Gov. Ralph Northam will be introducing a bill to abolish the death penalty that, if successful, would make Virginia the first Southern state to end capital punishment.
“I understand about timing and I suspect this is the year to end the death penalty in Virginia,” Northam told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday.
“I’ve felt strongly about this for a long time,” the governor said. “We’ve been doing so much good work on equity, especially criminal justice reform, and we have the majority in the House and the Senate.”
Although abolition bills have been introduced in the General Assembly frequently in recent decades, this appears to be the first time one will be introduced by a governor. This year’s regular session begins Wednesday.
Virginia has conducted 113 executions since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume in 1976, a toll second in the country only to Texas with 570. Since 1608, there have been nearly 1,300 executions in Virginia, the most in the country.
However, no one has been sentenced to death in Virginia since 2011, or executed since 2017.
And the state’s death row, which once hovered around 50, is now down to two men, both sentenced to death in Norfolk, who will have their sentences changed to life in prison without the possibility of parole if the bill becomes law.
Northam has said that while he opposes the death penalty, he was prepared to uphold Virginia’s laws including capital punishment. But he said Tuesday that at this stage in their appeals, neither man would be facing execution during his term.
“This bill would affect future governors, probably, more than it would me,” Northam said. He noted that no one had been sentenced to death in the state in nine years. “But, we need to take a permanent step — that’s what this is about, to end this in Virginia regardless of who is governor.”
Northam referenced the 10 federal executions carried out by the administration of President Donald Trump last year after a 17-year hiatus on federal executions.
On Tuesday, a federal judge in Washington issued a stay in two executions set for this week, including for Cory Johnson, 52, who was sentenced to death for seven 1992 murders in Richmond.
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., wrote in a text message Tuesday: “Since Virginia has been a leader in executions, abolishing the death penalty here will also send a powerful abolition message across the country and world.”
Kaine, a former governor, said he strongly supports Northam’s effort to end capital punishment in the state.
“I am trying to do the same at the federal level. We don’t need the death penalty to fight crime. Instead, the death penalty has been applied in a manifestly racist way throughout our history,” Kaine wrote.
One of the two men remaining on Virginia’s death row is Thomas Alexander Porter, 45, sentenced to death for the 2005 capital murder of Stanley Reaves, an officer with the Norfolk Police Department. The other is Anthony B. Juniper, 49, sentenced to death for the 2004 capital murders of Keshia Stephens; her brother Rueben Harrison III; and two of her daughters, Nykia Stephens, 4, and Shearyia Stephens, 2.
Northam said Tuesday that he was not prepared to comment on what should or should not be said to the survivors of the victims in the Norfolk cases, who may believe the death penalty is warranted.
“But, I think it’s fair to say we always have to be respectful of victims’ families,” he said. “I think it’s well known, in a lot of cases ... the family members of the victims actually have been the ones who came forward and said we don’t agree with the death penalty.”
One current Virginia death penalty opponent is Rachel Sutphin, who was 9 years old in 2006 when William C. Morva shot to death her father, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Eric Sutphin. Morva was executed in 2017.
Northam said he has several reasons for opposing capital punishment. “I’ve always felt that it consumes an enormous amount of resources really without improving safety,” he said. “I think that’s very clear.”
Another concern is that innocent people have been sentenced to death, Northam said. He pointed to the case of Earl Washington Jr., who came within nine days of execution for a 1982 rape and murder in Culpeper that DNA later proved was committed by someone else.
“And then, I don’t know if it’s the doctor in me or just my human nature,” he said of his opposition.
Northam said he believes the chances the bill will pass in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly are good. “I haven’t polled every legislator but ... we’ve made a lot of progress in the last three years, especially the last year, with criminal justice reform and I think everybody agrees we need to continue.”
One influential group opposing abolition legislation last year was the Virginia State Police Association.
