Congressional Tensions With Trump Boil Over After Violence On Capitol Hill

Jan 8, 2021
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Two days after the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, congressional tensions with President Trump have boiled over. Lawmakers called for his removal, his impeachment, and now they have made public renewed concerns about Trump's access to the nuclear codes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump a, quote, "unhinged president" and says he should be prevented from instigating military hostilities or ordering a nuclear strike. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales joins us now.

Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: Hi. OK, let's just start with this idea of removing the president from office in his final days in office. Pelosi talked to her caucus about this today. Can you just tell us - where exactly do these efforts stand right now?

GRISALES: They are moving very quickly. She had an hourslong virtual meeting with her members of her caucus, and she instructed the rules committee to move forward with the legislation establishing a commission related to evaluating the president's fitness for office. As for the articles of impeachment, those are now expected to be filed as early as Monday. And this could kick off a process to initiate an impeachment vote in the coming days.

A second impeachment of this president was a last resort if Trump didn't resign or wasn't removed by the 25th Amendment, and neither of those are viable options now. Pelosi told her caucus that the president chose to be an insurrectionist. And so far, sources tell NPR that about 150 members have signed on, but it remains to be seen if more do. The House is now operating under a tighter margin. And today, the top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, said he's opposed to this impeachment plan with only two weeks - less than two weeks to go.

CHANG: Right. OK, and we're also hearing that Pelosi talked to her Democratic colleagues about concerns that President Trump could launch some kind of military attack?

GRISALES: Yes, Pelosi told them that this, quote, "dangerous man" - referring to Trump - is the commander in chief of the United States, and she has serious worries that he is so unhinged, so unstable, that he may initiate a military strike. She spoke with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mark Milley. And while Milley confirmed the call with Pelosi, he didn't elaborate. Pelosi, however, told her colleagues that she was assured there were safeguards in place, but it's not clear what that means since this power, we should note, is absolute when it comes to the president.

But this is where we are in this moment for this democracy, this level of alarm where the speaker of the House has talked to the country's top military officer about concerns this president could take more additional actions beyond those we saw on Wednesday that could lead to more harm for the American public.

CHANG: So where does all of this leave Republican lawmakers at this moment? Like, who's making their positions known?

GRISALES: So just moments ago, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski joined these calls today calling for President Trump to resign, and she wants him to resign immediately. And this is remarkable. She's the first GOP senator to do so, and she's facing a reelection fight in 2022. She shared this stance with the Anchorage Daily News. And she also shared that, quote, "if the Republican Party has become nothing more than the party of Trump, I sincerely question whether this is the party for me."

So she joins a handful of Republicans who have taken aim at the president after this week's deadly attack, which resulted in a series of grave consequences. The death toll is now at five. This includes Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died last night following this assault by these pro-Trump extremists. Flags are now at half-staff at the Capitol. And three top security officials have resigned for the Capitol. But there's also a series of probes ongoing into this breach. And while Republicans are supportive of this, by and large, they're signaling there's only a few more days to go before he leaves, and they think there's not enough time for impeachment.

CHANG: That is NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales.

Thank you, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.