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News Brief: Trump's Last 8 Days, 25th Amendment, Seditious Conspiracy

TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

The House of Representatives is back in Washington today on two efforts to remove President Trump from office.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The urgency comes after last week's deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Now, more than 200 House members are supporting an impeachment resolution that charges President Trump with inciting the insurrection and all the violence that happened there on that day. Later today, the House is going to vote on a separate measure that seeks to remove the president through the 25th Amendment.

MOSLEY: And with us for more on this push and how the administration is reacting, our congressional correspondent Susan Davis. Hello.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning.

MOSLEY: Good morning. And White House correspondent Tamara Keith, hi.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good to be with you.

MOSLEY: Yes. Sue, let's start with you. The House is preparing to vote on two measures with the same end goal, and that is to remove President Trump from office. Let's start with the first, a resolution involving the 25th Amendment. How will this work?

DAVIS: Well, it's a resolution from Maryland Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin. He's also a constitutional lawyer. The important thing to note here is it's nonbinding, but it essentially expresses the sense of Congress that Vice President Mike Pence and the Trump Cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment, in which there's a provision that would essentially allow Pence to assume the office through Inauguration Day if he and a majority of the Cabinet were to send a letter to Congress to say that the president couldn't fulfill the duties of office. We have zero indication that that's actively under consideration in the White House. But it is expected to pass the House tonight. Again, a largely symbolic vote, but Democrats have been saying that if Pence does this or if Trump were to resign in the meantime, they would not need to go forward down another path of impeachment. But they are preparing to start that process on Wednesday.

MOSLEY: I see. Tam, Vice President Pence has been really quiet about this effort. Is there any indication of whether he's even entertaining it?

KEITH: Yeah. No indication at all. Just remember, Pence was presiding over the Electoral College vote tally at the time of the insurrection. He had to take shelter at the very moment that President Trump was criticizing him via tweet. And he has been conspicuously quiet ever since then. But last night, a senior administration official who declined to speak on the record said Pence and Trump met in the Oval Office yesterday, finally breaking their silence between each other, and quote, "pledged to continue to work on behalf of the country for the remainder of their term." So that appears to indicate two things - that Pence isn't going to try to remove Trump from office and Trump doesn't intend to resign. But that was a statement that came from an unnamed senior administration official. Neither of them have publicly addressed this. And as we reported earlier, Democratic leadership tried to get Pence on the phone to talk about this last week about the 25th Amendment, and he wouldn't come to the phone.

MOSLEY: Sue, the House's other major order of business this week will be impeachment. How are Democrats laying out that charge?

DAVIS: It is just one article of impeachment for incitement of insurrection, and the House is expected to take it up and pass it on Wednesday. There's really no suspense here. Democrats have already said that they have the votes to pass it. The big question that we're all looking for is to see if any Republicans are going to join Democrats to support it. Some Republicans, certainly more than the last time, have indicated they're at least considering it. Other Republicans are also saying that they don't necessarily support impeachment, but they would support other punishments towards the president. Tom Reed, who's a Republican from New York who's part of a bipartisan caucus, said he would support censure instead. Although censure is sort of just a public reprimand. It doesn't have much impact. You know, I do want to say, though, that overall, I think that President Trump still has a lot of loyalty on Capitol Hill, and we're bracing for what is likely to be a more party-line vote. But I can say that more Republicans than in the past have been absolutely horrified by the events that happened last week, and there might be more flexibility in their votes than we're anticipating.

MOSLEY: OK. Well, thinking back to what we learned about impeachment the last time this happened, if impeachment is on a glide path now in the House, how does that actually work with a possible Senate trial if Trump is leaving office in just eight days?

DAVIS: That's a great question, and we don't really know the answer to that. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is talking about trying to bring back the Senate early. He would need outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to agree to it, so we don't know if that's likely. The Biden camp has talked about looking at trying to see if they could split time in the Senate between doing things like approving his Cabinet nominees and going through a Senate trial. This is why some Democrats, including the No. 3 Democrat in the House, Jim Clyburn, had said that he wanted to wait and try to delay the trial until after Biden's first 100 days. But it's a really hard message for Democrats to, on the one hand, say this is an urgent matter that can't wait and then to say, well, maybe we should wait three months before we do it.

There's also a bit of a debate on Capitol Hill about how you finish an impeachment trial of someone no longer in office. There could be a challenge over the very process of it. And as of right now, we have no reason to believe that there are the votes to convict in the Senate. Remember, you need two-thirds of the Senate to convict. Although there are more Republican senators, people like Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who have said that Trump committed impeachable offenses and could potentially vote to convict.

MOSLEY: Well, Tam, do we have any idea on how Trump is responding or preparing for possible impeachment?