Alena Yarmosky, spokeswoman for Northam, said that it is unclear when the bill will be filed but that Northam is expected to endorse the legislation during his State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday.
Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, said Tuesday that he will carry the bill in the House and an identical bill in the Senate will be carried by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, and Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County.
“To our knowledge, there has never been a governor who has patroned abolition,” said Mullin, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Hampton.
“There have been bills in the House and Senate for at least 30 years that rarely, if ever, have gotten a hearing and certainly have not had gubernatorial backing,” Mullin said. “This is a sea change in criminal justice.”
“I have every expectation that we’re going to be able to achieve this in this session,” he said.
Last week a group of African American pastors in Virginia called for abolishing the death penalty in the upcoming General Assembly, citing racial disparities in its use. While Blacks make up 20% of Virginia’s population, they account for 46% of those executed since 1976.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 25 states, including Virginia, have the death penalty, 22 states do not, and three states have governor-imposed moratoriums.
The American Bar Association reported that as of January 2020, 33 states had either abolished the death penalty or have not executed anyone in at least a decade.
The pandemic took a huge bite out of sales for many businesses, especially for hotel operators such as Kalyan Hospitality, the Henrico County-based company that owns 21 hotels in Virginia and other states with more properties in development.
“We have had downturns before, but not like this — nowhere near like this,” said Nick Patel, the CEO of Kalyan Hospitality, which owns five hotels in the Richmond region. “We have some leisure travel still going on, but that has not replaced the [lost] business travel,” since the pandemic started last year.
Last year, the company’s hotels were among thousands of businesses in Virginia that applied for and received loans under the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, a multibillion dollar lending program passed by Congress to help businesses keep operating during the pandemic. The money was aimed mainly at helping businesses keep employees on their payrolls.
Now, Kalyan Hospitality and potentially thousands of other businesses in Virginia are applying for a new round of PPP loans, which are becoming available to businesses through banks and other lenders starting this week.
Last year, hospitality and food service businesses that were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic were eligible for loans covering up to 2½ months of payroll expenses. Patel said he was able to keep most of his 500 workers, “but we did have a percentage of our staff that was furloughed, because we just did not have the [customer] volume.”
In the newest round of PPP loans, the amount that hospitality businesses can get has been expanded to 3½ months of payroll coverage.
“Hopefully, that will get us through the majority of the vaccinations and the opening up of the economy again,” Patel said.
The latest round of PPP loans will amount to $284 billion nationwide under a coronavirus relief bill that Congress approved in late December. Two previous rounds were given out last year from April to August, for a total of 5.2 million loans worth $525 billion.
“This is a powerful program,” said John C. Asbury, CEO of Richmond-based Atlantic Union Bank and of Atlantic Union Bankshares Corp., the bank’s parent company.
Atlantic Union Bank processed 11,964 loans through the PPP program last year, making the bank the second-largest lender in Virginia during last year’s lending rounds.
“In our opinion, if you qualify for this, we can’t think of any reason why you would not apply for this,” Asbury said.
The bank is estimating that about 60% to 65% of the previous borrowers will return for another round of loans.
The fact that hospitality businesses and restaurants can borrow 3½ months’ worth of payroll this time is “a big deal,” especially for the Richmond area, Asbury said. “We have so many restaurants that have been impacted.”
That’s a big deal for Dave Chantrell, the owner of a Melting Pot restaurant franchise in Henrico County and in Louisville, Ky.
The restaurant had to shut down for part of last year. It has since re-opened but at a lower capacity for customers.
“We had to furlough a number of our employees,” Chantrell said. “Pretty much just the management team was able to stay on.”
Chantrell said he was unable to get a loan through his primary lender last year, but he eventually got one through Atlantic Union Bank, which enabled the business to start bringing back some employees.
He hopes that a loan covering more than three months of payroll expense will keep his restaurant business going until the pandemic starts to diminish.
