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Democrats inch towards second Trump impeachment after Capitol siege

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Pro-Trump protesters clashing with police as they rallied to contest Congress' certification of the US presidential poll results at the US Capitol Building on Wednesday.

Washington

CONGRESSIONAL Democrats on Friday weighed impeaching US President Donald Trump for a second time, two days after his false claims of election fraud encourage a mob that stormed the US Capitol.

Democratic leaders including House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for immediate impeachment proceedings if Vice-President Mike Pence and Mr Trump's Cabinet refused to take steps to remove the president from power.

They said in a statement on Thursday evening, accusing Mr Trump of inciting an "insurrection": "The president's dangerous and seditious acts necessitate his immediate removal from office."

As calls for his ouster mounted on Thursday, Mr Trump released a video in which he denounced the violence that left five people dead. It was the closest that he had come to conceding his loss in the Nov 3 election, promising to ensure a smooth transition to a "new administration".

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With Congress having certified President-elect Joe Biden's election victory on Thursday, the Democrat is to be sworn in on Jan 20 as the US' 46th president.

Mr Trump's words were in stark contrast to his speech on Wednesday, when he exhorted a crowd of thousands to descend on the Capitol as Congress met to certify Mr Biden's election victory. The rioters stormed the building, overwhelming police and forcing the authorities to transport lawmakers to secure locations for their own safety.

A Capitol police officer died from injuries sustained in the assault, the force said late on Thursday. A woman protester was fatally shot by the authorities, and three people died from medical emergencies.

The FBI offered a reward of up to US$50,000 for information on people who had pipe bombs in the headquarters of the two main US political parties. The agency released a picture of a suspect wearing gloves and a hoodie, carrying an object.

With less than two weeks left to Mr Trump's term, it was not clear whether enough time remained to complete the impeachment process. Mrs Pelosi has not announced a decision, though she made clear at a news conference that rank-and-file Democrats in her caucus wanted action following Wednesday's siege.

If impeached in the House, Mr Trump would theoretically face trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, which is scheduled to be in recess until Jan 19. Aides to Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, have not said what he would do if the House approved articles of impeachment.

The Democratic-led House impeached Mr Trump in December 2019 for pressuring the president of Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden, but the Republican-held Senate acquitted him in February 2020.

Only two other presidents in history have been impeached, and none has ever been impeached twice.

Democrats will control the Senate after sweeping two runoff elections in Georgia on Tuesday, but the new senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, will not be sworn in until the state certifies the results. The state deadline to do so is Jan 22, although it could come sooner.

In Thursday's video, a flat-toned Mr Trump struck a conciliatory note seldom seen from him during his presidency, calling for "healing" - but stopped short of acknowledging his loss. As recently as Thursday morning, however, he was still claiming the election had been stolen; since November, he has baselessly denounced the election results as "rigged" due to widespread fraud. His campaign and its allies filed several lawsuits challenging the vote counts but almost all were rejected in state and federal courts. No evidence had been given to back his claims. REUTERS

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