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Rep. Ro Khanna: Republicans Should Back Impeachment After Trump Incited Mob Violence Against Them

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Calls are growing for President Trump to resign or be removed from office after he incited supporters to storm the Capitol in an act of insurrection to disrupt the counting of Electoral College votes. The unrest left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer who was reportedly struck in the head by a fire extinguisher. Trump is losing support from his inner circle, with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao both resigning before the end of Trump’s term. The chief of the Capitol Police is also expected to resign next week, as multiple reports reveal police officers aiding rioters, from removing barricades to giving out direction to the offices of specific lawmakers. Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna says Republicans must support efforts to remove Trump, especially as much of Trump’s incitement targeted Republican lawmakers who refused to back his false claims of election fraud. “This was not an attack just on Democratic lawmakers. If anything, it was an incitement of violence against Republican lawmakers,” says Khanna.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Calls are growing for President Trump to resign or be removed office for inciting supporters to storm the Capitol in an act of insurrection Wednesday to disrupt the counting of Electoral College votes. The unrest left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer who was reportedly struck in the head by a fire extinguisher.

On Thursday, White House aides pressured Trump to read a scripted video message, prepared by his staff, where he denounced the mob that stormed the Capitol and vowed there would be a smooth transition of power. The New York Times reports Trump only agreed to record the video after realizing he could be charged for his role in inciting the riots and facing the prospect of being removed from office. Just a day earlier, Trump had a very different message for the insurrectionists, saying, quote, “We love you. You’re very special.” The Times also reports Trump has had discussions in recent weeks with staff about pardoning himself before leaving office, a move no president has ever taken.

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threatened to impeach the president again if Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet does not invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the vice president to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th Amendment. If the vice president and Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment.

AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao both resigned from their offices, joining at least 10 other Trump administration officials to quit since Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal editorial page is urging Trump to resign. That’s the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal.

Lawmakers are also vowing to investigate the massive security breach at the Capitol, where rioters overwhelmed Capitol Police. Congressional leaders ousted the sergeants-at-arms of both the House and Senate. The chief of the Capitol Police is also expected to resign next week. Multiple reports are emerging of police officers aiding the rioters by removing barricades, to giving out directions to offices of specific lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — who will become the Senate majority leader.

To talk more about this, we’re joined by Ro Khanna, Democratic congressmember from California, member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, was inside the Capitol Wednesday during the insurrection.

Congressman Khanna, welcome back to Democracy Now! Where were you? And can you describe the scene, personally, from your vantage point?

REP. RO KHANNA: Amy, I was in my office in the Cannon Building, and then we heard that there was an evacuation because there was apparently a pipe bomb nearby. So I left my office, and I started to head towards the Capitol. Fortunately, I got frantic texts from people saying, “Don’t go into the Capitol. It is being overrun.” At that point, some of us turned back. We were told that the Cannon Building was clear, but we didn’t know, but that it was our best course, so I went to my office, locked the doors of the office and stayed in the office the rest of the day.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Congressman Khanna, you have the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, calling for the removal of President Trump. Can you talk about the different options? Can you talk about what the 25th Amendment invocation would mean? Can you talk about what impeachment would look like?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, the 25th Amendment, Amy, is something that Vice President Pence can do. He just needs to get a majority of the Cabinet on board, and they can ask that the president be removed, and Vice President Pence then can become president. If they refuse to do that, then the House must impeach, and the Senate should convict.

Here’s why Republicans should be for impeachment. If you listen to the president’s incitement of violence and Rudy Giuliani’s incitement of violence, the target was actually Republican lawmakers. Donald Trump Jr. is saying, “Go show the Republicans they need to be on our side, and we’re going to have a trial by combat.” So this was not an attack just on Democratic lawmakers. If anything, it was an incitement of violence against Republican lawmakers.

