Written by Matthew Parry,
At 13.00 EST on 6 January 2021, the 117th United States Congress and US Vice-President Mike Pence assembled in the Capitol Building, seat of the US Congress in Washington, DC, to tally the electoral votes certified by the 50 states and the District of Columbia, thereby declaring Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, respectively, US President-elect and Vice-President-elect. The ceremony was interrupted when an angry mob, seemingly encouraged by President Donald Trump in a speech earlier that day, broke into the Capitol and forced the Vice-President and Members of Congress to shelter in fear for their lives, while the intruders clashed with Capitol security and vandalised and stole property. Later that day, the combined forces of the police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Guard were able to evict the protesters and secure the building, allowing the Vice-President and Congress to re‑assemble and complete the ceremony.
The invasion of the Capitol, a symbol of US democracy, has had dramatic political consequences. Trump has now been impeached by the House of Representatives for the second time − the only US President in history to be so. Democratic Party leaders had already appealed, the day after the intrusion, to Vice‑President Pence to use the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the US Constitution to replace Trump against his will before the end of his term on 20 January. The US Senate appears set to conduct an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office, but it is not certain that it has the authority to do so, or what the trial’s legal or political outcome will be.
This Briefing considers some of the options that Congress had to deprive President Trump of power immediately after 6 January, and the options that remain after Joe Biden becomes President on 20 January 2021.
Read the complete briefing on ‘After the storming of the US Capitol: A second impeachment trial of President Trump?‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.
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