Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary, became the first cabinet official to announce she would resign after the siege at the Capitol. President-elect Joe Biden introduced his pick for attorney general, Merrick Garland, vowing he would be “the people’s lawyer,” not the president’s.
Trump, finally conceding to reality, says transition will be peaceful. Democrats say he must be removed now.
Biden introduces his attorney general pick, Merrick Garland, saying he will be ‘the people’s lawyer,’ not the president’s.
John Kelly, Trump’s former chief of staff, says he would vote to invoke the 25th Amendment.
In calling for this seditious act, president has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people. I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the vice president to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th Amendment. If the vice president and cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment. That is the overwhelming sentiment of my caucus. To those whose purpose was to deter our responsibility, you have failed. You did not divert the Congress from our solemn constitutional purpose to validate the overwhelming election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president of the United States. We’re very pleased now that we have in 13 days President Joe Biden, a Democratic House majority and a Democratic Senate Majority that will work to heal, to heal and restore the soul of our nation.
The top Democrats in Congress called on Thursday for President Trump’s immediate removal from office for his role in urging on the violent mob that overtook the Capitol a day before, disrupting the ratification of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s electoral victory.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows him and the cabinet to wrest the power of the presidency from Mr. Trump.
If Mr. Pence declines to act, they said, Democrats were prepared to impeach Mr. Trump for a second time.
“While it’s only 13 days left, any day can be a horror show for America,” Ms. Pelosi said, calling Mr. Trump’s actions on Wednesday a “seditious act.”
The speaker’s plan was announced during an extraordinary news conference in the reclaimed Capitol, hours after the building was overrun by a mob of Trump supporters who temporarily halted Congress’s confirmation of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the presidential election. Speaking to reporters, Ms. Pelosi singled out members of the cabinet by name, asking why they would not intervene.
“Are they ready to say for the next 13 days this dangerous man can assault our democracy?” Ms. Pelosi said of the cabinet.
She said she hoped to have an answer from Mr. Pence by the end of the day on whether he would attempt to use the 25th Amendment. The two leaders tried to call Mr. Pence directly on Thursday but were left on a holding line for 20 minutes without Mr. Pence picking up.
It was unclear how quickly Democrats could move to impeach Mr. Trump. There is no clear precedent for putting a former official on trial in the Senate, and with only 13 days left in his term, it was not certain Democrats could actually accomplish such a complicated and politically fraught process on a compressed timetable.
Mr. Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, said: “What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president. This president should not hold office one day longer.”
Ms. Pelosi was the most prominent voice in a growing chorus of Democrats, and a few Republicans, who surveyed the aftermath of Wednesday’s historic events and concluded Mr. Trump was too dangerous to remain in office until Jan. 20, when Mr. Biden is set to be sworn in.
Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, had issued a similar call earlier on Thursday, posting on Twitter that the president had become “unmoored not just from his duty or from his oath but from reality itself.”
His statement followed similar ones by Representatives Charlie Crist and Ted Lieu on Wednesday and a letter signed by 17 Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee was sent to Mr. Pence calling to invoke the 25th Amendment.
Gov. Larry Hogan, Republican of Maryland, echoed those calls on Thursday, saying, “I think there’s no question that America would be better off if the president would resign or be removed from office.”
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden transition, did not take a stand on the 25th Amendment or impeachment.
“President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris are focused on their duty — preparing to take office on Jan. 20 — and will leave it to Vice President Pence, the cabinet and the Congress to act as they see fit,” Mr. Bates said. “In the meantime, Donald Trump must stop blocking cooperation with the transition that could harm the readiness of the United States government to overcome the pandemic and the other crises he has worsened.”
On Thursday morning, a Washington-based law firm, Crowell & Moring, which represents a number of Fortune 500 companies, added its voice to the growing chorus of civic and business leaders calling for the president’s removal. In asking other lawyers to join, the firm said that “when it comes to defending our Constitution and our system of laws, we have a special duty and an exceptional perspective.”
A bipartisan group of more than two dozen lawyers, including a former top Trump administration official, also called on Thursday for Mr. Trump to be removed from office.
“Both constitutional remedies are necessary and appropriate to hold Trump accountable and to protect the nation,” the group said. “Those processes should be carried out immediately, unless he resigns first.”
The group included many conservative lawyers, including the former general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security, John Mitnick; and the ardent Trump critic George Conway, the husband of Mr. Trump’s former adviser Kellyanne Conway. Also among the group was the liberal Harvard Law School professor Laurence H. Tribe.
President Trump seemed to surrender his ferocious effort to hang onto power after Congress formally accepted the victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden on Thursday — but that was not enough for Democrats, who want him immediately removed from office, or to disgusted members of his team, who are quitting in droves.
Mr. Trump kept out of sight and offline on Thursday, even as Facebook locked his account for the remainder of his presidency after he incited a mob attack on the Capitol on Wednesday that struck at the heart of American democracy.
As he hunkered down behind the White House gates, the political conflagration around him grew as officials from both parties and many of the people who worked with him in the West Wing unified to rebuke his behavior and warn of the threat he posed over the 13 days left in his presidency.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who will soon command the Democratic majority, argued on Thursday that Mr. Trump’s continued presence in the Oval Office represented a grave threat to the Republic. They are demanding that his cabinet remove him under the 25th Amendment.
