(CN) — As calls for impeachment grew and discussion of invoking the 25th Amendment percolated in his own cabinet Thursday, President Donald Trump at last repudiated his supporters' violent intrusion into the U.S. Capitol and promised an orderly transition of power.
In what amounted to a concession speech — 65 days after the presidential election — Trump called for calm and abandoned the vitriolic claims that the election was rigged and Biden’s victory was fraudulent.
“The Congress has certified the results, a new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20,” Trump said in a video recording released Thursday evening. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”
Trump said the intruders who broke into the Capitol on Wednesday, many of whom had just attended his rally, should be punished and were not representative of the country.
“The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy,” Trump said.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle fiercely criticized the president for his role in ginning up the protesters at Wednesday's rally with debunked claims about a rigged election and other theories for his electoral defeat, most of which have been defeated in numerous courts.
Democrats began calling for articles of impeachment to be drawn up, saying the president’s urging his voters to march to the Capitol was proof of his erratic behavior and that he could no longer be trusted with the presidency.
The backlash was not restricted to Democrats.
Several senior White House staff and members of the cabinet resigned Wednesday night and Thursday. Some of those same cabinet members discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office immediately.
Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina and one of Trump’s staunchest allies in the Senate, said the 25th Amendment should at least be on the table moving forward.
Vice President Mike Pence released a statement saying he would not invoke the 25th Amendment immediately, but the fact he even had to issue a statement demonstrates the fury of Trump’s erstwhile allies.
Section 4 of the 25th Amendment allows the federal government to remove the president from office if a majority of the executive branch and the Vice President agree “the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
In the video, Trump appeared to finally abandon his claims about the election being stolen or rigged and instead called for a general reform of America’s election laws and claimed to be only concerned about the integrity of the nation’s democratic system.
His critics, including many on the Republican side of the aisle, say his actions since Nov. 7 when the election was called for Biden, have stressed the democratic system and done damage to the image of American democracy around the world.
Trump filed numerous lawsuits after the election was called in favor of Biden, focusing on six swing states — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — raising various constitutional theories that were almost universally rejected by courts.
“My campaign vigorously pursued every legal avenue to contest the election results,” Trump said Thursday.
House Republicans have focused most of their ire on Pennsylvania, where they claim last-minute changes made by the Secretary of State relaxing vote-by-mail restrictions in the commonwealth due to the coronavirus pandemic were unconstitutional. The case was litigated and a federal judge rejected the claim, saying the issue was not enough to reject a single vote let alone disenfranchise millions.
Trump meanwhile, focused most of his ire on Georgia and was recorded during a telephone call attempting to cajole and bully Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger into “finding” the exact amount of votes he needed to prevail over his opponent. The call could have legal repercussions for Trump, once out of office.
Trump’s continued assertions about fraud in Georgia probably cost his party control of the U.S. Senate as his appearances in Georgia after his electoral defeat were less about boosting the two candidates and more about nurturing his grievances. Turnout for Republicans in the state underperformed a motivated opposition.
Whether the calm conciliatory tone used by Trump Thursday will last is a question, as the president has often over the course of his tenure read statements prepared by aides only to backtrack to his original and true position.Follow @@MatthewCRenda
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