Trump released a White House video condemning the violence perpetrated on his behalf the day before on Capitol Hill. Then, for the first time, he admitted his presidency was coming to an end soon – although he declined to mention President-elect Joe Biden by name or to explicitly state that he lost.
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2021
“A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20,” Trump said in the video. “My goal now is to ensure a smooth, orderly and transparent power transition. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation. ”
The speech, which seemed intended to sidestep discussions about an early forced eviction, came at the end of a day when the cornered president remained out of sight in the White House. Silenced some of his favorite Internet communication lines, he has witnessed the resignation of several senior staff, including a Cabinet secretary.
And as officials sifted through the aftermath of the pro-Trump mob siege on the U.S. Capitol, there was growing talk of impeaching him a second time or invoking the 25th Amendment for it. oust from the Oval Office.
The invasion of the Capitol building, a powerful symbol of national democracy, rocked Republicans and Democrats. They struggled to find the best way to contain the impulses of a president deemed too dangerous to control his own social media accounts but who remains commander-in-chief of the world’s largest army.
“I’m not worried about the next election, I’m worried about the next 14 days,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump’s staunchest allies. He condemned the president’s role in Wednesday’s riots and said: “If anything else happens, all options would be on the table.”
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that “the President of the United States has instigated an armed insurgency against America.” She called him “a very dangerous person who should not continue in office.” It is urgent, an emergency of the greatest magnitude. ”
Neither of Trump’s two impeachment options seemed likely, with little time during his tenure to draft the necessary Cabinet members to invoke the amendment or to hold the hearings and trial required for an impeachment. But the fact that the dramatic options were even discussed in Washington’s corridors of power served as a warning to Trump.
Fears of what a desperate president might do in his final days are spreading throughout the nation’s capital and beyond, including speculation that Trump could incite more violence, make rash dates, issue bad pardons designed – including for himself and his family – or even trigger an international incident destabilization.
The president’s video on Thursday – which was posted upon his return to Twitter after his account was restored – was a complete reversal of the one he had released just 24 hours earlier in which he said to the violent crowd: “We love you. You are very special. His refusal to condemn the violence sparked a wave of criticism, and in the new video he finally denounced the protesters’ “anarchy and chaos”.
As for his feelings on leaving office, he told the nation that “serving as president has been the honor of my life” while hinting at a return to the public eye. He told his supporters “our incredible journey has only just begun. ”
Just a day earlier, Trump unleashed destructive forces on Capitol Hill with his unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud at a rally that prompted supporters to halt Congressional certification of Biden’s victory. After the capture of Capitol Hill and the eventual certification in the wee hours of Biden’s Victory Day by members of Congress, Trump issued a statement in which he simply acknowledged that he would respect a peaceful transfer of power on January 20.
The statement was posted by an aide and was not from the President’s Twitter account, which has 88 million subscribers and was used for four years as a political weapon that dictates policy and sows division and conspiracy.
Trump couldn’t tweet it himself because, for the first time, the social media platform suspended his account, claiming the president violated his rules of service by inciting violence. Facebook passed a broader ban, saying Trump’s account would be offline until after Biden’s inauguration.
Deprived of this vital social media element, Trump remained silent and settled in the Executive Mansion until Thursday evening. But around him, the loyalists were heading for the exits, their departures – which were coming in two weeks anyway – moved to protest against the president’s handling of the riot.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has become the first cabinet member to resign. Chao, married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the lawmakers trapped on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, said in a message to staff that the attack “has deeply troubled me in a way that I cannot quite do. just don’t put it aside.
Others who resigned following the riot: Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger, Ryan Tully, Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs at the National Security Council, and Chief of Staff to First Lady Melania Trump, Stephanie Grisham, Former White House Press Secretary.
Mick Mulvaney, the former chief of staff turned Trump’s special envoy to Northern Ireland, told CNBC he called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “to let him know that I was resigning.” … I can not do it. I can not stay.
And Mulvaney said others who work for Trump have decided to stay in their posts in an attempt to provide some sort of guardrail for the president during his last days in office.
“Those who choose to stay, and I have spoken with some of them, choose to stay because they fear the president will put someone worse,” Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney’s predecessor as chief of staff, retired United States Marine Corps General John Kelly told CNN “I think Cabinet should meet and have a discussion.” on Section 4 of the 25th Amendment – allowing Trump’s forced withdrawal by his own Cabinet.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joined Pelosi in declaring that Trump “should not be in office another day” and urged Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to act. But Chao’s departure could block nascent efforts to invoke the amendment.
Staff-level discussions on the matter have taken place in several departments and even parts of the White House, according to two people briefed on the talks. But no cabinet member has publicly expressed support for the move – which would make Pence the interim president – although several were deemed to support the idea, saying Trump was too unstable in his last days in office. .
In the West Wing, assistants shocked by the shells were packing their bags, acting on a delayed directive to start leaving their posts before Team Biden arrived. The slowdown before now was due to Trump’s unique focus on defeat since Election Day at the expense of other responsibilities in his office.
Most blatantly, this included the fight against the raging coronavirus that kills a record number of Americans every day.
Few aides had an idea of the president’s plans, with some wondering if Trump would remain largely out of sight until he left the White House. White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany read a brief statement saying the Capitol headquarters was “appalling, reprehensible and contrary to the American way.”
But his words carried little weight. Trump has long made it clear that only he speaks for his presidency.