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ALAMO, Jan 13 — On the eve of his likely impeachment, President Donald Trump yesterday denied responsibility for the storming of Congress by a mob of his supporters, and warned of “tremendous anger” across the country.
Although Trump also urged “peace and calm” during a visit to his US-Mexico border wall in Alamo, Texas, his overall message was of defiance and refusal to take blame.
The House of Representatives is set today to make Trump the first president in US history impeached for a second time over his January 6 speech in which he claimed he was the real winner of the November election, then urged supporters to march on Congress.
The crowd attacked the Capitol, fighting with police, ransacking offices, and briefly forcing frightened lawmakers to abandon a ceremony certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.
On his way to Texas, Trump insisted that “everybody” thought his speech was “totally appropriate.”
Trump dubbed his likely impeachment a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics.”
And he warned that while “you have to always avoid violence,” his supporters are furious.
“I’ve never seen such anger,” he said.
No longer able to use Twitter and Facebook — two platforms integral to his shock rise to power in 2016 — Trump is for the first time struggling to shape the news message, a censoring by Big Tech that he called a “catastrophic mistake.”
His trip to Alamo, Texas, where he touted claims of success in building the US-Mexican border wall, was his first live public appearance since last week’s chaotic events.
This is not the same Alamo as the famous fortress in another part of Texas. But Trump’s brief, low energy appearance there still marked something of a last stand.
Ever since the November 3 election, the Republican real estate tycoon has been obsessively pushing his lie that Biden stole the election.
But his speech last week and the crowd’s attack, which included fatally wounding a policeman, proved beyond the pale even for some of his staunchest supporters.
Major representatives of the corporate and sporting world have turned their backs on Trump and the Republican party, which was in thrall to the populist leader for four years, has begun to show serious cracks.
Trump, however, remains in denial.
He has yet to congratulate Biden or urge his supporters to stand behind the incoming president after he is inaugurated on January 20 — a gesture of political unity considered all but routine after US elections.
According to Axios, Trump and the top Republican in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, had a stormy phone conversation yesterday in which Trump continued to push his conspiracy theory about the election.
McCarthy reportedly interrupted, telling him: “Stop it. It’s over. The election is over.”
The House of Representatives will first vote late yesterday on a longshot bid to get Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the US Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which would declare Trump unfit to perform his duties and install Pence as acting president.
This is unlikely to happen.
Trump himself said in Texas that he saw “zero risk.”
Although Pence is reportedly furious about Trump’s behaviour last week, the two met at the White House on Monday for the first time since the Congress attack, signaling that whatever Pence and the dwindling number of White House officials feel, they are committed to keeping the presidency limping along to the end.
Still, with a string of cabinet officials quitting the government — most recently the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf on Monday — it’s also clear that Trump’s grip on power is tenuous.
Democrats will follow up the 25th Amendment vote with impeachment proceedings in the House today. The single charge of “incitement of insurrection” is all but sure to get majority support.
The Republican-controlled Senate, however, is in recess until January 19 and its leadership says there is no way to rush through an impeachment trial before Biden takes over the following day.
This means that Trump, who was already acquitted in the Senate last year after his first impeachment trial, would not be forced out of office early.
Not even all Democrats are gunning whole heartedly for a trial, worried that this would overshadow Biden’s first days in office.
The new president will already face the challenges of an out-of-control Covid-19 pandemic, the stumbling vaccination programme, a shaky economy, and now the aftermath of violent political opposition from parts of Trump’s huge voter base. — AFP
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