AMY GOODMAN: Inside the Capitol, as the marauders smashed their way in, as, ultimately, five people died — a woman apparently trying to get in through a window was shot, it looks like, by Capitol Police. Now a Capitol Police officer has succumbed to his injuries, apparently slammed in the head by a fire extinguisher. And three others who died of medical emergencies on the Capitol grounds. Describe the feeling inside. Did you ever expect this would happen? President Trump’s whole family was at the rally — you had Ivanka Trump, you had Eric, you had Donald Trump — calling for people to move forward. Trump said he would go with them to the Capitol. Of course, he didn’t. And what that means? Do you see him as the leader of the insurrection? And do you think he should be criminally charged? He’s out of office in less than two weeks, if he’s not ousted before.

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, it is a case of classic incitement. It is illegal conduct to encourage people to go break the law. And in this case, there was a direct connection. It’s not like he made some generic call for protesting. What he said is “Go march at the Capitol.” Rudy Giuliani is saying it’s a “trial by combat.” He’s saying, “Go show strength.” This is basically an incitement of a mob to go commit criminal attacks.

And so, it absolutely needs to be investigated from a Justice Department perspective. But the first thing is, he needs to be removed from office. I don’t understand how you can have a president of the United States who has incited a violent attack remain in office any longer.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you support impeachment or the invoking of the 25th Amendment?

REP. RO KHANNA: I support both. I mean, I support whatever will get him out. What I don’t understand is why you can’t have McConnell call him and say, “President Trump, if you don’t resign, you’re going to be impeached.” And that is necessary not just for the stability of our democracy until Joe Biden gets into office; that’s necessary to send a message that in this country you cannot incite riots and have no consequences. I mean, what does it say to people if we have a president of the United States who has incited violence against the institution of the Capitol, and we say we’re fine with him still being president of this country? That is not a message that stands up for democratic values.

AMY GOODMAN: Contrast this with President Trump’s approach in Portland, Oregon, when he called for people put in jail for up to 10 years if they in any way damaged federal property. Here, as we saw people smashing the windows of the Capitol, climbing through those windows, you have President Trump safely at the White House saying, “We love you.”

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, his speech was reminiscent of Marc Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar, minus Shakespeare’s rhetorical genius, where he was basically manipulating people, saying, “OK, go home,” but really the thrust of the speech was: “We love you. We support you. I support what you’re doing.” And it was further inciting this violence.

But you’re right, Amy, to point out the racial disparity. I mean, I don’t think there’s a person in this country who believes if there were thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters or Black protesters there, that the response wouldn’t have been dramatically different. And that is something this country really needs to grapple with, the disparity in which we looked at white protesters for Trump and the way we looked at many African American protesters during this summer who were protesting for racial justice.

AMY GOODMAN: Forget thousands of Black Lives Matter activists. If 12 announced they were going to march on the Capitol and they were going to storm it, not to mention just protest in front of it, I daresay there would be a massive response. And that goes to the question — I mean, this wasn’t like a flash mob, where suddenly these people emerged. President Trump had been calling for this for weeks. The mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser, already had written a letter to the Pentagon asking for the National Guard to come in. How is it possible that the Capitol Police were not only so completely unprepared, but actually we see the high-fiving, we see the selfies, we see the removal of the barricades, ushering people in? Now you have the resignation of the chief of the Capitol Police and the ousting of the sergeants-of-arms of both the Senate and the House.

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. I agree with you that the Capitol Police acted in a way that was completely unprepared, and these incidents of taking selfies and letting people in are very troubling. I do think we need to acknowledge that there were a lot of first-line responders and police officers, who I personally saw, who were doing the right thing, who were risking their own lives to protect people in the Capitol. But the leadership was totally derelict. They did not have a plan. They did not take the proper precautions. And, of course, Washington, D.C., was restricted. It’s why we need it to become a state, because they couldn’t invoke the National Guard.

The final point, Amy, is that social media really needs to be looked at. This whole attack was being planned on Parler. People were actually talking about how they were going to get rifles. They were talking in specifics about what they were going to do. And nothing came down on those sites. And then Facebook and Twitter were live-streaming the calls to go march on the Capitol. So I think social media has to really — probably one of its most shameful days in contributing to what happened on the Capitol.