If that does not happen, Ms. Pelosi suggested she would quickly ram through a second impeachment of Mr. Trump.
At the same time, a handful of high-ranking administration officials submitted their resignations, led by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, as some conservative members of the Senate quietly pressured remaining officials to stay at their posts out of concern that the president, unchecked, would take action that could damage the country.
Even Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who has been one of Mr. Trump’s most loyal defenders, said that the president was partially accountable for the mob and labeled them “domestic terrorists” — one of the few Republicans to use that term.
In a written statement, Mr. Trump conceded that he would hand over power to Mr. Biden on Jan. 20. “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” the president said in the statement, issued shortly after Congress dismissed his allies’ objections to the electors in the pre-dawn hours.
The statement had to be released through an aide’s Twitter account. The president has not appeared in person since then to confirm his commitment to its words, leaving some uncertainty about what could happen in the remaining days of his term.
The angry aftermath of the storming of the Capitol had Democrats and even some Republicans talking about whether Mr. Trump should not be allowed to finish his term.
“This president should not hold office one day longer,” said Mr. Schumer, who will become the majority leader with the seating of two new Democratic senators elected in Georgia this week. “The quickest and most effective way — it can be done today — to remove this president from office would be for the vice president to immediately invoke the 25th Amendment. If the vice president and the cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president.”
“All indications are that the president has become unmoored not just from his duty nor even his oath but from reality itself,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who has been a critic of the president. “It’s time to invoke the 25th Amendment and to end this nightmare.”
Mick Mulvaney, a former White House chief of staff who had been serving as a special envoy for Mr. Trump until he resigned after the mob attack, said the discussion was understandable given the president’s behavior.
“It does not surprise me at all that the 25th Amendment is being discussed,” he told CNBC, adding that the president had become increasingly erratic. “Clearly he is not the same as he was eight months ago, and certainly the people advising him are not the same as they were eight months ago, and that leads to a dangerous sort of combination, as you saw yesterday.”
In addition to Mr. Mulvaney, more advisers and administration officials quit in protest, bringing the 11th-hour resignations to more than a half dozen. Former Attorney General William P. Barr, once one of the president’s most important defenders until he resigned last month, said in a statement to The Associated Press that the president’s actions were a “betrayal of his office and supporters” and that “orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable.”
Even as the wreckage of the attack was being swept away in the Capitol, questions swirled about how security for the building could be overwhelmed by the mob when it was well known that Mr. Trump’s supporters planned to rally in Washington on the day of the Electoral College count. Four people died, including a woman who was shot and three others who had medical conditions.
Defying the pressure, Congress proceeded to validate Mr. Biden’s victory in a nearly all-night session, voting down Mr. Trump’s allies, who objected to electors from two key states.
It was then left to Vice President Mike Pence, who had rebuffed Mr. Trump’s demand that he assert the power to unilaterally block confirmation of the election result as the president of the Senate and the presiding officer of the count, to formally announce the results.
“The announcement of the state of the vote by the president of the Senate shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons elected president and vice president of the United States, each for the term beginning on the 20th day of January 2021, and shall be entered together with a list of the votes on the journals of the Senate and the House of Representatives,” Mr. Pence said at 3:41 a.m.
With that dry, ritualistic language mandated by parliamentarians, Mr. Pence formalized the defeat of his own ticket and Mr. Biden’s ascension to the Oval Office.
In the aftermath of a violent mob invading the Capitol building on Wednesday, calls in Congress are growing for President Trump to be removed from office under the disability clause of the 25th Amendment.
The amendment provides a complex, difficult process for the removal of a sitting president. Here is a brief history of the 25th Amendment and an explanation of how it operates.
The 25th Amendment to the Constitution is primarily designed to clarify the presidential order of succession. The first three sections deal with when a president resigns, dies or becomes ill or temporarily incapacitated.
The fourth section provides a multistep process for the vice president and a majority of the officials who lead executive agencies — commonly thought of as the cabinet — to declare that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” That process ultimately requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress.
In the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, there was some confusion about how to choose a new vice president after Lyndon B. Johnson became president. And there was concern about what might happen if Johnson fell ill or was incapacitated before his replacement was found. Congress formally proposed the 25th Amendment in 1965, and the amendment became part of the Constitution in 1967, after 38 states ratified it.
The first step would be for Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of the cabinet to provide a written declaration to the president pro tempore of the Senate (currently Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa) and the speaker of the House (currently Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California) that Mr. Trump “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” That would immediately strip Mr. Trump of the powers of his office and make Mr. Pence the acting president.
But the 25th Amendment would allow Mr. Trump to immediately send a written declaration of his own to Mr. Grassley and Ms. Pelosi saying that he is in fact able to perform his duties. That would immediately allow him to resume his duties, unless Mr. Pence and the cabinet send another declaration to the congressional leaders within four days restating their concerns. Mr. Pence would take over again as acting president.
That declaration would require Congress to assemble within 48 hours and to vote within 21 days. If two-thirds of members of both the House and the Senate agreed that Mr. Trump was unable to continue as president, he would be stripped permanently of the position, and Mr. Pence would continue serving as acting president. If the vote in Congress fell short, Mr. Trump would resume his duties.
The authors of the 25th Amendment intended it to be a difficult process that would make it exceedingly rare. They succeeded.
To put it in context, it is even more difficult to remove a president under the 25th Amendment than it is under the impeachment process. A president can be impeached by a simple majority in the House and removed from office by a two-thirds vote in the Senate. Removal under the 25th Amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers.