“It is going to be hard for the restaurant industry to recover until the public is comfortable with what is happening with the virus, whether that is decreased incidents of the virus or increased vaccinations,” he said.
The new round of loans also is important for recreational businesses that depend on large crowds, such as Tang & Biscuit Shuffleboard Social Club in the Scott’s Addition district of Richmond.
“The entire premise [of the business] was based on large social gatherings,” said David Gallagher, co-owner of the game center that opened inside a renovated 18,000-square-foot warehouse in 2018. “The very mission statement is all about bringing people together, and that whole concept has been devastated.”
Tang & Biscuit closed temporarily last year, furloughing most of its staff, and it spent thousands of dollars reconfiguring its operations to allow for social distancing. Among other things, five of its shuffleboard courts were removed, and the business added a remote food ordering system, Gallagher said.
While it has now reopened, Tang & Biscuit is still hosting only a fraction of the 300 to 500 customers it could serve at any one time before the pandemic. A PPP loan last year helped the business hold on long enough to make the needed changes and reopen, Gallagher said.
Now the business is applying for another PPP loan. “Hopefully, that will bring us through to the end of this thing,” Gallagher said.
Virginia Community Capital, a nonprofit community development financial institution based in Richmond, is preparing to start processing loans within the next couple of days or by early next week, said Wayne Waldrop, president of lending and community innovation for the organization.
A survey conducted by VCC late last week showed that about 50% of the borrowers it had last year will return for another round of loans.
“What we have seen is smaller businesses seem to be definitely in need, and service-related businesses are definitely in need,” Waldrop said.
“We have had a few customers that have navigated [the pandemic] quite well and they won’t be eligible this time, and that is good for them. That is a good sign,” Waldrop said. “But definitely the smaller and service businesses — the restaurants and gyms and salons — those folks need support.”
Businesses that did not get a PPP loan last year can apply for a loan of up to $10 million in the newest round if they have fewer than 500 employees.
Businesses that got loans last year also can apply for another loan of up to $2 million, but only if they have fewer than 300 employees and if they can show that they suffered at least a 25% decline in revenue in any calendar quarter in 2020 when compared with the same period of 2019.
The loans will have five-year terms and carry an interest rate of 1%. The loans are forgivable, but businesses need to use at least 60% of the funds for payroll expenses.
Businesses can use the rest of the money for other costs such as employee health benefits, mortgage interest, rent and utilities.
In this round of loans, businesses also can use the money to cover COVID-19 prevention costs such as personal protective equipment for employees or ventilation work designed to help prevent the spread of the disease.
Businesses also can use the money to cover the costs of any damages they might have suffered during riots last year.
“If you are down on West Broad Street [in Richmond] and your windows were smashed in, that is going to be an eligible covered expense,” Asbury said.
The pace at which the funds for loans will be exhausted this time around is uncertain.
Some financial experts think the loan program will not be exhausted as quickly this time, in part because many businesses have been able to re-open since last summer.
“It is kind of hard to anticipate the demand with the qualifier of a 25% decline in revenue,” said Scott Zickefoose, a senior director for Henrico County-based accounting firm Keiter. “Fortunately, a lot of people I am speaking with did not qualify for that,” because their business results did improve over the course of last year as businesses were able to re-open.
“My expectation is that it should not move as quickly as the first round,” Zickefoose said.
The types of organizations that can qualify for loans also has been expanded in the latest round. For instance, housing cooperatives and certain media businesses are eligible this time, Zickefoose said.
Also included this time are 501(c)(6) organizations, which would include groups such as chambers of commerce. They can get loans as long as they are not engaged in lobbying, and so can “destination marketing organizations,” which would include tourism groups.
Business advisers, banks and other financial firms also are awaiting more guidelines from the federal government on what is expected to be a simplified process for businesses to apply for loan forgiveness if they borrowed less than $150,000, said Doug Jones, a managing director and fractional chief financial officer for clients of Fahrenheit Advisors, a Richmond-based consulting firm.
