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House leader: Impeachment could begin next week if Trump not removed

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House leader: Impeachment could begin next week if Trump not removed
Electoral college votes are brought in before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence resume presiding over a joint session of Congress to count the Electoral College results on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Pool photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 8 (UPI) -- The House of Representatives could move forward with impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump as early as next week if he's not removed from office, a top Democrat said Friday.

Assistant House Speaker Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., told CNN the chamber will start the impeachment proceedings by the middle of next week unless Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of Trump's Cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment removing him from office.

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If Pence does not act, Clark said, the House would "not have a choice" other than to impeach Trump, who, she said, "incited a seditious mob to storm the Capitol. We now have five deaths from that and the harm to our democracy is really unfathomable."

"We know that we have limited time, but that every day that Donald Trump is President of the United States is a day of grave danger," Clark said. "We can use procedural tools to get articles of impeachment to the floor for a House vote quickly."

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Pence, who has not spoken publicly since Wednesday, will likely not use his powers under the Constitution to determine that Trump is unfit for office, according to reports by The New York Times, Business Insider and CNN.

White House sources said Pence disapproves of invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, which never has been used. It states the president can be removed from power if the vice president and a majority of Cabinet members find him "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."

The reports came as pressure mounted on Pence and Trump's Republican allies to back removing him from office after Wednesday's attack on the Capitol, in which the president's supporters broke into the building during a joint session of Congress called to certify the Electoral College victory of President-elect Joe Biden.

RELATED Congress affirms Biden election win; Trump pledges 'orderly transition'

The rioters were egged on by incendiary rhetoric from Trump at an earlier rally, during which he called on Pence to illegally block the certification.

After Pence refused to do so, Trump again tweeted condemnation of his vice president, even the mob of attackers were forcing Pence's hurried evacuation from the Capitol.

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Pence, whose loyalty to the president has frequently been noted, was was "very upset" with Trump over the episode, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., told the Tulsa World Wednesday, adding that he's "never seen Pence as angry as he was today."

RELATED Democrats, business leaders call on Pence to invoke 25th Amendment

In addition to Pence's reported reluctance, the prospects of invoking the 25th Amendment appeared to diminish further Thursday when two Cabinet members -- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao -- resigned their posts.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have called for the Cabinet to invoke the amendment, but are now instead considering a quick impeachment process.

Even Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday that Trump should resign the presidency.

Biden, however, is not in favor of opening a second impeachment proceeding against Trump, CNN reported.

Donald Trump supporters breach Capitol, riot over election results

Supporters of President Donald Trump riot against the Electoral College vote count on January 6, 2021, in protest of Trump's loss to President-elect Joe Biden, prompting a lockdown of the Capitol Building. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

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