With pressure mounting in Washington for his early removal from office over his followers’ rampage through the U.S. Capitol, U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday indicated he is giving up his fruitless drive to cling to his office and committed himself to an orderly transfer of power to Democrat Joe Biden, who will be sworn in as the 46th president on Jan. 20.
Earlier Thursday, the top two Democrats in Congress called for Trump’s removal from office, either through a second impeachment or by way of a provision in the U.S. Constitution that permits the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to remove a president who is mentally unfit. Some Republicans have also urged his removal.
But the latter path appeared unlikely following reports late Thursday that Vice President Mike Pence, who broke with Trump this week over the president’s demands that he seek to overturn the election result, is unwilling to invoke the 25th Amendment.
That would have been the “quickest and most effective way” to oust Trump from the White House, said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is soon to become the Senate majority leader. “This president should not hold office one day longer.”
But, he said, “If the vice president and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also called for Trump’s removal at a news conference where she singled out individual Cabinet members, asking why they would not intervene.
“While it’s only 13 days left (in Trump’s presidency), any day can be a horror show for America,” Pelosi said. “Are they ready to say for the next 13 days this dangerous man can assault our democracy?”
Faced with mounting defections from senior aides and longtime supporters over Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol, Trump issued a video late Thursday in which he acknowledged publicly for the first time that power will be transferred to Biden.
"A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th," he continued. "My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and national reconciliation."
"To the citizens of our country, serving as your president has been the honor of my lifetime. And to all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed, but I want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning," he concluded.
Despite the widespread revulsion over the assault on the Capitol, many of Trump’s most fervent supporters were standing by him.
“Please, don’t be like #FakeNewsMedia, don’t rush to judgment on assault on Capitol,” wrote Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks in a tweet. “Wait for investigation.”
Others, like former national security adviser John Bolton, who has become a harsh Trump critic since leaving the White House, have questioned the wisdom of attempting to impeach the president in the last two weeks of his presidency.
While acknowledging the danger in Trump’s persistent claims that he was cheated out of reelection, Bolton said on CNN late Wednesday, “We ought to bear in mind the adage ‘do no harm,’ because you can make this worse if we’re not careful.”
Trump eventually urged the protesters in a video to “go home,” but appeared to sympathize with them, saying, "We love you. You are very special."
The president was temporarily banned from Twitter late Wednesday because of fears he would incite more violence. An aide dispatched a middle-of-the-night statement on his behalf.
“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. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again.”
Before Congress started its Electoral College debate, Trump urged thousands of his supporters at a rally near the White House to fight the outcome. He urged Pence to thwart the certification of Biden’s victory, even though the vice president told him he did not have the constitutional power to unilaterally block the official recognition of their defeat.
At a midday rally outside the White House on Wednesday, Trump implored his backers to march on the Capitol.
“We're going to walk down there, and I'll be there with you,” he told the crowd. “We're going to walk down … to the Capitol, and we are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong."
Trump then returned in his limousine to the White House, while hundreds of his supporters stormed past police into the Capitol building, smashing windows, occupying the two chambers of Congress and some of the lawmakers’ offices before authorities hours later restored order.
In response to the mayhem at the Capitol and Trump's role in fomenting it, several people in his administration resigned. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao resigned Thursday, the first Cabinet member to do so.
Former acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who more recently was Trump's envoy to Northern Ireland, also resigned, as did Trump's onetime press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, who until Wednesday was first lady Melania Trump's chief of staff.