Donald Trump faced fresh calls Sunday from some members of his own party to resign over the violent incursion into the US Capitol, as the threat builds for a historic second impeachment effort in his final 10 days in the White House.
With the January 20 inauguration of Democrat Joe Biden fast approaching -- and with the country hit by a surging pandemic, a flagging economy, and searing division -- resignation "is the best path forward," Republican Senator Pat Toomey told CNN, adding, "That would be a very good outcome."
Toomey said that since losing the November 3 election, Trump had "descended into a level of madness and engaged in activity that was absolutely unthinkable."
He said Trump's behavior after the election was "wildly different" from what it was before.
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the first Republican senator to urge resignation, saying, "I want him out." House Republicans, including Adam Kinzinger on Sunday, have echoed that call.
Authorities continued seeking Trump supporters who violently stormed the Capitol on Wednesday after the president's repeated false claims that he had lost to Biden due to fraud.
A seven-foot-tall (about two meters) black metal fence has been erected around the historic building and extremists have threatened new action in coming days both in Washington and in state capitols.
- Letter of impeachment -
A House Democratic leader said that Biden's party would likely file at least one article of impeachment against Trump this week, charging him with inciting the violence, which left five people dead, including a Capitol policeman.
"It may be Tuesday or Wednesday before action is taken," House whip James Clyburn told CNN, "but I think it will be taken this week."
Impeachment could still be circumvented by a Trump resignation or by resort to the constitution's 25th amendment, which would remove him from power but requires the assent of the vice president and most of the cabinet, making it unlikely.
One reason Democrats might pursue conviction, even after Trump leaves office, is to prevent him ever being able to run again for federal office.
The president has so far resisted all talk of resignation, and is reportedly furious over recent events -- including Pence's rejection of Trump's vocal pressure to somehow intervene in Congress's confirmation on Wednesday of Biden's election win.
Trump has gone largely silent in recent days -- making no statements, holding no news conferences -- and his state of mind has become slightly less transparent since Twitter, his favored public platform, banned him for language that could incite violence.
- Pelosi's role -
For now, the question of whether and when to impeach lies largely in the hands of House speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In an open letter to members Saturday, she did not use the word impeachment, but said, "It is absolutely essential that those who perpetrated the assault on our democracy be held accountable. There must be a recognition that this desecration was instigated by the President."
She urged members to "be prepared to return to Washington this week."
The Democratic-controlled House would be expected to approve the articles, but there were signs on Sunday that a Senate impeachment trial might not open for months.
Senate rules mean the upper chamber would likely be unable to open a trial before January 19, and Toomey said he was unsure it was constitutionally possible to impeach a former president.
Democrats, for their part, expressed concern that a Senate trial would overshadow and hamper Biden's efforts to quickly lay out his agenda, starting with the fight against the coronavirus and the need to support the economy.
"Let's give President-elect Biden the 100 days" at the start of his term to deal with the most urgent issues, said Clyburn. "Maybe we'll send the articles some time after that."
And Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a centrist Democrat whose vote could be crucial in the new, evenly divided Senate, told CNN an impeachment after January 20 "doesn't make any common sense whatsoever."