As the United States witnessed scenes of pro-Trump protesters taking over the national Capitol, several lawmakers called for the impeachment of the sitting president who has a little more than a week left in office. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota tweeted: "I am drawing up articles of impeachment. Donald J. Trump should be impeached by the House of Representatives and removed from office. We can’t allow him to remain in office. It is a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath." Her call was followed by support for the impeachment motion from Democratic representatives Ayanna Presley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Seth Moulton and Earl Blumenauer.
Thousands of angry supporters of Trump had stormed the US Capitol and clashed with police, resulting in casualty and multiple injuries and interrupting a constitutional process to affirm Joe Biden's victory in the presidential election. Trump had constantly alleged that the election was being stolen from him and that voter fraud was the reason.
The violence was not just limited to Washington DC. Protesters were reported in statehouses from Georgia to New Mexico. Hundreds of people gathered in state capitals nationwide to oppose president-elect Joe Biden's win, waving signs. Most of them carried guns in places like Oklahoma, Georgia, Arizona and Washington state. There were some scuffles with counterprotesters in states like Ohio and California.
The police in DC, outnumbered by the maskless protesters, had a tough time managing the mob, as hundreds of protesters breached security and entered the Capitol building, where members of the Congress were going through the process of counting and certifying the Electoral College votes. Biden would be officially announced the president after the process.
Both the House and Senate and the entire Capitol were placed under a lockdown. Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers were evacuated to safe locations.
What is impeachment and why does it matter now?
There are two ways to remove a US president from office: impeachment and the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution. As news agency Reuters explains, impeachment refers only to the lower chamber of Congress bringing charges that a president engaged in a "high crime or misdemeanor", similar to an indictment in a criminal case. If a simple majority of the Houses 435 members approves bringing charges, known as articles of impeachment, the process moves to the Senate, the upper chamber, which holds a trial to determine the president's guilt. The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict and remove a president.
Why does it matter now? As Boston Globe explained in an op-ed: "While it sounds almost bizarre to make such a suggestion when the president’s term is over [shortly], the move would have a useful byproduct: The senate could prevent Trump from running again in 2024."
What happened in the US?
Multiple news outlets earlier showed protestors walking with ease inside the Capitol and hundreds of them occupying the inaugural stage. A large number of them were seen climbing the wall. Video taken at the US Capitol showed some rioters breaking the glass of a window and then climbing through the shattered pane.
"We're actually looking at video right now of these anarchists... these people who were involved in this insurrection. They broke the glass in the United States Capitol and now they are climbing through the window," CNN correspondent Dana Bash described the footage.
The protesters at the Capitol dispersed following the enforcement of curfew in the national capital. However, dozens of protesters remained on the streets in defiance of the curfew. The Capitol is now secured, putting an end to nearly four-hour violent occupation by Trump supporters. Heavily armed police personnel were deployed to disperse the crowd.
Trump urged them to abide by the law and go back home after the violent clash. "This was a fraudulent election, but we can't play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home," Trump said in a video message posted on Twitter. The micro-blogging site later removed the video and some tweets in which Trump appeared to defend the actions of his supporters. Twitter also locked President Trump's account for 12 hours for the first time and warned that he could get kicked off permanently.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said President Trump has directed the National Guard and other "federal protective services" to assist with responding to the rioters at the Capitol.
"The violence and destruction taking place at the US Capitol must stop and it must stop now. Anyone involved must respect law enforcement officers and immediately leave the building," Pence tweeted. "This attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," he said.
This is possibly for the first time in the recent history that such a large number of people have breached into the Capitol and disrupted the constitutional provisions. Congress had certified just 12 votes before the riots broke out. All 12 of those votes went to President Trump. There are 538 electoral votes in total.
Dark moment in US history, says Biden
President-elect Biden said he was shocked and sad to see the US "come to such a dark moment". "At this hour, our democracy's under unprecedented assault. Unlike anything we've seen in modern times. An assault on the citadel of liberty, the Capitol itself. An assault on the people's representatives and the Capitol Hill police, sworn to protect them. And the public servants who work at the heart of our Republic," Biden said in an address to the nation.
"Let me be very clear. The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America. Do not represent who we are. What we're seeing are a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent. It's disorder. It's chaos. It borders on sedition. And it must end now," Biden said.
"I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution by demanding an end to this siege," he said.
-Inputs from agencies