Last year’s loan process was fraught with logistical issues because of the unprecedented scale of the program.
“Our hope is that it is going to be easier on the application side this time, because the banks already have their portals up” for people to apply, Jones said. “Last time, they had to invent the wheel while the car was moving. This time, it should be easier.”
Chesterfield County elementary schoolers are welcome back into the classroom five days a week starting Feb. 1.
In a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the Chesterfield School Board approved bringing all of the county’s youngest learners back into school buildings after the district abruptly switched back to virtual learning on Nov. 30.
School Board member Dot Heffron voted against the return-to-school plan, stating she remains committed to basing her decisions on data, science and common sense.
“I respect that there is a deep divide over this issue and I know we all want what is best for our students and community at large. We have tried the hybrid rollout and we’ve seen it result in fits and starts, each one a disruption to our students and teachers. We cannot wing it as we go, causing new disruptions with each new pivot opening and closing [and] juggling cohorts,” Heffron said ahead of her vote Tuesday night.
Middle and high school students will remain in a virtual learning environment on Feb. 1, the start of the third marking period, with school officials planning to reintroduce these pupils back into their respective schools at some point during the marking period. Middle and high school students in various career and technical programs will be welcomed back to school buildings Feb. 1.
Students staying home will see their virtual learning days increase to a full five-day week. No classes currently are held Wednesdays, which are filled with morning meetings, teacher planning, conferences with parents and/or students, and professional development.
After returning students to school in waves throughout the fall for hybrid learning, the school district reverted to virtual learning after Thanksgiving break for all students, with the exception of about 1,000 select K-12 special education pupils, in response to the county’s seven-day average of coronavirus cases per 100,000 surpassing a threshold of 25.
Chesterfield’s seven-day average of cases per 100,000 now sits at 44.3 cases.
School officials on Tuesday backed up their reasoning for having students back in the classroom.
“From the beginning, we’ve looked a lot at the Harvard Global Health Institute and we’ve relied a lot on their data and recommendations. Back in July they were the group that came forward and said, 25 cases per 100,000 residents is a point at which you should shut down schools and in December of 2020 they came back and said … if you can focus on the mitigation strategies for infection control and you’re successful with those, which the county has been, you’re in a position to reopen schools,” Tim Bullis, a Chesterfield schools spokesman, said during Tuesday’s meeting.
Chesterfield has adopted several mitigation strategies, such as wearing masks, socially distancing (the target is 6 feet but 3 feet will be allowed), contract tracing, cleaning of school buildings, self-health assessments and hand/respiratory hygiene.
On some school buses, students may be sitting side by side, including nonsiblings. Windows on buses will be lowered when deemed weather-appropriate.
School Board member Kathryn Haines pushed back on the bus protocols, referencing Harvard’s report that bus windows must be opened by at least 3 inches. She encouraged the community to drive students to school if able.
“My support of this plan is contingent on strong mitigation, which includes strong adequate contract tracing in place by Feb. 1 and maintaining one kid per seat on a bus under higher conditions of spread, Haines said.
Dominique Chatters, who has four children under the age of 10 attending Chesterfield schools, spoke during public comment against sending students back into the classroom, referring to the allowance of a 3-foot distance with schools at full capacity, but not allowing a 3-foot distance during hybrid.
“If you are using other counties as a reference point, are you using ones with a similar student population, similar demographics as far as race, age, age of the facilities, size of their classrooms, averages of the teachers, the staff, the culinary team, the bus drivers? If you haven’t, you cannot cherry-pick which statistic you want to follow because it supports your position,” Chatters said.
Reading a letter signed by 754 parents, teachers, school staff and community members, Chesterfield parent Carolyn Ferraro said that the signees request that the full five-day return process begin. Citing various news stories and health articles, the letter states that students are struggling academically and are experiencing negative physical and socio-emotional impacts.
