US House convenes to impeach Trump for his role in Capitol assault

US House convenes to impeach Trump for his role in Capitol assault
A member of the National Guard is given a weapon before Democrats begin debating one article of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the US Capitol on January 13, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 January 2021

US House convenes to impeach Trump for his role in Capitol assault

US House convenes to impeach Trump for his role in Capitol assault
  • At least five Republicans have said they would join Democrats to impeach Trump for the second time
  • Washington is on high alert after the riot and with a week to go in Trump's term

WASHINGTON: A week after President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the US Capitol, the US House of Representatives gathered on Wednesday to impeach the president for his role in an assault on American democracy that stunned the nation and left five dead.
At least five Republicans have said they would join Democrats to impeach Trump for the second time, just seven days before he is due to leave office and President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.
A vote of the House majority to impeach would trigger a trial in the still Republican-controlled Senate, although it was unclear whether such a trial would take place in time to expel Trump from the White House.
Washington is on high alert after the riot and with a week to go in Trump's term. Thousands of National Guard troops were planned to be on hand and some members in fatigues, with weapons at hand, could be seen sleeping inside the Capitol building on Wednesday ahead of the session.
The House convened just after 9 a.m. (1400 GMT) in the same chamber where lawmakers hid under chairs last Wednesday as angry rioters clashed with police in the halls of the Capitol.
Democrats moved forward on an impeachment vote after Vice President Mike Pence rejected an effort to persuade him to invoke the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution to remove Trump.
"I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution," Pence said in a letter Tuesday evening to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Despite the letter, the House passed a resolution late Tuesday formally calling on Pence to act. The final vote was 223-205 in favor.
As the House prepared for the impeachment vote, there were signs Trump's once-dominant hold on the Republican Party was beginning to ebb.
At least five House Republicans, including Liz Cheney, a member of her party's leadership team, said they would vote for his second impeachment - a prospect no president before Trump has faced.
"There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution," Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said in a statement.
Trump "summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack" on the Capitol, she said.
Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler, John Katko, Adam Kinzinger and Fred Upton also said they supported impeachment.
In a break from standard procedure, Republican leaders in the House have refrained from urging their members to vote against impeaching Trump, saying it was a matter of individual conscience.
The New York Times reported that the Republican majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell, was said to be pleased about the impeachment push, another sign Trump's party is looking to move on from him after the attack on Congress.
In his first public appearance since last Wednesday's riot, Trump showed no contrition on Tuesday for his speech last week in which he called on his supporters to protest Biden's victory by marching on the Capitol.
"What I said was totally appropriate," Trump told reporters.
At a meeting to set the rules for Wednesday's impeachment vote, Democratic Representative David Cicilline, who helped craft the impeachment measure, said the impeachment drive had the support of 217 lawmakers - enough to impeach Trump.
House Republicans who opposed the impeachment drive argued Democrats were going too far, as Trump was on the verge of leaving office.
"This is scary where this goes, because this is about more than about impeaching the president of the United States. This is about cancelling the president and cancelling all the people you guys disagree with," said Republican Representative Jim Jordan, one of Trump's staunchest defenders when the president was impeached in 2019 after encouraging the government of Ukraine to dig up political dirt on Biden.
Pelosi on Tuesday named nine impeachment managers who would present the House's case during a Senate trial. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat, said Democrats intended to send impeachment charges, once approved, to the Senate "as soon as possible."
It remained unclear how swiftly such a trial would take place. McConnell has said no trial could begin until the chamber returns from its recess on Jan. 19.
But Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is set to become the majority leader after two Democrats from Georgia are seated and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is sworn in later this month, told reporters the Senate could be recalled to handle the matter.
A two-thirds majority of the Senate is needed to convict Trump, meaning at least 17 Republicans in the 100-member chamber would have to vote for conviction.
Democrats could also use an impeachment trial to push through a vote blocking Trump from running for office again.
Only a simple Senate majority is needed to disqualify Trump from future office, but there is disagreement among legal experts as to whether an impeachment conviction is needed before a disqualification vote.
A different part of the Constitution, the 14th Amendment, also provides a procedure for disqualifying Trump from future office with a simple majority of both chambers.


Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
Updated 41 min 22 sec ago

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
  • Taliban spokesman says first vice president wants to sabotage the peace talks

KABUL: Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Monday demanded the execution of Taliban prisoners as violence surges in the country in spite of US-sponsored talks between the government and the militants.

Under mounting US pressure and following months of delay, Kabul released last summer thousands of Taliban prisoners from its custody as part of the landmark accord between the group and Washington.

But now there has been a spike in arrests of suspected Taliban fighters linked with recent attacks.

“These arrests should be executed so that it becomes a lesson for others,” Saleh told a routine security meeting in Kabul.

“The arrested like nightingales admit (to conducting attacks), but their all hope is that they will be freed one day without real punishment … any terrorist detainee should be executed.”

Known as the staunchest anti-Taliban leader in government and consistently opposed to talks with the Taliban, Saleh said he would raise his demand for the executions in the High Council of the Judiciary. His spokesman, Rezwan Murad, said the first vice president has also shared his demand with President Ashraf Ghani.

“Currently, around 1,000 Taliban prisoners have been sentenced to capital punishment,” Prison Administration spokesman in Kabul, Farhad Bayani, told Arab News.

“Such news is provoking, he wants to sabotage the process of talks,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, when reached by Arab News for reaction to Saleh’s push.

“We will severely take the revenge of any type of inhuman and cruel treatment of our prisoners.”

The Afghan government was excluded from the US and Taliban deal signed last February in Doha, which as per the agreement is also hosting the current peace talks between Kabul and the insurgents.

In spite of the ongoing talks, violence has surged in Afghanistan and both the government and the Taliban accuse each other for its escalation.

Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in the violence, which has displaced tens of thousands of people since the February deal, while Kabul has endured a resurgence in assassination attacks and magnet bombs.

Prior to Saleh, some residents and lawmakers also demanded the executions of Taliban members suspected of being behind major attacks. Heather Barr, interim co-director for Human Rights Watch, told Arab News: “Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty under all circumstances. It is a uniquely cruel and irreversible punishment and we are glad to see that there has been some global progress towards abolition of the death penalty.”

She added: “Afghanistan has already seen so much violence and death and continues to experience this violence every day. There is an urgent need for accountability for the many human rights violations that have been inflicted during Afghanistan’s many years of war, but executions will not bring the justice Afghans so badly need.”