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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6:46 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

First federal charges filed in US Capitol riot

From CNN’S Kara Scannell and Katelyn Polantz and Austen Bundy

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Two men became the first people to be hit with federal charges on Thursday for their actions in a riot at the US Capitol building one day earlier in which pro-Trump supporters overran the building leading to officers being injured and four deaths.

The men, identified as Christopher Alberts and Mark Jefferson Leffingwell, were both scheduled to appear in federal court in Washington, DC, Thursday afternoon.

Alberts, of Maryland, was charged with one count of carrying or having access to firearms or ammunition on US Capitol Grounds, according to the complaint sworn by an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department.

Alberts, who was wearing a bulletproof vest and wearing a backpack, was approached by the MPD officer after the officer identified a bulge on Albert’s right hip.

The officer said Albert’s tried to flee and after he was apprehended with the help of two other officers they found with a black Taurus G2C 9mm handgun and a magazine of ammunition.

In total, according to the complaint, Alberts had 25 rounds of ammunition on him. The officer also seized a gas mask, pocket-knife, first aid kit, and one military meal-ready-to-eat, or MRE.

Alberts told authorities after his arrest that “he was in possession of the firearm for personal protection and he did not intend on using the firearm to harm anyone.” 

Leffingwell, 51, faces three criminal counts and has not yet entered a plea.

During the push of to enter the Capitol building, Leffingwell allegedly attempted to push past a Capitol Police officer who was trying to blockade the building, then punched the officer, authorities said.

The officer, Daniel Amendola, wrote that Leffingwell punched him "repeatedly with a closed fist" in his police helmet and in the chest. The police then restrained him. Leffingwell later apologized to Amendola, according to a court filing.

The Capitol Police officer's statement of facts released Thursday also described the police reaction to the siege as the joint session of Congress was underway certifying the electoral vote of Joe Biden for president, when a crowd gathering outside that then broke into the Capitol building. 

"Members of the US Capitol Police attempted to maintain order and keep the crowd from entering the Capitol; however, shortly after 2:00pm, individuals in the crowd forced entry into the US Capitol, including by breaking windows," Amendola wrote.

The officer also described evacuating Congressional officials and the Vice President Mike Pence. 

"In reacting to the crowd that had breached a window of the building, I moved to a hallway" on the Senate side of the Capitol, Amendola described. "While there, I attempted to form a barrier with other officers to stop or deter additional individuals from entering the Capitol building."

The federal court proceedings for Capitol-related defendants are before Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey of the DC District Court and are ongoing now.

Police did not report where Leffingwell resides. He is currently being held in the central cellblock of the DC jail, according to his court proceeding. He'll stay there overnight until he can be seen in court again Friday. Prosecutors say he might flee if released.

His attorney told the court that Leffingwell is a disabled veteran who suffers from memory loss.

4:33 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Michelle Obama says Pro-Trump rioters were "allowed to denigrate the flag and symbols of our nation"

Former first lady Michelle Obama speaks at the Obama Foundation Summit at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois, in 2019.
Former first lady Michelle Obama speaks at the Obama Foundation Summit at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois, in 2019. Scott Olson/Getty Images

In her statement today, former first lady Michelle Obama pointed out the differences in how the behavior of Black Lives Matter protesters and Pro-Trump rioters was treated by the authorities

The former first lady noted that the BLM protests across the country this past summer were an "overwhelmingly peaceful movement" that brought together people of "every race and class." 

"And yet, in city after city, day after day, we saw peaceful protesters met with brute force," she added.

She continued by saying that "yesterday made it painfully clear that certain Americans are, in fact, allowed to denigrate the flag and symbols of our nation. They've just got to look the right way."

Read more of Michelle Obama's statement:

4:11 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

DC federal prosecutors looking at role Trump played in inciting the crowd

From CNN’s Kara Scannnell

President Donald Trump speaks at the "Stop The Steal" rally on January 6.
President Donald Trump speaks at the "Stop The Steal" rally on January 6. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin said they are looking at all actors involved in the unrest at the US Capitol on Wednesday, including the role President Trump played in inciting the crowd.

When asked directly by a reporter on a press call if investigators were looking at the role Trump played at the rally, Sherwin said, “We’re looking at all actors here and anyone that had a role and, if the evidence fits the elements of the crime, they’re going to be charged.”

4:12 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Michelle Obama says social media companies should ban Trump permanently 

From CNN's Kevin Liptak and Brian Fung

Former First Lady Michelle Obama speaks in 2018.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama speaks in 2018. Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Former first lady Michelle Obama released a statement on Twitter today about the riot at the Capitol yesterday, and called on social media companies to ban President Trump permanently from their platforms.

"Now is the time for Silicon Valley companies to stop enabling this monstrous behavior — and go even further than they have already by permanent banning this man from their platforms," she said.

Some background: Facebook and Twitter took the step on Wednesday of locking Trump's account on their platforms after his supporters stormed the Capitol building to protest the election.

Twitter said it has locked Trump's account for 12 hours, and warned for the first time that it may suspend him permanently. Facebook also blocked Trump from posting on its platform for 24 hours, the company said, after it removed a video he posted to his supporters who participated in the riot. Trump will also face a 24-hour block on Facebook-owned Instagram.

Read Michelle Obama's tweets:

6:46 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

DC federal prosecutors file 15 criminal cases related to US Capitol riot

From CNN’s Kara Scannnell

Rioters gather outside the Capitol building in Washington on January 6.
Rioters gather outside the Capitol building in Washington on January 6. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Federal prosecutors in Washington, DC, have filed 15 criminal cases stemming from the unrest at the US Capitol on Wednesday, according to Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin for the District of Columbia.

