Calls grow for Trump's removal after Capitol riot

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Mike Hayes and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 12:01 p.m. ET, February 8, 2021
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8:52 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Several Cabinet secretaries informally discuss invoking 25th Amendment but Pence "highly unlikely" to pursue

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz, Jim Acosta, Jeremy Diamond and Zachary Cohen

A source close to Vice President Mike Pence said inquiries about invoking the 25th Amendment have been coming into Pence advisers and those discussions have been under way.

But the source said it is “highly unlikely” that Pence would pursue that path at this point, given that the effort is expected to be unsuccessful. And an administration official tells CNN that Pence himself has not discussed invoking the 25th Amendment with any Cabinet officials.

However, three senior administration officials also tell CNN that two Cabinet secretaries have called fellow members of the Cabinet to take their "temperatures" about demanding a Cabinet meeting with the President to confront him about his behavior.

The two Cabinet secretaries discussed the possibility of demanding the President deliver a public address committing to a peaceful transfer of power, which Trump did Thursday evening. 

Hanging over the meeting would be the possibility that a majority of the Cabinet could invoke the 25th Amendment and strip Trump of his power as president.

Chiefs of staff of federal departments have also been calling each other to discuss the possibility.

Some of the secretaries are hesitant to agree to a meeting because of the risk an attempt to invoke the 25th Amendment would face, or that they would draw Trump's ire.

Some officials were also concerned about the optics of holding a cabinet meeting amid national discussions about the 25th Amendment. "Why take the risk?" one senior official said. 

On Thursday night, Trump released a pre-recorded video that said he would not serve a second term. It's not known yet if that was enough assuage Cabinet members' concerns and took the discussions of the table.

A White House adviser in discussions with senior officials said Trump only recorded the video released this evening because his presidency is currently threatened by looming resignations and potential impeachment.

“I think that video was done only because almost all his senior staff was about to resign, and impeachment is imminent,” the adviser said.

“That message and tone should have been relayed election night...not after people died,” the adviser added.

8:56 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

"Lives would have been saved" had Trump acknowledged reality earlier, Michigan governor says

From CNN's Leinz Vales

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks with CNN on Thursday.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks with CNN on Thursday. CNN

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called out President Trump for finally pledging an "orderly" transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20, saying "it's about damn time."

"Had he done this earlier, lives would have been saved," Whitmer told CNN's Erin Burnett, a day after rioters stormed the US Capitol building. "Had they invested themselves in a peaceful transition and started working with the incoming administration, lives would have been saved."

What do we know: Rioters on Wednesday breached the Capitol building and the Senate chamber, ransacked the offices of Pelosi and other Capitol offices, and a laptop was stolen from the office of Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley. One woman was shot and killed by Capitol Police as the crowd breached the building and three others suffered medical emergencies that proved fatal.

"If he'd spent the energy that he has tried to use to sow doubt and violence and seeds of division toward addressing the pandemic, lives would have been saved," Whitmer added. "I'm glad he's come to that conclusion finally. However, we paid an incredible price as a nation for his inability to see the facts and understand them and accept them. This is where we are."

8:20 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Senate chaplain urges Congress and nation to unite after assault on Capitol

From CNN's Paul Dwyer

Senate Chaplain Barry Black is urging Congress and the nation to heal and unite after Wednesday’s deadly riot at the US Capitol building.

Black prayed over Congress early Thursday morning to close the joint session following the formal affirmation of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.

He told CNN's Anderson Cooper that people too often these days are running from the truth and instead “need to learn to illuminate with truth.” 

“The power of life and death is in your words, and you will reap its harvest,” Black said Thursday on Anderson Cooper Full Circle, referencing Proverbs 18:21.

Black has served as Senate Chaplain since 2003.

Watch the full interview here.

Watch part of Senate Chaplain Barry Black's interview:

7:57 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Trump publicly acknowledges he won't serve a second term in video message

From CNN's Kevin Liptak, Veronica Stracqualursi and Allie Malloy

Donald J. Trump/Twitter
Donald J. Trump/Twitter

President Trump conceded publicly for the first time Thursday that he will not serve a second term, stopping short of congratulating President-elect Joe Biden but acknowledging a transfer of power is now underway.

"A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20," Trump said in a pre-recorded video taped at the White House. "My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power."

Trump's recognition of his loss comes two months after the fact and amid growing calls for either his removal from office or a fresh impeachment. It also came as legal questions swirled about his culpability for inciting rioters who invaded the US Capitol a day earlier.

In the video, released more than 24 hours after Wednesday's riot, Trump made calls for "healing and reconciliation" and said the country must move forward.

But he also misstated his role in activating the National Guard to combat his supporters who stormed the Capitol, who only a day earlier he called "special."

Earlier Thursday, Trump issued a dark-of-night statement vowing an "orderly transition," which came about in part to stanch a wave of resignations from within the West Wing and the broader administration, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Read more here.

8:13 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Pelosi and Schumer tried calling Pence to urge him to consider invoking 25th Amendment

From CNN's Phil Mattingly 

Getty Images
Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to reach out to Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday to urge him to consider invoking the 25th Amendment to force President Trump's removal from office.

