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Pelosi says House will move forward with Trump impeachment motion if he doesn't resign

At least one Republican senator said he was open to impeachment proceedings, while Trump announced he won't attend Biden's inauguration.
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WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Friday that the House is prepared to move forward with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in the wake of the violence at the U.S. Capitol if he does not resign.

“It is the hope of Members that the President will immediately resign. But if he does not, I have instructed the Rules Committee to be prepared to move forward with Congressman Jamie Raskin’s 25th Amendment legislation and a motion for impeachment," she said. "Accordingly, the House will preserve every option — including the 25th Amendment, a motion to impeach or a privileged resolution for impeachment."

Pelosi, D-Calif., said House Democratic Caucus had an hours-long conversation about the issue that was "sad, moving and patriotic."

She added, “With great respect, our deliberations will continue.”

This would be an extraordinary move as Trump's term ends in less than two weeks and he was impeached by the House in December 2019 and acquitted by the Senate the following February.

Pelosi told reporters earlier on Friday as she left the Capitol that discussions about impeachment are ongoing.

“Our conversation continues," she said. "We have several options so far.”

House Democratic leaders are eyeing a vote on articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump as early as the middle of next week, Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark also said Friday.

"We know that we have limited time, but that every day that Donald Trump is president of the United States, is a day of grave danger. So we can use procedural tools to get articles of impeachment to the floor for a House vote quickly," Clark, D-Mass., said on CNN’s "New Day."

Asked how early the House Judiciary Committee could bring the articles to the floor, Clark said, "That will early as mid-next week."

After the interview, Clark clarified that Democrats are still working to determine the timeline.

However, that timeline may be complicated. NBC News obtained a memo Friday evening, which was circulated to Senate Republicans by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that lays out a timeline for a potential impeachment trial.

The memo says that without a unanimous consent agreement from all 100 senators to bring the chamber back in session in the next 10 days, the soonest it could receive articles of impeachment from the House would be on January 19th — the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Democratic Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland distributed a draft article of impeachment titled "Incitement of Insurrection," as the House held a pro forma session on Monday.

The draft, provided to NBC News by Cicilline's office, charges: "Donald John Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States."

It says Trump has demonstrated he would be a "threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office." And it concludes: "President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States."

The articles, if approved, seeks to ban Trump from running for president again in 2024 or after. The Constitution limits a president to two terms, even if they are not consecutive.

Democrats are also discussing whether Trump's phone call to Georgia’s secretary of state last weekend should be mentioned.

Lieu and Cicilline had 112 co-sponsors on Friday afternoon. While there have been conversations with Republicans about signing on, no GOP lawmakers have joined the effort so far, according to a congressional official.

The lawmakers started drafting the articles while in lockdown in Cicilline’s office for hours as the Capitol was overrun by the mob on Wednesday.

Pelosi has not yet formally approved the articles, however.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, said in a statement on Friday that he supports impeachment "to protect the country from any further harm."

“The Congress should act to begin impeachment proceedings as the only instrument wholly within our power to remove a president who has so manifestly and repeatedly violated the Constitution and put our nation at grave risk," said Schiff, who was the lead House manager in Trumps first impeachment.

In a letter to House Democrats on Friday afternoon, Pelosi reiterated her and presumptive Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's, D-N.Y., demand that Vice President Mike Pence invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office before Biden's inauguration. She said that Congress will take action if Trump does not leave office "imminently."

A spokesperson for Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the 25th Amendment does not involve Congress and it "seems improbable at this point."

"Now that it appears that the House is going to consider an impeachment resolution next week, we won’t have any further comment on impeachment because of the Senate’s constitutional role in those proceedings, which includes sitting as a jury," the spokesperson, Annie Clark, said.

Collins voted to acquit President Trump following the Senate impeachment trial in February.

Pelosi also said on a Democratic Caucus conference call Friday that she would speak with Biden in the afternoon about impeachment, according to three people on the call.

Pelosi wrote that she spoke to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley on Friday morning about preventing Trump from launching a nuclear strike, saying her goal was "to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike."