AMY GOODMAN: And you have the newly sworn-in Democratic Congressmember Cori Bush of Missouri tweeting, “My first resolution in Congress will be to call for the expulsion of the Republican members of Congress who incited this domestic terror attack on the Capitol.” This is Cori Bush speaking on MSNBC Wednesday.

REP. CORI BUSH: I’m walking through from the Capitol to my office, and there was not a lot of police activity. There was no one. No one came to the door to check and knock on the door to say, “Congressmember Bush, are you and your team OK?” You know, we’re sending text messages letting people know. I’m letting, you know, our committees know we’re OK, letting our other members know we’re OK. You know, this — something had to happen, because, I’ll tell you what, the National Guard, when they’re called — when they were called to Ferguson or any other part in St. Louis, that was not a — that was not a thing. We didn’t have to wait to find out if that was happening. Oftentimes that happened even when it was said that we were having a protest. So I don’t understand how this happened like this. I don’t understand how we were put in this position in our place of business. Our lives were — you know, our lives were at risk today.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Missouri Congressmember Cori Bush. And I’m wondering, Congressmember Khanna, if you’re among the lawmakers who are demanding the resignation of Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, blaming them for helping instigate the violent mob of Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol. Cruz and Hawley were at the forefront of the efforts objecting to the certification of the electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden.

Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted yesterday, “Sen. Cruz, you must accept responsibility for how your craven, self-serving actions contributed to the deaths of four people yesterday. And how you fundraised off this riot. Both you and Senator Hawley must resign. If you do not, the Senate should move for your expulsion,” unquote.

Meanwhile, publishing company Simon & Schuster said Thursday it’s canceling the publication of an upcoming book by Senator Hawley. And Senator Hawley’s home newspaper, The Kansas City Star, has said he “has blood on his hands.” Even after everything happened, Hawley insisted on continuing to object to the counts in Pennsylvania, for example. Your response?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, Amy, I think what Hawley did is unconscionable. I mean, he actually was out there with a fist pump supporting and encouraging directly the protesters. And so, resignation, in that sense, makes complete sense. And there should be an ethics investigation.

I think there has to be a distinction between members of Congress, as much as I disagreed with them, who used the process to raise objections, and they should be defeated at the ballot box. But if there were senators, like Hawley, who were actually inciting violence, that breaks all ethics laws, and that is a grounds for expulsion. And that fact-based investigation should take place. In Hawley’s case, I think it’s clear and evident.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, through all of this, it almost became a sideshow, but Wednesday began and ended with history being made in Georgia. The first African American Democrat elected to the Senate from the South, Reverend Raphael Warnock, that was the beginning, in the early hours. And then you had, in the midst of all of this, the announcement that Jon Ossoff had won the second seat in Georgia, flipping the U.S. Senate to being Democrat-led, at least 50/50, and, of course, Vice President Kamala Harris will be the deciding vote. What does that mean for you in the House and the kind of legislation you want to see put forward?

REP. RO KHANNA: It’s absolutely historic. We now can get things done, like a $15 minimum wage, like a major infrastructure bill, like $2,000 cash for people who need it. This is a moment now that we have to deliver for the American people, whose wages have stagnated, who have not had good, secure jobs. But more than that, Amy, is it’s a step, after all this country has gone through, towards a multiracial, multiethnic democracy. We have a new South, with Reverend Warnock, not just an African American senator from the South, but an African American senator who ran talking about criminal justice, who ran talking about human rights in Palestine, who ran talking about issues of economic dignity. It is a new voice for this country. And I am hopeful that we’re going to turn a page after Donald Trump and start the serious work of building that kind of a democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Ro Khanna, I want to thank you for being with us, California Democratic congressmember from Silicon Valley, member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Next up, we look at President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to head the Justice Department, Merrick Garland — yep, the judge who Republicans denied a seat on the Supreme Court five years ago. Stay with us.

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