“What we witnessed yesterday was not dissent, it was not disorder, it was not protest — it was chaos. They weren’t protesters — don’t dare call them protesters — they were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It’s that basic, it’s that simple. I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming. But that isn’t true. We could see it coming. The past four years, we’ve had a president who has made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, the rule of law clear in everything he has done. We need to restore the honor, the integrity, the independence of the Department of Justice in this nation that’s been so badly damaged. And so many former leaders of that department in both parties have so testified and stated that. I want to be clear to those who lead this department, who you will serve. You won’t work for me. You are not the president or the vice president’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me. It is to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation, to guarantee justice.” “As everyone who watched yesterday’s events in Washington now understands, if they did not understand before, the rule of law is not just some lawyer’s turn of phrase. It is the very foundation of our democracy.”
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday introduced his pick for attorney general, Judge Merrick B. Garland, declaring that the longtime federal jurist would serve as an impartial arbiter of justice and not as a “personal attorney to the president” — a pointed rebuke of President Trump’s approach.
Judge Garland will be “the people’s lawyer,” Mr. Biden declared at an event in Wilmington, Del.
“You won’t work for me,” Mr. Biden said of the leaders of his Justice Department. “You are not the president or the vice president’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me. It’s to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation, to guarantee justice.”
Mr. Biden also introduced three other nominees for top positions at the Justice Department, which experienced a period of increased politicization under Mr. Trump. And he began by angrily denouncing the riot at the Capitol on Wednesday incited by the outgoing president.
Calling it “one of the darkest days in the history of our nation,” Mr. Biden forcefully laid blame at the feet of Mr. Trump, pointing to his conduct not just in the aftermath of the November election, but over the past four years.
“What we witnessed yesterday was not dissent,” Mr. Biden said. “It was not disorder. It was not protest. It was chaos. They weren’t protesters. Don’t dare call them protesters. They were a riotous mob, insurrectionists, domestic terrorists. It’s that basic. It’s that simple.”
“And I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming,” he continued. “But that isn’t true. We could see it coming.”
Mr. Biden also spoke of how the rioters were treated by law enforcement. “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” he said. “We all know that’s true, and it is unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.”
The attorney general had been the most prominent position in Mr. Biden’s cabinet that was still unfilled with Inauguration Day approaching.
Judge Garland currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. President Barack Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court in 2016 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, but Senate Republicans blocked his nomination.
“As everyone who watched yesterday’s events in Washington now understands if they did not understand before, the rule of law is not just some lawyer’s turn of phrase,” Judge Garland said at the event with Mr. Biden. “It is the very foundation of our democracy.”
Elaine Chao, the secretary of transportation, is resigning after President Trump’s incitement of a mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, she announced in a letter posted on Twitter.
Ms. Chao, who is married to Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, is the first cabinet official to join a growing exodus of administration officials in the final days of the Trump administration — largely symbolic resignations given that most would have been out of jobs with the change of administration anyway.
In the letter, she said that she would leave her post on Jan. 11 and that her office would cooperate with President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s nominee for transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg.
“Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the president stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed,” Ms. Chao wrote. “As I’m sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”
It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the U.S. Department of Transportation. pic.twitter.com/rFxPsBoh6t
Ms. Chao decided to quit on Wednesday as she watched the events at the Capitol unfold on television, but held off until speaking with her department staff, according to a person with direct knowledge of her actions.
She briefly discussed the matter with Mr. McConnell when he returned, exhausted, from the Capitol at about 5 a.m. Thursday, then consulted with him again after he had rested. Both agreed it was the right thing to do, the person said, adding that one of her primary concerns was staying on long enough to ensure a smooth transition to Mr. Buttigieg, whom she plans to speak with on Friday.
The acting chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Tyler Goodspeed, also resigned on Thursday, as did the president’s deputy national security adviser, Matt Pottinger, a person familiar with his decision said. (Mr. Pottinger had been a key advocate inside the White House for a stronger response to the coronavirus and was ridiculed by co-workers for wearing a mask to work, according to The New Yorker.) And Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Trump’s former acting chief of staff, resigned as special envoy to Northern Ireland on Wednesday night.
“The events of yesterday made my position no longer tenable,” Mr. Goodspeed said in a brief interview after informing the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, of his decision.
Mr. Mulvaney, who once defended the president’s move to suspend $391 million in aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into his political rivals and was pushed out as acting chief of staff in March, said in an interview with CNBC on Thursday, that he had called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the night before.
“I can’t stay here, not after yesterday,” Mr. Mulvaney said, tying his resignation to the violence at the Capitol. “You can’t look at that yesterday and think ‘I want to be part of that’ in any way, shape or form.”
One official — Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien — plans to stay, in part out of concern about leaving no one in the government at its tumultuous end, another person familiar with events said.
And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also will remain in his job and carry out his responsibilities until Mr. Biden is inaugurated, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Traveling in Israel on Thursday, Mr. Mnuchin condemned the violence but made no mention of Mr. Trump.
In the hours after Mr. Trump took to social media on Wednesday to openly condone the violence at the Capitol, he found himself increasingly isolated.
Stephanie Grisham, the former White House press secretary who served as the chief of staff to Melania Trump, the first lady, submitted her resignation. Ms. Grisham had worked for the Trumps since the 2016 campaign and was one of their longest-serving aides.
