President-elect Joe Biden signaled Friday that he supports the push to impeach President Trump for his role in inciting the riot at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., Biden’s incoming director of White House engagement, told Democratic lawmakers that Biden was onboard with the idea of impeaching and removing Trump from office, just 12 days before his term is due to end, according to Intercept reporter Ryan Grim.
But at a Friday afternoon news conference in Wilmington, Del., Biden steered clear of offering his full-throated support for impeachment. Asked if he approved of plans by Democrats, who have already drawn up articles of impeachment and could begin proceedings as early as Monday, Biden demurred.
“I’ve thought for a long, long time that President Trump wasn’t fit to hold the job. That’s why I ran,” he said.
Pressed on what he would tell Democrats who asked him directly whether to pursue impeachment, Biden said, “That’s a decision for the Congress to make. I’m focused on my job.”
Biden indicated he would be speaking later in the day with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership and would listen to “whatever they wanted to talk to me about.”
Pressed about whether he believed Trump should remain in office, Biden made clear he did not.
“He’s not fit to serve. He’s not fit to serve. He’s one of the most incompetent presidents in the history of the United States of America,” he said.
Trump, Biden said, “has exceeded even my worst notions about him. He’s embarrassed us around the world.”
Asked about Trump’s announcement Friday that he would not attend Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, Biden said he agreed with that decision.
“One of the few things he and I agree on,” Biden said. “It’s a good thing, him not showing up.”
Biden said Vice President Mike Pence was “welcome” to attend the inauguration, but added that the two men had not talked about it.
Pelosi said Friday that Democrats would seek to impeach Trump “immediately” if he did not resign. Five people died in the siege on the Capitol.
“Today, following the president’s dangerous and seditious acts, Republicans in Congress need to follow that example and call on Trump to depart his office — immediately,” she wrote. “If the president does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action.”
On Thursday, Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said the president-elect would leave it to Congress to decide whether to impeach Trump. “President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris are focused on their duty — preparing to take office on January 20 — and will leave it to Vice President Pence, the Cabinet and the Congress to act as they see fit,” Bates said.
Some Democrats cheered Biden’s apparent change of heart.
Pleased President-elect @JoeBiden understands the best way to heal our nation is not to ignore the seditious attack on our Capitol. He understands we can’t just issue stern press releases when multiple people died during an attempted coup. Pleased Biden supports impeachment. https://t.co/PPKvP98HuA
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 8, 2021
The House, which has a narrow Democratic majority, could pass a bill of impeachment as quickly as Pelosi and her caucus can act. But removing Trump would require a two-thirds majority in the Senate, which is under Republican control.
The prospect of removing Trump under the provisions of the 25th Amendment, which would require the cooperation of Pence and a majority of the Cabinet, seemed more remote by the end of the week as talk of impeachment spread among Democrats.
White House advisers told CNN on Friday that, despite mounting calls from lawmakers and conservative media outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Trump has no plans to step down.
“He doesn’t think he did anything wrong,” one adviser told CNN.
While a majority of congressional Republicans have condemned the violence at the Capitol, none has called for the impeachment of Trump.
“Impeaching the president with just 12 days left in his term will only divide our country more,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Friday.
As President @realDonaldTrump stated last night, it is time to heal and move on.
If Speaker Pelosi pushes impeachm ent in the last days of the Trump presidency it will do more harm than good.I’m hopeful President-elect Biden sees the damage that would be done from such action.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 8, 2021
But the calls for impeachment grew louder in other corners.
I call on President Trump to resign.
If he refuses, I call for impeachment.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 8, 2021
Some people ask: Why would you impeach and convict a president who has only a few days left in office? The answer: Precedent. It must be made clear that no president, now or in the future, can lead an insurrection against the U.S. government.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 8, 2021
On a Friday call with Democratic leadership, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who led the first Trump impeachment proceedings in the House, voiced some reservations about how the timing of a second impeachment would play out. Democrats “should be on the same page as the new president,” Schiff told his colleagues, according to Politico congressional reporter Sarah Ferris. If reports of Biden’s views are accurate, that would represent a big step forward for the process.
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