WASHINGTON (CN) — A day after an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined calls for Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office and said her chamber is prepared to impeach him again if Pence doesn't act.
“Despite the desecration of our Capitol, we upheld in front of the country and the world the bedrock principle that the people are sovereign and that they hold the power to choose their leaders through the ballot, rejecting this attempted coup on the part of President Trump and his supporters,” Pelosi said during a news conference Thursday.
She said House Democrats are ready to impeach the president a second time if Pence and cabinet members do not invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president to take over if the president is deemed unable to carry out his duties.
“My members are very much interested. My phone is exploding with ‘impeach, impeach,’” she said. “The president must be held accountable, again.”
Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol building spurred a slew of legislative leaders to call for Trump’s removal. More than a dozen House Democrats and one Republican congressman, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, urged Pence late Wednesday to take the dramatic step, which has never occurred in U.S. history.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also called for the president’s removal in a statement, saying Trump “should not hold office one day longer.”
“If the vice president and the cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president,” he said.
Scenes from the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, less than 24 hours after a mob of Trump supporters grappled with police and forced their way into the building, include a blood-smeared bust of one of the country’s earliest presidents, Zachary Taylor, as well as a floor dusted with fire extinguisher residue and tattered banners left by rioters.
The startling images emerged as reporters explored the aftermath of the hours-long occupation, in which four people lost their lives – one woman was shot and three others succumbed to medical emergencies. Cameras showing the House floor had been shut off Wednesday as lawmakers, staff members and reporters retreated to secure, undisclosed locations. Some rooms were protected by makeshift barricades comprised of chairs, tables and other furniture.
Questions are being raised over how the mob was able to overtake the Capitol Police forces, particularly after videos surfaced of cops posing with people who fought their way inside.
A video also surfaced that appeared to show police removing barricades and allowing a group to move towards a large, paved area on the Capitol’s eastern façade.
California Congresswoman Karen Bass was particularly outraged with the police response.
“Would you take a selfie with someone who was robbing a bank?” she asked in an interview with Los Angeles TV station KTLA.
Trump supporters dispensed fire extinguishers in the stairwells of the building, covering the floor in a film of dust. Shortly thereafter, a mob attempted to rush through the crypt – a space housing various statues on the Capitol’s first floor – and were briefly repelled by a line of police, but officers were eventually overwhelmed.
The FBI said Thursday morning it was investigating the violence at the Capitol. Director Christopher Wray said in a statement that the mob’s actions “showed a blatant and appalling disregard for our institutions of government and the orderly administration of the democratic process.”
Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement that those responsible for the damage would be identified and charged.
“Some participants in yesterday’s violence will be charged today, and we will continue to methodically assess evidence, charge crimes and make arrests in the coming days and weeks to ensure those responsible are held accountable under the law,” he said Thursday.
Capitol Police reported 14 arrests Thursday morning for unlawful entry, assaulting a police officer and various weapons charges. None of the arrestees were D.C. residents.
After the chaos subsided Wednesday, lawmakers returned to their respective chambers to carry out the formal tally of President-elect Joe Biden’s win, finishing the job around 4 a.m.
More than a dozen Republicans had planned to object to the confirmation of Biden’s victory, but several backed down after the invasion of what some lawmakers called the a “temple of democracy.” Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, who was defeated by Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock in Tuesday’s runoff election, said the rioting changed her mind.
Trump eventually lamented that his presidency is coming to an end. Dan Scavino, the president’s social media manager, relayed a statement from Trump early Thursday morning saying he will peacefully pass power to Biden on Jan. 20.
While Capitol staffers continue to clean up the mess made by Trump supporters, the president has been temporarily blocked from using Facebook and Twitter and has made no official statements since he posted a video two hours into insurrection, asking the group to return home peacefully before imparting a message of affection: “We love you.”
While Trump has not spoken publicly as of Thursday afternoon, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president had posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Babe Zaharias, an athlete known for winning gold medals in track and field in the 1932 Summer Olympics. He also gave the award to retired golfers Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player. They are just the latest athletes to be given the award by Trump, after Babe Ruth, Mariano Rivera and Tiger Woods.