Sonia Smith, president of the Chesterfield Education Association, called for the School Board to vote on sending elementary students back into the classrooms, safely.
“The vaccine is at our doorstep. Allow the dissemination of the vaccine to reach all employees so that we can all return safely. If Henrico Public Schools can decide to wait until their employees are vaccinated before returning to instruction then CCPS can vote to do the same thing this evening,” Smith said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Henrico County schools Superintendent Amy Cashwell again delayed plans to return students to the classrooms, with no concrete timeline as to when the return will occur. With Henrico teachers set to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning next week, school nurses will temporarily be pulled to administer the vaccines.
In other business, School Board member Ryan Harter became chair and fellow member Ann Coker became vice chair. They will hold these positions until next January.
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After saying last week that she did not anticipate a delay, Henrico County schools Superintendent Amy Cashwell on Tuesday again pushed back plans to return students to classrooms, with no timeline for changing course.
In a statement, Cashwell said Henrico school nurses are temporarily being pulled to help administer the COVID-19 vaccine to the county’s school employees and others who are eligible under Phase 1b. Without them in school buildings, she doesn’t think the system could properly mitigate spread of COVID-19 in schools.
This is the third time the county has pushed back returning students to classrooms.
“Having schools with no nurses present would result in staffing levels that won’t meet our expectations for implementing the HCPS COVID-19 Health Plan for larger numbers of students,” Cashwell said in an email to staff.
HCPS teachers are set to start receiving vaccines as early as next week. Because vaccines require two doses three weeks apart, nurses would be needed for at least several weeks.
“I share your heartache and frustration over the continuous delays to our timelines, and I know how important it is for our students to have access to in-person learning,” she stated. “However, in light of this new phase in our battle against coronavirus, I know that we are choosing the right path forward for our employees, our students and our community.”
District spokesperson Andy Jenks has previously said that 17,924 students in the district opted to return to school.
The third delay comes as the “HCPS Back to School Safely” group, a Facebook group with more than 2,600 members, demanded a return be delayed until all teachers are fully vaccinated.
Ryan Burgess, an administrator for the Facebook group and a Henrico teacher, said at least 1,000 people have signed a petition in support of the delay.
A virtual half day for students will still begin on Jan. 22, and limited in-person instruction for special education, English Language Learners, Career and Technical students, and some pre-K students will remain as is, Cashwell said.
On Oct. 22, the Henrico School Board voted 4-1 to expand in-person learning. On Nov. 16, Cashwell delayed those plans until early January due to skyrocketing COVID-19 cases.
On Tuesday, Henrico reported 171 new cases of COVID-19, according to state Health Department data. The county has seen 14,738 to date.
At the Henrico health committee’s recommendation, Cashwell last week announced a third delay for elementary school students whose families chose in-person school, citing a holiday surge in COVID-19 cases. Those students were supposed to head back into classrooms on Jan. 25.
Cashwell said to make up for lost learning, the district is looking at an optional in-person summer school program.
Virginia officials moved to shut down Capitol Square and curtail public demonstrations during Lobby Day next week as the state girds for potential armed protests in the seat of government with the approach of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
The Department of General Services, the state agency that manages the Capitol complex, said Tuesday that it has denied requests by four groups that had planned to gather on Capitol Square on Monday, the traditional Lobby Day for the General Assembly, which this year falls two days before Biden’s inauguration.
The four groups that were denied permits are: the Virginia chapter of Care in Action, which represents domestic workers; the Virginia Center for Public Safety, which seeks to reduce gun violence; and the progressive public interest organizations Progress Virginia and New Virginia Majority.
“Efforts by our agency and our law enforcement partners to prepare for reported civil unrest in the coming days mean resources that would have been available to accommodate those events will be dedicated to other areas,” Dena Potter, spokeswoman for the general services department, said Tuesday.
