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PENCE LETTER REJECTS CALLS TO INVOKE 25TH AMENDMENT TO REMOVE TRUMP FROM OFFICE

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Nancy Pelosi walks to the House chambers Tuesday in Washington DC. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Mike Pence on Tuesday formally rejected calls to strip Donald Trump of his presidential authority by invoking the 25th amendment, effectively paving the way for the House to move forward with impeachment.

In a letter to House speaker Nancy Pelosi, released hours before the House voted on a resolution urging him to invoke the 25th amendment, Pence said he did not believe “such a course of action is in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our constitution” and warned that efforts to remove Trump from office risked “further divide and inflame the passions of the moment”.

after Pelosi gave the vice-president what amounted to an ultimatum, with a 24-hour window to respond: either strip Trump of his power or allow him to become the first president in American history to be impeached a second time.

Moments later, Pelosi announced the team of House impeachment managers who would prosecute the case against Trump in the Senate. The team would be lead by the Maryland congressman Jamie Raskin, a former constitutional law professor who helped draft the article of impeachment against him for inciting the mob that led a deadly assault on the US Capitol last week.

Pence’s statement essentially renders the House vote on Tuesday evening a symbolic gesture, and sets up the impeachment vote on Wednesday. Tuesday’s vote was expected to take place late in the evening and fall along party lines.

Ahead of the vote on Tuesday, several Republican members came out in support of impeachment, including Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, who said there had “never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States” than Trump’s encouragement of an insurrection on the seat of American government.

“The President of the United States summoned his mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” she said in a scathing statement. “Everything that followed was his doing.”

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly told associates that he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses, though he has not voiced public support for removing the president from office.

In the days since a mob laid claim to the nation’s Capitol, which sent lawmakers scrambling under desks for safety, fear has turned to fury as they learn more about the security failure that left them vulnerable – and the role of Trump and his allies in role in stoking the mayhem. Exacerbating their anger was Trump’s utter lack of remorse.

Earlier on Tuesday, the defeated president lashed out at Democrats for leading the effort to remove him before his term ends next week, and took no responsibility for the violent uprising that left five dead and threatened the lives of members of Congress, congressional staff, law enforcement, journalists and his own vice-president.

Instead, he claimed his inflammatory comments to loyalists at a rally in Washington before the Capitol attack, where he urged them to march to the Capitol in last-gasp attempt to overturn the results of an election he lost, were “totally appropriate” and blamed Democrats for further dividing the nation.

“The 25th amendment is of zero risk to me but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration,” Trump said in remarks from Alamo, Texas, after he visited the barrier on the US-Mexico border.

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Mike Pence has said he will not invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Donald Trump. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Democrats will proceed first with a vote Tuesday night on a resolution calling on Mike Pence and members of the cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment to the constitution, and wrest Trump from power. It further calls on Pence to immediately assume “the powers and duties of the office as acting president”.

Such an act, the resolution states, would: “Declare what is obvious to a horrified nation: that the president is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”

The 25th amendment allows for the vice president, with the support of a majority of the cabinet, to remove a president deemed “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”.

Democrats, who control the House, are confident they have the votes to pass the resolution. But it’s not only Democrats.

A growing number of Republicans have called the president unfit for office and fear that he could do more damage in his final days.

Trump and Pence met on Monday night for the first time since the assaultduring which some rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence” because he refused Trump’s public demands to block congressional certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory – a power he did not have.

The two men pledged to continue working together for the remainder of their time in office, according to a senior administration official.

Three cabinet officials have resigned in the wake of Capitol invasion but none have called for Trump’s removal.

The House will then swiftly move forward with impeachment, beginning the debate over whether Trump committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” on Wednesday, just one week before Biden will be sworn in.

A single article of impeachment charges Trump with “incitement of insurrection,” and directly quotes the president’s speech to supporters at the rally near the White House on 6 Januarybefore a mob stormed the seat of American government. “If you don’t fight like hell,” Trump implored, “you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Members of Congress gathered ahead of the vote on Tuesday for the first time since the attack, amid heightened security both inside and outside the building. Cracked glass and newly-installed metal detectors were reminders of the breach – and of the continued threat of violence ahead of Biden’s inauguration. Before the vote, lawmakers observed a moment of silence for the two Capitol police officers who died after defending the building during the bloody siege.