Rickie Niceta, the White House social secretary, also said she was resigning, according to an administration official familiar with her plans. So did Sarah Matthews, a deputy White House press secretary, who said in a statement that she was “deeply disturbed by what I saw today.”
John Costello, one of the country’s most senior cybersecurity officials, also resigned Wednesday, telling associates that the violence on Capitol Hill was his “breaking point” and, he hoped, “a wake up call.”
Mr. Goodspeed had led the economic council since July and served in several economic positions since 2017. His departure leaves no members on the council, which traditionally consists of a chair and two other people. Its last Senate-confirmed chairman, Kevin Hassett, left the White House in 2019, and the former acting chairman, Tomas Philipson, departed in June.
Outside of government, a Pennsylvania lawyer who worked for the Trump campaign withdrew on Thursday, saying in a court filing that his services had been used “to perpetrate a crime.”
The lawyer, Jerome Marcus, has been an attorney on a federal lawsuit involving the access of Republican poll watchers in Philadelphia. In a statement, Mr. Marcus said that case and others like it “were used by President Trump to incite people to violence.”
“I refer specifically to his urging people to come to Washington for a ‘wild’ protest,” he said. “I want absolutely no part of that.”
The Justice Department said on Thursday that it would not rule out pursuing charges against President Trump for his possible role a day earlier in encouraging a mob of his supporters to march on the Capitol just before thousands stormed the building.
“We are looking at all actors, not only the people who went into the building,” Michael R. Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in Washington, told reporters.
Mr. Sherwin was asked whether such targets would include Mr. Trump, who exhorted supporters during a rally near the White House, telling them that they could never “take back our country with weakness.” Propelled by Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of election irregularities, the protesters had gathered to demonstrate against Congress’ certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College victory and moved on to the Capitol after the president’s rally.
Mr. Sherwin said that he stood by his statement. “We’re looking at all actors,” he said. “If the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they’re gonna be charged.”
His comments were an extraordinary invocation of the rule of law against a president who has repeatedly pressured law enforcement officials to advance his personal and political agendas. The Justice Department generally views that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.
Mr. Trump is also said to have discussed in recent weeks the possibility of pardoning himself, an unprecedented and untested use of presidential power, but it is uncertain whether that would ultimately protect him.
Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also told the crowd on Wednesday that Republicans in Congress should back Mr. Trump’s efforts to undo the election result: “We’re coming for you,” he said of lawmakers who refused. And Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, said that to win the election, his supporters would need to engage in “trial by combat” against Democrats.
Federal prosecutors filed on Thursday their first charges stemming from the riot, charging one man with assaulting a police officer and another with illegally possessing a loaded handgun.
Both criminal complaints were filed in Federal District Court in Washington. The city’s Metropolitan Police Department had announced earlier that they had arrested nearly 70 people at the riot on charges that included unlawful entry, gun possession and assault.
In a separate statement, the Capitol Police announced the arrest of 14 other people on Thursday.
The first federal complaint accused Mark J. Leffingwell of assaulting a Capitol Police officer around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday in a hallway in the Senate wing of the Capitol building. The officer, Daniel Amendola, said in the complaint that Mr. Leffingwell was part of a crowd that had “breached a window.” When Officer Amendola sought to stop him and others from entering the building any further, Mr. Leffingwell punched him repeatedly in the head and chest, according to the complaint. Mr. Leffingwell then “spontaneously apologized.”
Prosecutors also unsealed charges against a Maryland resident, Christopher Alberts, accusing him of illegally carrying a black Taurus 9-millimeter pistol at the riot. Officers first saw Mr. Alberts leaving the Capitol complex around 7:30 p.m. and noticed “a bulge” on his right hip. When they stopped Mr. Alberts, the officers found the pistol, which had one round in the chamber and a magazine filled with twelve rounds, according to the complaint. They also discovered that he was wearing a bulletproof vest and had a gas mask in his backpack.
After he was taken into custody, the complaint said, Mr. Alberts told the police that he had the weapon for “personal protection” and did not intend to harm anyone.
John F. Kelly, a former chief of staff to President Trump who has criticized him on several occasions since leaving his post two years ago, said on Thursday that if he were still in the cabinet, he would vote to invoke the 25th Amendment and declare Mr. Trump “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
“I don’t think it’ll happen, but I think the cabinet should meet and discuss this, because the behavior yesterday and the weeks and months before that has just been outrageous from the president,” Mr. Kelly said on CNN. “And what happened on Capitol Hill yesterday is a direct result of his poisoning the minds of people with the lies and the frauds.”
When the CNN host Jake Tapper asked whether he would support invoking the 25th Amendment if he were in the cabinet, Mr. Kelly paused for a moment before saying, “Yes, I would.”
Mr. Trump’s incitement of the mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday led multiple administration officials, including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, to resign and has drawn criticism even from Republicans who previously stood by the president.
But given that members of the Trump administration will be out of a job in 13 days and that Democrats will control the White House and both chambers of Congress, the resignations and rebukes have little, if any, practical significance.
Congressional Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have called on Vice President Mike Pence to start the process of declaring Mr. Trump unfit for office, and Ms. Pelosi said impeaching Mr. Trump a second time was a possibility if Mr. Pence did not do so.
In his interview on CNN, Mr. Kelly said that Mr. Trump simply did not listen to dissent within his administration.