“Additionally, we will close Capitol Square in the coming days as we take steps to secure the grounds,” Potter said. “We work closely with our law enforcement partners on all matters concerning security in and around Capitol Square, and as stewards of these historic grounds we feel it’s important to be prepared.”
State officials and law enforcement agencies said they are bracing for potential unrest because of warnings the FBI issued on Monday and Twitter issued last week that armed protests could be planned outside of state capitol buildings, as well as the U.S. Capitol.
A mob of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed and ransacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress was preparing to certify Biden’s electoral victory despite the president’s vehement objections.
“Frankly, at this point, we’re on high alert from now right up to Inauguration Day,” Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran said Tuesday.
Moran said the alert includes Sunday, which Twitter specifically cited in a notice on Friday that it had permanently suspended Trump’s account because of alleged violations of its “glorification of violence policy.”
“Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capital buildings on January 17,” the social media company said.
Virginia’s Lobby Day coincides with the federal holiday for the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which Virginia also observes. The day has become an opportunity for various public interest groups to converge on the General Assembly to lobby state legislators on public policies under debate in legislation or for funding under the state budget.
“It’s disappointing that the permit was denied,” said Ashleigh Crocker, communications director for Progress Virginia, “but we’re not going to be intimidated by violent mobs.”
Last year, an estimated 22,000 people attended a massive gun rights rally staged by the Virginia Citizens Defense League in response to proposals by Gov. Ralph Northam and new Democratic majorities in the House of Delegates and Senate to expand restrictions on firearms.
This year, however, all public gatherings would be limited to 10 people or fewer under the executive order issued by Northam last year to curb the spread of COVID-19. Both the Capitol and the Pocahontas Building, where legislators have their offices, are closed because of the pandemic.
The House of Delegates will meet entirely online during the session that convenes on Wednesday, but the Senate will meet at the Science Museum of Virginia on West Broad Street in Richmond.
Philip Van Cleave, president of the VCDL, told the group’s members in November that the organization had been frozen out in seeking a permit for its annual gathering. By the time it requested a permit, he said, only 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. slots were available.
Potter confirmed Tuesday that the gun rights organization had requested a time slot “that had already been requested.”
“DGS accepts applications in the order in which they were received and only permits one event for a given time,” she said. “In the end, we were working with these four groups on how to allow their events to proceed while adhering to Executive Order 72, which limits gatherings to 10 people.”
Instead of gathering at Capitol Square for Lobby Day, the VCDL plans to bring car caravans to Richmond on Monday from around Virginia. The organization says its four main caravans will start near Staunton, Fairfax County, Hampton and Emporia and that nine “sub-caravans” will be heading to Richmond from other localities around the state.
VCDL is telling its members who wish to stop and visit the downtown area, “You can be armed and carry a sign, as VCDL is not doing an event in Richmond.” Among instructions to its members are not to block sidewalks or traffic and that: “If posted, Richmond government buildings and parks are off-limits.”
On Saturday, the Virginia Prison Justice Network will hold its fourth annual rally as a car caravan that will circle the state Capitol. The focus of this year’s rally is “the COVID-19 crisis in the state’s prisons and jails.”
Moran, the state secretary of public safety, said denial of the permits is “the right decision” because of the FBI warning about potential threats to state capitol buildings and the drain on law enforcement to also manage demonstrations around the Capitol.
“We’re gathering and analyzing the information about what’s relevant to us in Richmond,” he said. “A lot of the information is directed toward the inauguration event.”
However, Moran added, “Due to our proximity [to Washington, D.C.], that is relevant to our interests.”
WASHINGTON — The House pressed forward Tuesday toward impeaching President Donald Trump over last week’s deadly Capitol insurrection, taking time only to try to persuade his vice president to push him out first, to no avail. Trump showed no remorse, blaming impeachment itself for the “tremendous anger” in the nation.