KEITH: Over the weekend, a White House spokesman said that impeachment would further divide the country, but President Trump hasn't tweeted about it because he can't. And he also hasn't been using other levers of the presidency that he once loved. He has been completely out of view since he released a video last Thursday. So he hasn't been publicly at least demanding loyalty from congressional Republicans as he has in the past. And I will say that I asked the White House who would represent him lawyerwise in a second impeachment trial, and I couldn't get a comment from them. But I do know for sure, based on my reporting, according to a source familiar with planning, three outside lawyers who worked with Trump on the Russia investigation, including Jay Sekulow, who represented him in the first impeachment trial, will not be involved in this one. You know, ever since the election and even more so since the insurrection, President Trump has really shrunk in his job, going from bare minimum to even less than bare minimum.

Today, he is leaving the White House. He's going to the border to tout construction of a border wall during his presidency. This will be the first time he's been seen out in public since the insurrection other than controlled White House-produced videos. This is the kind of thing that a president would normally do near the end of their term to burnish their legacy. But it's really questionable whether he has enough time to fix what's broken.

MOSLEY: So much to watch for here. That's Tamara Keith and Susan Davis. Thank you so much.

KEITH: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOSLEY: Several Capitol Police officers were suspended and as many as 15 other officers are under investigation following last week's deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.

MARTIN: Right. At the federal level, this investigation is still in its early stages. So far, dozens of people have been identified and charged in connection with the attack on the Capitol that left five people dead. Investigators are still trying to figure out if there was an organized group behind the violence.

MOSLEY: NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas joins us now with more on this investigation. And, Ryan, let's start with the Capitol Police suspensions. What do we know about those?

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Well, Representative Tim Ryan, who leads the House committee that's looking into the riot, says that two officers have been suspended so far. One of them took a selfie with a rioter; another put on a MAGA hat and was seen directing people around. The acting police chief for Capitol Police also has said that several officers have been suspended pending an investigation.

MOSLEY: OK. And what about the criminal investigation into the riot? What's the latest there?

LUCAS: Well, prosecutors are identifying and charging more and more people pretty much every day who they say took part in the events. Some of them have been pretty easy to identify because of the photos or videos that they took of themselves at the Capitol. Some of them have been harder to ID, though, but investigators are getting help. As of last night, the FBI had received 70,000 tips from the public to help them identify the folks who took part in the riot.

MOSLEY: Seventy thousand tips - that's a lot to go through. What about this question of whether groups had planned and organized to storm the Capitol?

LUCAS: Well, officials say it could take weeks, if not months, to figure out if right-wing extremist groups, for example, planned to storm the Capitol. One of the keys to unlocking that question, though, may lie in the two pipe bombs that were planted the day of the insurrection. They were found outside the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill. Those bombs didn't go off, so they haven't received a ton of attention since last week. But the challenge for the FBI is going to be to figure out whether the individual who left those was working in tandem with others and how it's connected to the insurrection at the Capitol, if it's connected at all.

MOSLEY: Oh, wow. How will they go about actually doing that?

LUCAS: Well, the first thing to do would be to identify who placed the bombs, who planted them. The FBI has put out a grainy photo of a suspect. The individual is wearing a gray hoodie, a white mask, black pants and black-and-white shoes. The FBI actually released new photos of the suspect's shoes and backpack last night. And I've been told that investigators think the shoes may be a special edition and could help identify the individual. Now, FBI agents have been canvassing the neighborhood on Capitol Hill where the explosives were found, asking residents for, say, footage from the Ring doorbells and businesses for CCTV footage. The devices themselves, I'm told, are still being analyzed at the FBI lab. I spoke to former FBI agent Dave Gomez. He says those intact bombs can yield a lot of information for investigators.

DAVE GOMEZ: There are signature aspects to bomb building - type of case, type of device, a timer. And all those components are evidence. There is nothing better for an investigator than to find an intact device.

LUCAS: Investigators can sometimes pull fingerprints or hairs from the devices. They can trace back the materials to where they were purchased. All of that can help lead to the culprit.

MOSLEY: OK. As we know, Joe Biden's inauguration is next week. The mayor of D.C. is urging people to avoid the city during that time. What are officials saying about security?

LUCAS: Well, there are definitely concerns in Washington about the potential for violence on Inauguration Day but also, of course, in the days leading up to it. And they are taking steps to try to make sure the city is safe. The Secret Service, for example, has been ordered to begin its preparations this week for the inauguration instead of waiting until the day before the event. And the National Guard says that it plans to have up to 10,000 National Guard troops in D.C. for the event.

MOSLEY: NPR's Ryan Lucas, thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.