WASHINGTON, Jan 10 (Reuters) — A second Republican U.S. senator called on Sunday for President Donald Trump to resign, saying he 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.
Republican Trump, who has challenged the validity of President-elect Joe Biden's Nov. 3 election victory, falsely claiming widespread fraud, 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, calling Trump's behavior since the election outrageous.
A top Democrat suggested lawmakers might wait to send the impeachment article to the U.S. Senate for a trial to give Congress time to approve Biden's Cabinet nominees and other agenda items. Democrat Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
"Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running," House Majority Whip James Clyburn said on CNN.
Toomey, appearing on Sunday television news shows, said he did not think impeachment was viable with only 10 days left in Trump's term, and noted there did not appear to be a 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.
Lisa Murkowski on Friday became the first Republican U.S. senator to say Trump should resign immediately, and Republican Ben Sasse said he would "definitely consider" impeachment.
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.
A few Republicans have joined Democrats' call for Vice President Mike Pence to exercise the 25th Amendment to remove Trump. Pence has opposed the idea, an adviser said.
Senator Roy Blunt, a member of the Republican leadership, told CBS' "Face the Nation" he did not think Trump should resign but that he should be "very careful over the next 10 days."
The White House said Trump planned to leave Washington to visit the border wall in Alamo, Texas, on Tuesday, a day after House Democrats plan to introduce an article of impeachment accusing him of inciting insurrection.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it clear impeachment was not Democrats' first choice, but she embraced the move if Trump is not removed by other means.
Democratic Representative Ted Lieu said there were now 200 co-sponsors for the impeachment legislation he will introduce on Monday. The House could take up impeachment on Tuesday or Wednesday, Clyburn told CNN's "State of the Union."
Biden has not taken a position on Trump's impeachment, saying he will leave it to Congress. He did say Congress needs to be able to hit the ground running once he takes office, when he will focus on dealing with the raging coronavirus pandemic and economic recovery.
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.
The ripple effects of Wednesday's violence persisted on Sunday. The attending physician for Congress warned lawmakers in a letter they may have been exposed to COVID-19 while in lockdown during the riots.
Hundreds of officers lined a street near the Capitol to honor the slain officer, Brian Sicknick, as his remains were driven by. The White House lowered its flags to half staff on Sunday, two days after flags at the Capitol were lowered in his honor.
Democrats will take control of the Senate following victories in two Georgia runoff elections last Tuesday that will put incoming Vice President Kamala Harris in place to make tie-breaking votes.
The Republican-controlled Senate cleared Trump during his first impeachment trial over allegations he threatened U.S. national security.
Toomey, a conservative who plans to retire at the end of his term in two years, said he believed that Trump had descended after the election into an unthinkable level of "madness."
"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's "Meet the Press."
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.
Chris Krebs, a senior U.S. cybersecurity official fired by Trump after declaring the 2020 presidential election the most secure in American history, said Trump's legacy was a "heap of ashes" after he tried to overturn a fair election.
"There is an opportunity, though, for a redemption story," Krebs said on CBS. "He can resign."
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell, Doina Chiacu, Linda So, Daphne Psadelakis, Steve Holland, Nandita Bose, Andrea Shalal, David Shepardson; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Peter Cooney)