“You don’t survive on telling this president the truth,” he said. “Not for very long, anyway.”
President Trump has suggested to aides that he wants to pardon himself in the final days of his presidency, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions, a move that would mark one of the most extraordinary uses of presidential power in American history.
In several conversations since Election Day, Mr. Trump has told advisers that he is considering giving himself a pardon and, in other instances, asked whether he should and what the impact would be on him legally and politically, according to the two people.
Mr. Trump has shown signs that his interest goes beyond idle musings. He has long maintained that he has the power to pardon himself, and his polling of aides’ views is typically a sign that he is preparing to follow through on his aims. He has also become increasingly convinced that his perceived enemies will use the levers of law enforcement to target him after he leaves office.
No president has ever pardoned himself, so the legitimacy of doing so has never been tested in the justice system, and legal scholars are divided about whether the courts would recognize it. But they agree a presidential self-pardon could create a dangerous precedent for presidents to unilaterally declare they are above the law and to insulate themselves from being held accountable for any crimes they committed in office.
The extent of Mr. Trump’s criminal exposure is unclear. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, outlined 10 instances in which Mr. Trump may have obstructed justice but declined to say whether he had broken the law, citing legal and factual constraints on prosecuting a sitting president. Former Justice Department officials and legal experts said that several of the acts should be prosecuted.
The discussions about a self-pardon came before Mr. Trump pressured Georgia officials to help him overturn the election results and incited the riot at the Capitol. Mr. Trump’s allies believe that both episodes increased his criminal exposure.
Presidential pardons apply only to federal law and provide no protection against state crimes. They would not apply to charges that could be brought by prosecutors in Manhattan investigating the Trump Organization’s finances.
A day after a mob of pro-Trump supporters storming the Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California announced that Paul D. Irving, the House Sergeant at Arms, intended to resign from his position.
She also called for Steven Sund, the Capitol Police chief, to resign, saying “Mr. Sund, he hasn’t even called us since this happened.”
Ms. Pelosi’s updates came after Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said he would fire Michael C. Stenger, the Senate sergeant-at-arms, as soon as Democrats took the majority. The statement was first reported by Politico.
“If Senate Sergeant Arms Stenger hasn’t vacated the position by then, I will fire him as soon as Democrats have a majority in the Senate,” Mr. Schumer said.
Mr. Stenger, who has held the position since April 2018, spent 35 years in the Secret Service and is a former captain in the Marine Corps.
Mr. Schumer’s statement comes as lawmakers in both chambers and from both parties vowed on Thursday to find out how those responsible for Capitol security allowed a violent mob to infiltrate the Capitol. House Democrats announced a “robust” investigation into the law enforcement breakdown.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said in a statement that “a painstaking investigation and thorough review,” was needed after the events of Wednesday, which he described as “a massive failure of institutions, protocols, and planning that are supposed to protect the first branch of our federal government.”
Mr. McConnell added that “the ultimate blame for yesterday lies with the unhinged criminals who broke down doors, trampled our nation’s flag, fought with law enforcement, and tried to disrupt our democracy, and with those who incited them.
“But this fact does not and will not preclude our addressing the shocking failures in the Capitol’s security posture and protocols.”
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to announce Gina M. Raimondo, the governor of Rhode Island, as his commerce secretary and Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston as his labor secretary, as he moves to fill key economic positions that are expected to play a significant role in his administration.
Mr. Biden is also expected to name Isabel Guzman, a small business advocate and former Obama administration official, to run the Small Business Administration.
Mr. Walsh, 53, led Boston’s powerful Building and Construction Trades Council for two years before winning his race for mayor in 2013 with strong backing from organized labor. He is expected to work on fulfilling Mr. Biden’s promise to implement stronger worker protections amid the pandemic and to boost worker pay.
It will fall to the next labor secretary to revisit a number of key regulations issued by the department under President Trump, including a rule that makes it harder for employees of contractors and franchises to recover stolen wages from parent companies when their direct employers lack the resources to do so.
Ms. Raimondo, a moderate Democrat with a background in the financial industry, has served as governor since 2015. She is seen as a relatively traditional choice for commerce secretary, a sprawling post that oversees relations with the business community but also technology regulation, weather monitoring and the gathering of economic data, among other duties.
As governor of Rhode Island, Ms. Raimondo introduced training programs, cut taxes and eliminated regulations to support businesses. She clashed with unions but ultimately found compromise as she overhauled the state pension plan.
Before running for office, she was a founding employee at the investment firm Village Ventures, which was backed by Bain Capital, and co-founded her own venture capital firm, Point Judith Capital. Ms. Raimondo has a law degree from Yale University and earned a doctorate from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes scholar.
As commerce secretary, Ms. Raimondo will control an agency that was at the forefront of an economic fight with China during the Trump administration.
A sprawling agency with nearly 50,000 employees, the Commerce Department has used its vast power to curtail the access of Chinese companies to the American market and technology. The department also played a role in levying significant tariffs on trading partners on the basis of national security, under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
It carried out investigations into the effect of imported steel and aluminum on the domestic industry, which led to President Trump imposing global metal tariffs. It also investigated whether imports of cars and car parts, uranium and titanium sponges posed a threat to national security. While those investigations determined that imports harmed American interests, the Trump administration did not impose tariffs.
