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Republican U.S. senator joins calls for Trump resignation as Democrats prepare to impeach

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WASHINGTON, Jan 10 (Reuters) – A second Republican U.S. senator called for President Donald Trump to resign on Sunday, saying the Republican president could face criminal liability after the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.

The remarks by Senator Pat Toomey, a conservative supporter of Trump until recently, came as Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives prepared to move forward with impeachment proceedings and amid federal investigations of Wednesday’s assault on the seat of government.

Trump, who has falsely contested the validity of Democrat Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 presidential victory, praised and egged on his supporters before they laid siege to the Capitol, where lawmakers were certifying the Electoral College vote for Biden.

“I think the best way for our country is for the president to resign and go away as soon as possible,” Toomey said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” calling Trump’s behavior since the election “outrageous.”

Toomey, appearing on several Sunday television news shows, said he did not think there was time for an impeachment with only 10 days left in Trump’s term, and noted there did not appear to be consensus to use the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to strip Trump of his powers.

He told CNN he believed Trump could be held criminally liable in the events at the Capitol.

Toomey’s call followed that of fellow Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who said on Friday that Trump should resign immediately. Republican Senator Ben Sasse, a frequent Trump critic, told CBS he would “definitely consider” impeachment.

U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger, another Republican, also called on Trump to step down on Sunday, and for Vice President Mike Pence to exercise the 25th Amendment if he refused.

However, it was unclear whether a significant number of other Republicans would follow suit. Republican leaders have urged the Democratic-led House not to initiate impeachment proceedings for a historic second time against Trump.

Pence has opposed the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment, an adviser said.

ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT

Democratic members of the House of Representatives planned to introduce articles of impeachment on Monday, a step House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised if Trump was not removed by other means.

The House will take up the articles as early as Tuesday or Wednesday, House Majority Whip James Clyburn told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Some Democratic lawmakers suggested on Sunday they might not want to send the articles to the Senate for a trial until after Biden’s first 100 days in office, giving Congress time to approve Biden’s Cabinet nominees and other agenda items.

“Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running and maybe we’ll send the articles sometime after that,” Clyburn said.

Democrats will take control of the Senate following victories in two Georgia runoff elections last week that will leave incoming Vice President Kamala Harris in place to make tie-breaking votes.

Biden has not taken a position on Trump’s impeachment, saying he will leave it to Congress to decide. He did say Congress needs to be able to hit the ground running once he is sworn into office on Jan. 20, when he will focus on dealing with the raging coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery.

The Republican-controlled Senate cleared Trump during his first impeachment trial over allegations he threatened U.S. national security.

Five people including a Capitol Police officer died as a result of Wednesday’s rioting and dozens of people have been charged following the storming of the Capitol.

Authorities are investigating the security lapse, with some lawmakers questioning whether rioters had help from inside the building after images emerged of some police officers opening barricades and posing for selfies with the rioters.

While the vast majority of Capitol Police acted valiantly, U.S. Representative Mondaire Jones said on CNN on Sunday, “It’s just very clear that there was inside information that was shared with these individuals and there has to be an investigation of that.”

Toomey, a conservative who plans to retire at the end of his term in 2022, said he believed Trump had descended into a level of “madness” after the election that was unthinkable.

“I don’t think he’s a viable candidate for office ever again because of the outrageous behavior in the post-election period,” Toomey told NBC.

If found guilty after leaving office, Trump would lose benefits enjoyed by former presidents, such as security and pension, and the Senate could vote to bar him from running for a second term.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell, Doina Chiacu, Linda So, Daphne Psadelakis, Steve Holland, Nandita Bose; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Bill Berkrot)

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