"The situation of this unhinged president could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy," Pelosi wrote.

During a question-and-answer session Friday after an event unveiling more economic nominees, Biden declined to say whether he supports impeaching Trump.

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"I thought for a long, long time that President Trump wasn't fit to hold the job, so I ran, and my job now in 12 days, god-willing, I’ll be president of the United States of America," Biden said.

The president-elect added that he is focused on the urgency of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis "What the Congress decides to do is for them to decide," he said.

Biden called the people who stormed the Capitol "thugs" and "domestic terrorists," saying the rioting came after the "active encouragement" by the president and should be fully investigated.

"He’s one of the most incompetent presidents in the history of the United States of America," Biden said, adding that he looks forward to Trump leaving office.

During an hour-long zoom call with reporters Friday, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., said Trump could be the first president impeached twice.

"He's always wanting to do stuff that has never been done before," Clyburn said. "There's never been a president impeached twice before. So, let's impeach him and give him what he wants."

“This is bad stuff. And it's time for everybody to call it what it is," he continued. "It is time for the Republican leadership to invoke the 25th Amendment. They need to do it. Pence needs to do it. But if he doesn't, we need to impeach. We need to impeach."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement Friday that he opposes impeaching Trump, saying that it will divide our country more." He said that he reached out to Biden on Friday "and plan to speak to him about how we must work together to lower the temperature and unite the country to solve America's challenges."

McCarthy was among 147 Republicans from the House and Senate who voted early Thursday morning to decertify and overturn Biden's 2020 election victory.

Meanwhile, Trump announced on Twitter late Friday morning that he plans to skip Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. Biden said at his press conference that he was told about Trump's decision, quipping that it was "one of the few things he and I have ever agreed on."

That was one of the president's final tweets. Late Friday, Twitter permanently suspended Trump’s account, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.” He tried to circumvent the suspension by tweeting a series of complaints about Twitter from the official POTUS handle, but those tweets were quickly removed.

There have been only a handful of times throughout American history when an outgoing sitting president did not attend the inauguration of his successor. John Adams, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson all skipped the event, while Richard Nixon departed the White House after his resignation and did not attend Gerald Ford's swearing-in.

NBC News learned that Democratic leaders met Thursday evening to discuss how to remove the president from office, according to a member of Congress who was in the room. They discussed how to expedite the process and could call the House back into session as soon as Monday to start the process.

The matter had not yet been decided, and there were voices in the leadership meeting advocating for different approaches to the question of whether to impeach. But with Vice President Mike Pence seeming to signal he will not invoke the 25th Amendment, the discussion became more urgent Thursday.

It’s not clear if any Republicans in the House would be willing to support impeachment at this point, but members are so angry about what happened at the Capitol that the political assumptions and norms are not as they have been. “People are pissed,” one Republican source said.

An impeachment floor vote in the middle of next week would give the Senate only a week to hold a trial before Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.

Articles of impeachment adopted by the House would then go to the Senate, where they could be referred to committee or fast-tracked to the Senate floor. A two-thirds vote is required to convict Trump, and if that happened, the Senate could then proceed to a simply majority vote on whether to bar him from holding future federal office.

No president has ever been removed from office through the impeachment process, and no president has been impeached by the House more than once.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., signaled Friday that he's open to potentially convicting Trump and removing him from office if the House impeaches Trump.

"The House, if they come together and have a process, I will definitely consider whatever articles they might move, because as I've told you I believe the president has disregarded his oath of office," he said on "CBS This Morning." "What he did was wicked."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on the other hand, said that impeachment would "do more harm than good."

"I’m hopeful President-elect Biden sees the damage that would be done from such action," tweeted Graham, who added it was "time to heal and move on."

Clark said that the House "can act quickly when we want to" and suggested that they could bypass certain congressional procedures as Republicans have done in the past with their legislation, and fast-track articles of impeachment to the floor.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., made clear in a statement Thursday night that he supports the immediate impeachment of the president and his removal from office.