The Democrats issued a statement detailing their phone call attempt to Pence, whom they were unable to connect with.

Read their statement:

“This morning, we placed a call to Vice President Pence to urge him to invoke the 25th Amendment which would allow the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to remove the President for his incitement of insurrection and the danger he still poses. We have not yet heard back from the vice president.
The President’s dangerous and seditious acts necessitate his immediate removal from office. We look forward to hearing from the vice president as soon as possible and to receiving a positive answer as to whether he and the Cabinet will honor their oath to the Constitution and the American people.”

8:37 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Trump's CIA director and intel chief unlikely to resign over response to violence at Capitol

From CNN's Zachary Cohen

CIA director Gina Haspel arrives for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on January 29, 2019 in Washington DC. 
CIA director Gina Haspel arrives for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on January 29, 2019 in Washington DC.  Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA director Gina Haspel is not currently expected to resign from her post in response to President Trump’s handling of Wednesday’s violence at the US Capitol, according to a source familiar with the situation, who told CNN there is no indication, at this time, that she intends to step down before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office, according to a source familiar with the situation.  

Haspel’s relationship with Trump has deteriorated in recent months and CNN previously reported that she was on thin ice as the President has considered firing her during his final months in office. But the source told CNN that at this time, it is unlikely Haspel will resign, the source said. 

While the situation involving Trump’s Cabinet continues to evolve after the resignation of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the source told CNN that, for now, Haspel intends to stay in her role to help oversee the CIA’s ongoing operations and a smooth transition process. The CIA declined to comment on Haspel’s plans. 

Some background: There have been calls for other Cabinet members to follow Chao’s lead amid bipartisan criticism of Trump’s response to the violence. But some of Trump’s top national security officials have received calls within the last 24 hours urging them not to resign following his widely panned response to the mob attack by his supporters on the US Capitol.

The message: it is important they stay on for the continuity of government in the national security realm.

Haspel has kept a relatively low profile since the election. Sources have consistently said Haspel prefers to remain as CIA director until Inauguration Day and step down on her own terms when the new administration takes over.

As of Thursday, it appears Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, is also unlikely to resign. 

At this stage, it remains unclear if Ratcliffe has been involved in any discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment but a source familiar with the issue, told CNN Trump’s intelligence chief is well aware that a growing list of Congressional lawmakers are calling on the Cabinet to take that step.

 

10:30 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Capitol Police officer on life support after pro-Trump riot, union official says

From CNN's Kristin Wilson, Evan Perez and David Brooks

A Capitol Police officer is on life support Thursday night after a mob of President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the US Capitol a day before, according to Capitol Police union chair Gus Papathanasiou.

CNN reported Thursday evening, citing three sources, that the officer had died. One of CNN's sources said that Capitol Police officers were gathered and told that the officer had passed away.

Papathanasiou told WUSA — a local Washington, DC, television news station— that the officer died. Later Thursday, the Capitol Police released a statement stating no officers had died as a result of Wednesday's riot.

Papathanasiou retracted his statement to WUSA and told CNN the officer was still on life support.

"He had a stroke. I think he's on life support. We've got some misinformation on that. He's on life support from what I'm hearing," Papathanasiou told CNN.

One woman was shot and killed by Capitol Police as the crowd breached the building and three others suffered medical emergencies that proved fatal.

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect that the officer is on life support. 

6:48 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Biden has no interest in opening impeachment proceedings

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theater on January 7 in Wilmington, Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theater on January 7 in Wilmington, Delaware. Susan Walsh/AP

President-elect Joe Biden has no appetite for opening an impeachment proceeding against President Trump, people familiar with the matter say Thursday, as he prefers to keep his focus on taking office in 13 days.

Sources who told CNN earlier Thursday he had no intention of weighing in on the 25th Amendment talks, they said he feels the same about impeachment.

It’s unclear whether Biden will weigh in himself – he declined to answer questions today, but might Friday – but he has made his views known that he doesn’t favor impeachment.

“Impeachment would not help unify this country,” a person close to Biden said, who added that “this is a matter to be decided by the Congress.” 

7:00 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Colin Powell dismisses calls to remove Trump as a "distraction"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks with CNN on Thursday, January 7.
Former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks with CNN on Thursday, January 7. CNN

Former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell dismissed growing calls for invoking 25th Amendment or an impeachment of President Trump as a "distraction," saying lawmakers should instead be focused on a successful transition. 

"It really doesn't excite me," said the retired four-star general, when asked about removing Trump. "We've got about 13 days to go? Nothing will really happen in that 13-day period. Let's let it play out." 

Powell suggested the danger Trump presents to the country would mitigate itself on Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden assumes the presidency.

"I would not detour in different pieces of the Constitution we think would be helpful," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "I just want him out... he's going to be out." 

"I think it would be a distraction right now," he added.

Despite his opposition to removing Trump by a constitutional mechanism, Powell still suggested he believes Trump is unfit to occupy the Oval Office.

"You can't not have concerns about his mental fitness when you see the way he behaves, the way he acts and the things he does," said Powell. 

Watch the moment: