WASHINGTON -- Momentum built among Democrats on Saturday for a fresh and fast push to impeach President Donald Trump, even as the House speaker accused his backers who violently invaded the Capitol of choosing "their whiteness over democracy."
Nancy Pelosi's remarks were made as Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., one of the chief sponsors of draft impeachment articles accusing Trump of inciting insurrection, said at midday that his group's draft had collected 176 co-sponsors. The lawmakers plan to formally introduce the proposal Monday, with a vote possible by Wednesday.
Pelosi, addressing her hometown San Francisco constituents in an online videoconference, shed no fresh light on Democrats' plans. Her party seems intent on pressing ahead against Trump, even though there is virtually no chance the Republican-led Senate will act to remove him before his term ends Jan. 20.
"Justice will be done. Democracy will prevail. And America will be healed. But it is a decision that we have to make," Pelosi said.
By Saturday, prosecutors had filed 17 cases in federal district court and 40 others in District of Columbia Superior Court for a variety of offenses ranging from assaulting police officers to entering restricted areas of the U.S. Capitol, stealing federal property and threatening lawmakers.
Prosecutors said additional cases remained under seal, dozens of other people were being sought by federal agents, and the U.S. attorney in Washington vowed that all options are on the table for charges, including possibly sedition.
"Insurrectionists incited by Mr. Trump attacked our nation's Capitol to stop Congress from accepting the Electoral College results," said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., who began drafting the impeachment articles with Cicilline while sheltering during the Capitol takeover and was later joined by Jamie Raskin, D-Md.
"People died," Lieu said. "We cannot just issue sternly worded press releases as a response. Unless Trump resigns, Congress must impeach to hold him accountable."
Democratic leaders also called on Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to force Trump from office and install Pence as president.
Pelosi said that option remains on the table. But action by Pence or the Cabinet now appears unlikely, especially after two top officials, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, resigned in the aftermath of the violence and would no longer be in the Cabinet to make such a case.
Yet even some of the president's harshest critics worried that a last-minute impeachment and an overtime trial could help him rally supporters by presenting himself as a victim, not a villain, allowing him to turn the focus from his own actions to those of his opponents.
"It historically will be important," said Andrew Weissmann, who was a deputy to special counsel Robert Mueller and recently published a book, "Where Law Ends," expressing frustration that the president was not held fully accountable for his actions during the Russia investigation. "But the danger is he is acquitted and the momentum of condemnation now is lost. Plus, until we change the mentality of his base, we have not gotten at the underlying issue."
'WHITENESS OVER DEMOCRACY'
A largely white throng of Trump supporters broke through police lines and rampaged through the Capitol on Wednesday, forcing lawmakers to scatter as they put the final, formal touches on Democrat Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over Trump. The crowd surged to the Capitol after being urged by Trump to march there in force during remarks in which he repeated his claim that his election defeat was fraudulent.
The rioters took over the House and Senate chambers, smashed windows and waved Trump, American and Confederate flags.
"It has been an epiphany for the world to see that there are people in our country led by this president, for the moment, who have chosen their whiteness over democracy," Pelosi said of the attack, during which five people died.
She added: "This cannot be exaggerated. The complicity, not only the complicity, the instigation of the president of the United States, must and will be addressed."
No. 4 House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., reiterated his support for moving against what he called "an act of sedition that was incited and encouraged by Donald Trump."
At a news conference in New York, Jeffries added, "He should be impeached, convicted and thrown out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and forever banished to the dustbin of history."
The anger over the attack and Trump's role in it capped a divisive, chaotic presidency like few others in the nation's history. With less than two weeks until he's gone, Democrats want him out -- now -- and he has few defenders speaking up for him in his own Republican Party.
Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., told Fox News on Saturday that "the president committed impeachable offenses," joining at least three other Senate Republicans who have called on Trump to resign, expressed openness to impeachment or voted for conviction last year.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday that Trump simply "needs to get out."
Even some in the conservative media outlets turned on Trump, most notably The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which called his actions "impeachable" and urged him to resign.
Trump has been holing up at the White House, abandoned by many aides, top Republicans and Cabinet members. After refusing to concede defeat in the November election, he has now promised a smooth transfer of power when Biden is sworn in. But even so, he says he will not attend the inauguration -- the first such presidential snub since just after the Civil War.
In Congress, where many have watched as the president spent four years breaking norms and testing the nation's guardrails of democracy, Democrats are unwilling to take further chances. The mayhem at the Capitol stunned the world and threatened the traditional peaceful transfer of power.
Pelosi said she had spoken to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, "to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes" for nuclear war. She said Milley assured her long-standing safeguards are in place.
The president has sole authority to order the launch of a nuclear weapon, but a military commander could refuse the order if it were determined to be illegal. Trump has not publicly made such threats, but some officials warn of grave danger if the president is left unchecked.
Biden, meanwhile, said he is focused on his job as he prepares to take office. Asked about impeachment, he said, "That's a decision for the Congress to make."Gallery: Nation takes sides after D.C. riot
The Democrats are considering lightning-quick action. A draft of their impeachment articles accuses Trump of abuse of power, saying he "willfully made statements that encouraged -- and foreseeably resulted in -- imminent lawless action at the Capitol."
If Trump were to be impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, he would be prevented from running again for the presidency in 2024 or ever holding public office again. He would be the only president twice impeached.
