussing whether to act quickly to impeach President Donald Trump as soon as next week if his Cabinet does not first try to remove him after he encouraged loyalists who ransacked the Capitol in a siege that has left five people dead.
If Mr Trump, whose term ends on January 20, were to be impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, he could be prevented from running again in 2024 or ever holding the presidency again.
Mr Trump would be only the president to be twice impeached.
House Democrats planned a caucus meeting at noon on Friday, the first since Wednesday’s harrowing events at the Capitol, and could take up articles of impeachment against Mr Trump as early as the week ahead.
Three House Democrats are planning to introduce articles of impeachment on Monday, meaning the chamber could potentially vote on his removal from office by midweek, according two people familiar with the planning.
If leadership does decide to move forward, they could vote on articles of impeachment drafted by Representatives David Cicilline, Jamie Raskin and Ted Lieu.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, discussed the prospect of impeachment with her leadership team on Thursday night, hours after announcing the House was willing to act if Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials did not invoke Section Four of the 25th Amendment, the forceful removal of Mr Trump from power by his own Cabinet.
The final days of Mr Trump’s presidency are spinning toward a chaotic end as he holes up at the White House, abandoned by aides, leading Republicans and Cabinet members.
He is set to leave office when Democrat Joe Biden is sworn in, but top officials are gravely warning of the damage that he still could cause on his way out.
Representative Adam Schiff, who led Mr Trump’s impeachment in 2019, said in a statement on Friday that Mr Trump “lit the fuse which exploded on Wednesday at the Capitol”.
Mr Schiff, a Democrat, said that “every day that he remains in office, he is a danger to the Republic”.
Five people are now dead from the violent melee, including a Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick.
Ms Pelosi said in a statement on Friday that Mr Sicknick’s death “reminds us of our obligation to those we serve: to protect our country from all threats foreign and domestic”.
She said those responsible for the officer’s death “must be brought to justice”.
Though Mr Trump has less than two weeks in his term, politicians and even some in his administration began discussing options for his removal onb Wednesday afternoon as Mr Trump first encouraged rally-goers near the White House to march on the Capitol, then refused to forcefully condemn the assault and appeared to excuse it.
Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark, a member of House Democratic leadership, said procedural steps could allow politicians to move far more quickly than they did on Mr Trump’s impeachment last year.
Representative James Clyburn, the third ranking House Democrat, said he could confirm that “we have had discussions about it and I would hope that the speaker would move forward if the vice president refuses to do what he is required to do under the Constitution”.
Mr Clyburn: “Everyone knows that this president is deranged.”
One leading Republican critic of Mr Trump, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, said he will “definitely consider” impeachment.
“The president has disregarded his oath of office,” Mr Sasse told CBS’ This Morning.
He said what Mr Trump did was “wicked” in inciting the mob.
If the House impeaches, “I will definitely consider whatever articles they might move”, Mr Sasse said.
Ms Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer have called for Mr Trump’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to force Mr Trump from office before Mr Biden is inaugurated.
Mr Schumer said he and Ms Pelosi tried to call Mr Pence early Thursday to discuss that option but were unable to connect with him.
Ms Pelosi, during a new conference, challenged several Cabinet members by name, including US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin.
“Do they stand by these actions?” Ms Pelosi asked.
“Are they ready to say that for the next 13 days this dangerous man can do further harm to our country?”
Ms Pelosi has spoken to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about preventing Mr Trump from initiating military actions or a nuclear strike.
Ms Pelosi said in a statement to colleagues that she spoke with General Mark Milley “to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike”.
She said, the situation of “this unhinged president could not be more dangerous”.