Mr. Biden has criticized Mr. Trump for imposing national-security-related tariffs on America’s closest allies, suggesting he may ultimately choose to roll back such an authority.
The events of the last 48 hours — Tuesday’s Democratic takeover of the Senate and Wednesday’s mob violence at the Capitol by President Trump supporters — fundamentally altered the trajectory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidency two weeks before his hand touches the bible.
Once chatty, malaprop-prone and accessible, Mr. Biden has transformed himself into a figure of distance and dignity, taking advantage of the spotlight-hogging futility of Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the election. He has been able to quietly assemble a team and plan for the battles ahead.
The violence, in the view of several people in Mr. Biden’s immediate orbit, has mellowed the intensity of Republican opposition to him, especially among the members of the chamber most eager to distance themselves from Mr. Trump’s antics.
Most notable among them: the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, who had defined unseating President Obama as his primary goal at this point in 2009; and Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina who has buddied up to both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump over the years.
There is nothing quite like huddling behind barricaded doors with an armed mob roaming the hallways to rekindle the dying embers of bipartisanship. But nobody expects it to last.
Mr. Trump incited the riot and Mr. Biden, a senator for nearly four decades, is universally regarded as a guardian of the institution — which matters a great deal to people like Mr. McConnell.
What does this mean in the short term? For starters, it is likely to diminish (but not eliminate) opposition to Mr. Biden’s cabinet picks, although big fights loom.
Mr. Graham on Wednesday, for instance, praised Merrick Garland, the president-elect’s choice for attorney general, and other senators have signaled a less combative approach that has not been seen since the days before social media provocation dominated the discourse.
The landscape was dramatically altered even before the riot, with the double triumph of the two Democrats, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, in the Georgia Senate runoff elections on Tuesday.
The Biden team had quietly downplayed the idea that they would actually win — in part out of superstition, several jittery Democratic aides suggested in the days leading up to the election.
In the most basic sense, the addition of two Democrats means Mr. Biden needs fewer Republican votes and, just as important, has control over which bills are sent to the floor, a major lever of power unappreciated outside of Washington.
But the pressure from Mr. Biden’s left flank to use these powers will be great. Democrats fear a Republican takeover of the House in 2022, and a similar possibility looms in the deadlocked upper chamber.
Many in Mr. Biden’s circle believe he has two years to jam through Democratic priorities, starting with his pledge to pass a $2,000 payment to Americans to ease the economic hardship of the pandemic. That tension — whether to go it alone or wait for compromise — is likely to define his presidency.
“Biden will say all the public things about how he needs to get Republican support, but the truth is that this fundamentally changes the dynamic,” said David Krone, former chief of staff to former Senator Harry Reid, the last Democratic majority leader. “Democrats now control the floor. So he can bring up all kinds of bills that would have been blocked by the Republicans, and force votes on big bills — like a major infrastructure package.”
Then there’s Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will have more power as the tiebreaking presiding office in a 50-50 deadlocked Senate.
Former Attorney General William P. Barr said Thursday that President Trump betrayed his office by encouraging a mob of supporters to intimidate Congress into overturning the election results by storming the Capitol, joining former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in blaming Mr. Trump for the violence.
Mr. Barr, who stepped down from office last month under pressure from Mr. Trump, said in a statement to The Associated Press that the president’s conduct betrayed “his office and supporters” and that “orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable.”
Mr. Barr was widely seen as the cabinet member who did the most to advance the president’s political agenda, and the statement was unusually strong given Mr. Barr’s praise for the president in his departure letter even as Mr. Trump pressured the Justice Department to help his effort to overturn the election results.
Immediately after a violent mob of Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, Mr. Mattis was among the first former cabinet officials to directly blame Mr. Trump, calling the attack “an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule” that was “fomented by Mr. Trump.”
Former Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and retired Gen. Joseph Dunford, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Mr. Trump, also criticized the politicians who had supported Mr. Trump’s claims and spread false information about the election.
Current law enforcement officials have not gone so far as to acknowledge Mr. Trump’s role in encouraging the attack.
The acting attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, called the violence at the Capitol “an intolerable attack on a fundamental institution of our democracy,” and said that law enforcement officials were working to find, arrest and charge rioters. And the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, said that the bureau would “pursue those involved in criminal activity” during the mayhem.
Also on Thursday, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Eric S. Dreiband, told his staff that he was leaving the Trump administration effective the following day. While many department leaders left after the election, his abrupt announcement took some people who worked for him by surprise.
He did not cite a reason or say whether his departure was tied to Mr. Trump’s conduct and the riots, but he quoted Martin Luther King Jr. at length, saying: “Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be.”
The Pentagon is deploying more than 5,000 additional National Guard troops from six states to Washington, and the troops will stay through the inauguration later this month, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday.
After pleas from Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, the Pentagon mobilized all 1,100 available District of Columbia National Guard troops on Wednesday afternoon to confront the violent mob that had stormed the Capitol. About 340 D.C. National Guard had been called up earlier in the week to help with crowd and traffic control.
An additional 5,100 Guard troops from Virginia, Maryland, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are expected to arrive in Washington over the next several days and remain through Jan. 20 for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration, the senior official said.
Pentagon officials said that the additional Guard personnel would support local police and federal law enforcement officers.
In June, some 5,000 Guard troops — from the District of Columbia and a dozen states — were rushed to the streets of the capital to help in the crackdown on mostly peaceful protesters and occasional looters after the killing of George Floyd in police custody.