Already scheduled to leave office next week, Trump is on the verge of becoming the only president in history to be impeached twice. His incendiary rhetoric at a rally ahead of the Capitol invasion is now in the impeachment charge against him, even as the misinformation he spread about election fraud is still being championed by some Republicans.
Three Republicans, however, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, announced they would vote to impeach Trump, cleaving the party’s leadership.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” said Cheney in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Reps. John Katko of New York, a former federal prosecutor, and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Air Force veteran, said they, too, would vote to impeach.
As lawmakers reconvened at the Capitol for the first time since the bloody siege, they were also bracing for more violence ahead of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next Wednesday.
“All of us have to do some soul searching,” said Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, imploring other Republicans to join.
Trump, meanwhile, warned the lawmakers off impeachment and suggested it was the drive to oust him that was dividing the country.
“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” Trump said.
In his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence, the outgoing president offered no condolences for the dead or injured, only saying, “I want no violence.”
The House convened Tuesday night to vote on urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump with a Cabinet vote. But shortly before that, Pence said he would not do so, in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
He said that it would not be in the best interest of the nation or consistent with the Constitution and that it was “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden.” Also, no member of the Cabinet publicly called for Trump to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment.
After that, the House likely will move swiftly to impeachment on Wednesday.
Trump faces a single charge — incitement of insurrection — in the impeachment resolution after the most serious and deadly domestic incursion at the Capitol in the nation’s history.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a top Trump ally, still refuses to concede that Biden won the election outright. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., tied such talk to the Capitol attack, interjecting, “People came here because they believed the lie.”
A handful of other House Republicans could vote to impeach, but in the narrowly divided Senate, there are not expected to be the two-thirds votes to convict him, though some Republicans say it’s time for Trump to resign.
The unprecedented events, with just over a week remaining in Trump’s term, are unfolding in a nation bracing for more unrest. The FBI has warned ominously of potential armed protests in Washington and many states by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden’s inauguration. Capitol Police warned lawmakers to be on alert. The inauguration ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol will be off limits to the public.
Lawmakers will be required to pass through metal detectors to enter the House chamber, not far from where Capitol police, guns drawn, had barricaded the door against the rioters.
A Capitol police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot a woman during the violence. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.
In the Senate, Pat Toomey, R-Pa., joined Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, over the weekend in calling for Trump to “go away as soon as possible.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, did not go that far, but on Tuesday called on Trump to address the nation and explicitly urge his supporters to refrain from further violence. If not, he said, Trump “will bear responsibility.”
Biden has said it’s important to ensure that the “folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage — that they be held accountable.”
Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down Biden’s first days in office, the president-elect is encouraging senators to divide their time between taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID relief while also conducting the trial.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested in a letter to colleagues Tuesday the chamber would do both.
As Congress resumed, an uneasiness swept the halls. More lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19 after sheltering during the siege.
Many lawmakers may choose to vote by proxy rather than come to Washington, a process that was put in place last year to limit the health risks of travel.
Among Trump’s closest allies in Congress, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was among those echoing the president, saying, “Impeachment at this time would have the opposite effect of bringing our country together.”
Democrats say they have the votes for impeachment. The bill draws from Trump’s own unfounded statements about his election defeat to Biden.
“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government,” reads the four-page impeachment article, which was introduced by Democratic Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and Raskin.
“He will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,” it reads.
The impeachment legislation also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to find him more votes, as well as his White House rally ahead of the Capitol siege, in which he encouraged thousands of supporters last Wednesday to “fight like hell” and march to the building.
Once the House passes the article, Pelosi can decide when she sends them to the Senate. Under the current schedule, the Senate is not set to resume full sessions until Jan. 19, which is the day before Biden’s inauguration.
Some Democrats suggested Pelosi might wait to send the articles and allow Biden to begin his term without impeachment hanging over him. But many other Democrats have urged Pelosi to move immediately.
While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. In 1876, during the administration of President Ulysses Grant, Secretary of War William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.
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