(The House impeached Trump in 2019, but the Republican-led Senate acquitted him in early 2020.)
"We've never had to consider even the possibility of impeaching a president twice, or in the final days of his presidency," said Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional scholar at the University of North Carolina who testified in Trump's first impeachment and favors another trial. "But we've never had a president before who's encouraging sedition as Trump has done in his last few days in office."
Trump spokesman Judd Deere said, "A politically motivated impeachment against a President with 12 days remaining in his term will only serve to further divide our great country."
Twitter said late Friday that it was permanently suspending Trump from its platform, citing "risk of further incitement of violence."
The soonest the Senate could begin an impeachment trial under the current calendar would be Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.
A Trump ally, Republican Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, said as the White House did that "impeaching the President with just 12 days left in his term will only divide our country more."
And Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said in an interview Saturday: "If the House does send articles of impeachment over, they really get the Biden administration off to a bad start. Whether that's the first 10 days or the first 20 days of the Biden administration, it's certainly not how you'd want to start your presidency off."
On Sean Hannity's Fox News program Friday night, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who was accosted by Trump supporters at an airport for opposing the president's efforts to overturn the election, was suddenly back to castigating Trump's rivals and talking about Hunter Biden, the president-elect's son.
Graham focused on Trump's video message Thursday calling for healing and reconciliation, a video that some people said the president privately regretted. "Instead of trying to match what President Trump has done, the radical Democrats are talking about another impeachment that will destroy the country even further," Graham said.
Trump might have a challenge finding lawyers to defend him in any trial.
Jay Sekulow, who was a leader of the defense team in the impeachment trial last year, called the idea of a second impeachment a "gigantic mistake" by Democrats during a radio show, but has not participated in Trump's legal efforts to overturn Biden's election and did not respond to a message asking if he would represent the president again.
Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel who teamed up with Sekulow, has been so upset about the Capitol attack that he has considered resigning.
One of the few members of his defense team who said he would stick with the president was Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School emeritus professor who had a secondary role last time. In an email Saturday, he said he would defend Trump on free-expression grounds.
"Trump's speech, whatever one may think of it on the merits, is clearly protected by the First Amendment," he said. "To impeach him for a constitutionally protected speech would violate both the First Amendment and the constitutional criteria for impeachment and would do enduring damage to the Constitution."
SAVE DATA, FACEBOOK URGED
One of the prominent Washington critics of big technology companies called on telecom and social media companies to preserve digital evidence from the Capitol riot.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., wrote to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and asked him to "undertake reasonable measures" to retain any content linked to the attacks that may be needed for future legal action.
"The texts, videos and pictures posted to your platforms -- and associated meta-data, cloud backups and subscriber information -- are critical evidence in helping to bring these rioters to justice," Warner wrote in a letter dated Friday. "The United States Capitol is now a crime scene."
Separately, the Office of the House sergeant-at-arms Saturday called on members of Congress and staff members to provide the Capitol Police with any digital evidence they have from Wednesday's violent scenes.
This includes video and photos, according to a memo. The recipients also were encouraged to report any other crimes including theft or destruction as soon as possible.
Police arrested more Capitol rioters Saturday, including a man who carried off the House speaker's lectern, as more graphic details of the insurrection emerged, revealing the violence and brutality of the mob that stormed a seat of American political power.
A bloodied officer was crushed in a doorway screaming in the siege, which forced lawmakers to go into hiding for hours and halt their voting to affirm Biden's victory. Another officer tumbled over a railing into the crowd below after being body-slammed from behind. Members of the media were cursed, shoved and punched.
A vast number of photos and videos captured the riot. Many of the images were taken by the rioters themselves, few of whom wore masks that would have lowered not only their chances of contracting the coronavirus, but their chances of being identified. Some took pains to stand out.
Jacob Anthony Chansley, an Arizona man seen in photos and video with a painted face and wearing a costume that included a horned, fur hat, was taken into custody Saturday and charged with counts that include violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Chansley, more commonly known as Jake Angeli, had become a staple in his costume at pro-Trump protests across the country. He will remain in custody in Arizona pending a detention hearing that will be scheduled during an initial court appearance early this week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Esther Winne said.
A Parrish, Fla., man accused of making off with Pelosi's lectern was arrested Friday night on a federal warrant and was being held Saturday without bail in Pinellas County, Fla. Adam Johnson, 36, was charged Saturday with theft, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
The married father of five was quickly identified on social media as the man in a photo smiling as he walked through the Capitol rotunda carrying the lectern, The Bradenton Herald reported.
Another notable arrest is that of Richard Barnett, an Arkansas man who was shown in a widely seen photo sitting in Pelosi's office with his boots on a desk. He was arrested Friday by the FBI.
Barnett, 60, of Gravette surrendered to FBI agents at the Benton County sheriff's office in Bentonville. He is jailed in the Washington County jail in Fayetteville without bail pending an initial court appearance, FBI Little Rock spokesman Connor Hagan said.
Information for this article was contributed by Lisa Mascaro, Mary Clare Jalonick, Zeke Miller, Alan Fram, Alexandra Jaffe, Rick Callahan, Michael Balsamo and Paul Davenport of The Associated Press; by Peter Baker of The New York Times; and by Stephen Cunningham of Bloomberg News (TNS).