Sherwin said “most of those cases” relate to unauthorized entry to the Capitol and the Capitol grounds. He said they were also filing cases involving firearms and theft of property. 

“There was a large amount of pilfering at the Capitol. Materials were stolen from several offices,” Sherwin said. The defendants are expected to appear before a federal magistrate’s judge later Thursday. Details of the charges were not yet available.

He added that an additional 40 cases were filed in Superior Court, many of them including charges ranging from unlawful entry to certain areas of the Capitol grounds. 

“We also have a handful of assault cases we also have eight firearms cases,” Sherwin said. 

He said one man was arrested by federal agents with a military semi-automatic rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails that were ready to go. 

“Make no mistake about this. It was a very dangerous situation. We are aggressively trying to address these cases as soon as possible,” Sherwin added.
6:46 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Pelosi attempted to reach Pence, but the two have not spoken today 

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Clare Foran

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi talks with Vice President Mike Pence after the conclusion of the count of electoral votes in the House Chamber on January 7.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi talks with Vice President Mike Pence after the conclusion of the count of electoral votes in the House Chamber on January 7. Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted to reach Vice President Mike Pence earlier today, but was unable to get through to him, and it's currently unclear whether he plans to call her back, a person familiar with the situation tells CNN.

The understanding was that she was calling to discuss her suggestion that the Cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment.

It's not clear why she could not reach him, the source noted, meaning whether he was occupied or purposely avoiding the conversation.

Pence has not publicly commented on the proposals the Cabinet seize power from the President.

Some context: Invoking the 25th Amendment would require Pence and a majority of the Cabinet to vote to remove President Trump from office due to his inability to "discharge the powers and duties of his office" — an unprecedented step.

Any 25th Amendment push faces an unprecedented steep hill to come to fruition with little time left before Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. The calls in Congress, however, underscore the extent to which lawmakers are reeling and furious with the President in the wake of the devastation at the Capitol on Wednesday.

3:44 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Pence plans to attend Biden's inauguration, but has not yet been formally invited 

From CNN's Jim Acosta and Sarah Westwood

Vice President Mike Pence is seen presiding over the joint session of Congress on January 6.
Vice President Mike Pence is seen presiding over the joint session of Congress on January 6. Erin Schaff/Pool/Getty Images

A source close to the Vice President Mike Pence says he's planning to attend the inauguration of Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

"That's the plan," the source said.

Another source said the Pence has faced pressure from many of those around him who are encouraging him to attend. He has not yet been formally invited, however.

3:42 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

GOP Sen. Graham calls Trump's role in inciting yesterday's Capitol riot “a self-inflicted wound” 

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Sarah Fortinsky 

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump, said Thursday that the President’s accomplishments have been “tarnished by yesterday” and the attack “will be a major part of his presidency”.  

"As to yesterday, that my friend, a President with consequence, would allow yesterday to happen. And it will be a major part of his presidency. It was a self-inflicted wound. It was going too far,” Graham said.

"When it comes to accountability, the President needs to understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution,” he added.

"I've become close to the President personally… It has been an amazing four years in terms of judges, securing the border, a vaccine in record time, deregulating the economy, cutting taxes, historic Mideast peace agreements, the destruction of the caliphate, on and on and on, was tarnished by yesterday,” he said

While he was critical of Trump at a press conference Thursday about the Capitol riot, Graham toed the line and defended Trump by also placing blame on media coverage and Trump’s advisers.

On whether he thinks Trump could incite more violence, he replied: "I'm hoping he won't.” Adding, that he is hopeful because “I spoke to some people this morning, I got some assurances... I think we are moving in the right direction.” 

On the 25th Amendment, he said “I do not believe that’s appropriate at this point.” But he added that, "If something else happens all options would be on the table."

Graham said he has “absolutely no regrets” about supporting President Trump.

“The reason I've been close to the President is I think he's done tremendous things for this country," he said, pointing to judicial nominations among other accomplishments.

Asked if he thinks Trump would run for office again in the future, he replied: “I’m not worried about the next election, I’m worried about the next 14 days.”

He also called on Trump to “accept he fell short” in the election, “and a new president will be coming.” He also asked him to “turn down the rhetoric and allow us as a nation to heal and move forward.”

“I am hopeful that the worst is behind us and we can transfer power on January 20,” he said. 

He praised Vice President Mike Pence, and said “The things he was asked to do in the name of loyalty were over the top, unconstitutional, illegal and would have been wrong for the country.”

3:40 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Trump and Pence have not spoken since attack on Capitol happened, sources say

From CNN's Pamela Brown

Getty Images
Getty Images

Two sources familiar with the matter say the divide between President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence has deepened over the last 24 hours. Trump is angry at Pence and Pence is disappointed and saddened by Trump, sources say. 

Pence’s feelings built up after weeks of Trump trying to convince him to unilaterally overturn the election and it culminated with the mayhem yesterday fomented by the President’s comments. 

Additionally, Pence was the one on the phone with Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller urging a more rapid response from the National Guard following widespread frustration among lawmakers about the lack of the response. Trump never called to check on his well-being and still has not reached out to Pence even now. 

The source said despite the current dynamic, at this point, it doesn’t appear either will do anything in response, such as Pence resigning. 

Additionally, the source says many administration officials who have been discussing invoking the 25th Amendment as CNN reported last night feel today such a move would do more harm than good. 

A separate source close to Pence says as of early this afternoon those conversations had not made their way to the his office but lawmakers have been trying to reach him on the matter.