The actions of law enforcement officials before, during and after the violent breach of the Capitol on Wednesday by a pro-Trump mob were questioned as images emerged of officers gently escorting rioters to freedom and a video showed officers pushing aside barricades used to keep the mob from entering the complex.
The law enforcement agencies responsible for protecting the complex, a patchwork of federal and local agencies led by the 2,000-member Capitol Police force, are already facing scrutiny over their inability to counter the violence despite weeks of none-too-secret planning by the attackers on social media sites like Gab and Parler.
The Capitol Police, which is shielded from the transparency requirements of other federal agencies by law, did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, Steven Sund, the chief of police, issued a statement vowing “a thorough review of this incident, security planning and policies and procedures.”
“The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Sund said. “The USCP had a robust plan established to address anticipated First Amendment activities. But make no mistake — these mass riots were not First Amendment activities; they were criminal riotous behavior.”
Mr. Sund said more than 50 Capitol Police and Washington Metro Police officers had been injured, and several Capitol Police officers were hospitalized with serious injuries. A Capitol Police officer who shot and killed a woman outside the House chamber has been placed on administrative leave while the department investigates.
Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, said on Twitter late Wednesday: “We must investigate the security breach at the Capitol today. I warned our Caucus and had an hour long conversation with the Chief of Police 4days ago. He assured me the terrorists would not be allowed on the plaza & Capitol secured.” (An earlier version of this briefing item misstated the timing of the events at the Capitol and the statement by the Capitol Police. The Capitol was stormed on Wednesday, not Tuesday, and the Capitol Police issued their response on Thursday, not Wednesday.)
When debate over certification of the presidential election resumed amid shattered glass, lawmakers from both parties praised the heroism of the officers who battled with violent protesters.
But many in the mob, which numbered in the hundreds, appeared to act with the abandon of lawbreakers confident they would not be held accountable.
Some gleefully snatched and smashed cameras from journalists, others smiled without masks for selfies, and one Richard Barnett, 60, from Gravette, Ark., amiably recounted his invasion of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s personal office to a reporter after posing for a picture with his feet on her desk.
“Why on earth is this man not under arrest and in prison?” Ben Rhodes, a former speechwriter for President Obama, asked on Twitter.
The contrast between the treatment of the mostly white pro-Trump mob and the massive show of force to counter more peaceful and racially diverse protests against police violence last summer was striking to many.
“It was strange, because it was almost like there was this call to not use force,” Representative Cori Bush, a Democrat from St. Louis, said in an interview with MSNBC shortly after the attack.
Ms. Bush said that the rioters “would have been shot” if they were Black, adding the treatment reflected “white privilege.”
Law enforcement officials told lawmakers on Wednesday that their main priority was to clear the complex quickly, rather than make arrests, so that legislative activity could resume as soon as possible.
As of 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, the last accounting offered by law enforcement agencies, at least 52 people were arrested, including five on weapons charges and at least 26 on the grounds of the Capitol. Most of the arrests were for violating the 6 p.m. curfew, he said, adding that the police would circulate pictures of those sought for breaching the Capitol building.
In addition, pipe bombs were found at the headquarters of both the Republican and the Democratic National Committees and a cooler containing a long gun and Molotov cocktails was discovered on the Capitol grounds, Washington D.C. police officials said.
On Wednesday morning, the F.B.I. posted a web page for tips about individuals involved in the violence, and details of new attacks that might be in the works — allowing citizens to upload digital images of people involved.
I just wanted to express our friendship and our faith in the United States. What happened today in Washington, D.C., is not America, definitely. We believe in the strength of our democracy. We believe in the strength of American democracy.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain condemned President Trump on Thursday for encouraging mob violence at the U.S. Capitol, describing his behavior as “completely wrong,” joining world leaders who expressed concern about the health of American democracy.
“Insofar as he encouraged people to storm the Capitol, and insofar as the president consistently has cast doubt on the outcome of a free and fair election, I believe that that was completely wrong,” Mr. Johnson said at a news conference in London.
He said he wanted to “unreservedly condemn encouraging people to behave in the disgraceful way that they did in the Capitol.”
Mr. Johnson, who until recently cultivated close ties to Mr. Trump, was among those leaders who suggested that the values America represented for the rest of the world had been endangered. “All my life America has stood for some very important things, an idea of freedom and an idea of democracy,” Mr. Johnson said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said she deeply regretted that Mr. Trump had not accepted his defeat in the election. “He stoked uncertainties about the election outcome, and that created an atmosphere that made the events of last night possible,” she said.
Ms. Merkel, who addressed a joint session of Congress during a visit to Washington in 2009, said it was “tragic” that people lost their lives during Wednesday’s violence but that it was a sign of “hope” that Congress worked through the night. A woman was fatally shot inside the Capitol and three other deaths were reported nearby, the police said.
Ms. Merkel’s comments mirrored a deep-seated faith in the strength of democracy in the United States that is held by many in Europe.
President Emmanuel Macron of France, in a formal address recalling longstanding ties between his country and the United States, said the chaos in Washington did not reflect the America he knew.
“We believe in the strength of our democracies,” Mr. Macron said. “We believe in the strength of American democracy.”
Le Monde, one of France’s leading newspapers, said in an editorial on Thursday that the violence in Washington amounted to a “day of shame.”
In the first government response from Russia, the spokeswoman for the country’s foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova, said, “We once again point out that the electoral system in the United States is archaic and doesn’t meet modern standards of democracy, creating the possibility for multiple violations and the American media have become instruments of political struggle.”
Ms. Zakharova said she hoped the “friendly people of America will with dignity get through this dramatic period in their own history.”
Russian politicians and political analysts were quick to point out that the attack on the Capitol would send immediate ripples through one cornerstone of American foreign policy: support for pro-Western protesters in the street politics of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
“Color revolutions just lost a serious argument in their favor,” Konstantin F. Zatulin, deputy chairman of a committee in Russia’s Parliament on relations with former Soviet states, said in an interview, referring to American-supported popular uprisings in countries including Georgia, Serbia and Ukraine over the past two decades.
In Asia, much of which was asleep while American lawmakers were being evacuated from the Capitol, the unsettling scenes from Washington greeted those who were starting their day.
In China, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying, pointedly referred to American expressions of support for the huge protests that took place in Hong Kong, which at one point included the takeover of the legislature in 2019.
“You may still remember that at the time, American officials, congressmen and some media — what phrases did they use for Hong Kong?” she said in Beijing on Thursday. “What phrases are they using for America now?”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand said she and her country were “devastated” by the events in the United States, but she expressed confidence that democracy would ultimately prevail.
“The right of people to exercise a vote, have their voice heard and then have that decision upheld peacefully should never be undone by a mob,” she wrote on Twitter.
Charles Santiago, an opposition lawmaker in Malaysia, said that Mr. Trump had joined other world leaders “in subverting democracy and the will of the people.” He cited Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia and President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.
“The U.S. has lost its moral authority to preach democracy and human rights to other countries,” he said. “It has become part of the problem.”
Facebook on Thursday said it will block President Trump on its platforms at least until the end of his term on Jan. 20, as the mainstream online world moved forcefully to limit the president after years of inaction.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said in a post that the social network decided to cut off Mr. Trump because a rampage by pro-Trump supporters in the nation’s capital a day earlier, which was urged on by the president, showed that Mr. Trump “intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden.”
“We believe the risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote. As a result, he said, Facebook and its photo-sharing site Instagram would extend blocks, first put in place on Wednesday, on Mr. Trump’s ability to post “until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”
The move was part of a widening revolt by social media companies against Mr. Trump, who has used the sites throughout his presidency to rile up his supporters and bully his enemies.
Twitter on Wednesday said it would lock Mr. Trump’s account for 12 hours because he had posted several tweets that violated its rules against calling for violence and discrediting the vote. Snap, the maker of Snapchat, also cut off access to Mr. Trump’s Snapchat account. And YouTube on Thursday implemented a stricter election fraud misinformation policy to make it easier to suspend the president for posting false election claims.
The actions were a striking change for a social media industry that has long declined to take down Mr. Trump’s posts, which were often filled with falsehoods and threats.
“These isolated actions are both too late and not nearly enough,” said Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia.
The spotlight now falls on Twitter and what it will do with Mr. Trump’s account. The social media service has been Mr. Trump’s preferred megaphone, where he has more than 88 million followers, compared with 35 million on Facebook. Twitter’s locking of Mr. Trump’s account on Wednesday was set to be lifted on Thursday if he complied with the service’s demand to delete several tweets.
Twitter said in a statement that it was continuing to evaluate the situation and whether “further escalation in our enforcement approach is necessary.” On Wednesday, the company had said the risks of keeping Mr. Trump’s commentary live on its site had become too high.
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics published financial disclosure forms on Thursday morning for Katherine Tai, the Biden administration’s expected nominee for the position of United States Trade Representative. Ms. Tai currently serves as chief trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee.
The forms show Ms. Tai’s assets are far more limited than many of the outgoing members of the Trump administration, like Wilbur Ross, the wealthy financier who serves as commerce secretary, and Ms. Tai’s predecessor as trade representative, Robert E. Lighthizer.
Ms. Tai has retirement accounts valued between $70,000 and $350,000, and other investment accounts valued between $425,000 and $1,050,000. She also owns residential real estate in San Francisco valued between $500,000 and $1 million, and has bank accounts with between $350,000 and $750,000 in cash.
But Ms. Tai also has liabilities, namely three mortgages of between $1 million and $2 million, according to the filing.
Michelle Obama, the former first lady, called on social media companies to permanently ban President Trump on Thursday in the aftermath of a violent mob incited by the president storming the Capitol.
“Now is the time for Silicon Valley to stop enabling this monstrous behavior — and go even further than they have already by permanently banning this man from their platforms,” Mrs. Obama wrote in a lengthy statement she posted on Twitter. “If we have any hope of serious consequences, now is the time for swift and serious consequences.”
Mrs. Obama also highlighted the contrast in police response to the mob at the Capitol, when compared to the Black Lives Matter protests that were met with brutal force last year.
“In city after city, day after day, we saw peaceful protesters met with brute force. We saw cracked skulls and mass arrests, law enforcement pepper spraying its way through a peaceful demonstration for a presidential photo op,” Mrs. Obama wrote, adding that seeing the inequality of force used “is so painful. It hurts.”
“Yesterday made it painfully clear that certain Americans are, in fact, allowed to denigrate the flag and symbols of our nation,” Mrs. Obama wrote. “They’ve just got to look the right way.”
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