WASHINGTON -- The House on Monday barreled toward impeaching President Donald Trump, while President-elect Joe Biden, scrambling to ensure the effort does not bog down the start of his tenure, pressed the Senate on whether it could simultaneously hold a trial of the president and pass urgently needed bills.
Trump could be impeached as early as Wednesday on a charge of "incitement of insurrection." That rapid pace in the House prompted Biden to ask Senate officials whether the chamber could "bifurcate" its schedule so his agenda and impeachment could be considered at the same time, while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., explored other, little-used ways of speeding up Senate action.
The accelerating activity reflected the unusually high-pressure moment, with the departure of one president -- days after he encouraged a mob that assaulted the U.S. Capitol -- increasingly colliding with the agenda of a successor determined to quickly tackle the twin crises of a deadly pandemic and a foundering economy.
"I had a discussion today with some of the folks in the House and Senate," Biden told reporters Monday. "And the question is whether or not, for example, if the House moves forward -- which they obviously are -- with the impeachment and sends it over to the Senate, whether or not we can bifurcate this."
A Senate impeachment trial typically consumes the chamber for weeks, allowing for little other business. Biden has been particularly concerned about Senate confirmation of his Cabinet nominees, and he signaled Monday that he was looking for a way around the traditional pace of an impeachment trial.
"Can we go half-day on dealing with the impeachment and half-day getting my people nominated and confirmed in the Senate?" he said, also citing a package for more covid relief.
Fallout from Wednesday's assault on the Capitol continued elsewhere Monday as acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf stepped down. Wolf cited recent court challenges to his authority and other "recent events," but his move came amid criticism of the Department of Homeland Security Department for its preparation for the rally that became a riot.
The flurry of activity reflected the growing certainty that the House will impeach Trump this week, taking the action just days before he leaves office and making him the first president to be impeached twice. And it underscored the concern among Democrats over how much a Senate trial could disrupt the critical first days of the Biden presidency.
House Democrats formally introduced a single article of impeachment Monday, citing Trump's false statements claiming widespread voter fraud. "He also willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged -- and foreseeably resulted in -- lawless action at the Capitol," the resolution says.
"President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government," says the four-page impeachment bill. "He will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office."
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told lawmakers to prepare to return to Washington today to consider that resolution, with the full House scheduled to vote Wednesday. A House aide confirmed that impeachment has 218 co-sponsors, enough to ensure passage in the Democratic-led chamber.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said he would take a look at any articles that the House sent over. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a frequent Trump critic, said he would "vote the right way" if the matter were put in front of him.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., encouraged House GOP colleagues to "vote your conscience," according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private call. She has spoken critically of Trump's actions, but has not said publicly how she will vote.
Democrats are furious at Trump for encouraging the assault, which was linked to five deaths. But Biden campaigned on uniting the country, and some lawmakers say that could be much harder if he launches his presidency amid a volatile effort to punish his predecessor.
Yet other Democrats argue it will not be possible for the country to come together if Trump is not held accountable, and the congressional furor over the insurrection at the Capitol has been nearly impossible to contain.
"There have to be consequences for this clear and deeply serious violation of law -- inciting a riot," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. Still, he said he is "sympathetic" to Biden's desire to focus on his agenda.
But Blumenthal argued that impeaching Trump does not need to get in the way of unity. "I really hope that maybe this impeachment can be bipartisan," he said. "The people who say that an impeachment trial would be divisive are assuming that Republicans are divided with us on the basic issue of whether a president can incite a riot, which is what he did."
The Senate parliamentarian's office Monday declined to comment, but some officials who have been involved in past impeachment proceedings said it would be difficult, if not impossible, to bifurcate the Senate's work as Biden proposed.
There could be further delays if legal challenges are mounted to determine whether a former president can face impeachment. And Senate Republicans would have little incentive to work with Biden to speed things along and enact his agenda.
All those factors are putting enormous pressure on Schumer to decide how to negotiate the political crosscurrents. He said in an interview published Monday that he considered impeaching Trump and executing Biden's agenda equally important.
"We're going to have to do several things at once, but we've got to move the agenda as well," Schumer told the Buffalo News. "Yes, we've got to do both."
The Senate is not scheduled to come into session until Jan. 19, delaying any impeachment trial until the start of Biden's administration Jan. 20. The chamber ordinarily could not reconvene earlier unless all 100 senators agreed.
That has prompted Schumer to explore an obscure authority that would allow him, along with the current majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to jointly reconvene the Senate in cases of emergency, according to a senior Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss evolving party strategy.
Schumer is investigating whether this option would allow for a potential Trump trial to begin immediately after the House transmits the article to the Senate.
But McConnell would have to agree to such a maneuver, and it is far from clear that he would. Aides to McConnell -- who had ignored Trump's calls before Wednesday's siege and now has no plans to call him back, according to one official -- did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Schumer, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has endorsed impeaching Trump if Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of the current Cabinet do not invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, deeming him unfit.Gallery: Denver impeachment rally
There is no indication that Pence or any Cabinet officials have any intention of doing so.
Pence and Trump met late Monday for the first time since the Capitol attack, a senior administration official said. They had a "good conversation" in the Oval Office discussing the week ahead, and they pledged to continue working for the remainder of their terms, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.
Over the weekend, Schumer quietly advised his fellow Senate Democrats not to take the prospect of impeachment off the table in their interviews and public comments, according to two officials familiar with the conversations.
In addition, Schumer told senators not to float censure as a potential option for punishing Trump, since most Democrats believe that would let Republicans off the hook by providing a way for them to impose a toothless penalty.
A spokesman for Schumer declined to comment on his private talks with senators.
Short of persuading McConnell to agree to reconvene the Senate under emergency powers, Democratic officials have started to explore other options to accommodate both an impeachment trial and the confirmation of Biden's Cabinet.
Pelosi was adamant in a public statement Monday, saying, "The president's threat to America is urgent, and so too will be our action."
Pelosi made that statement shortly after House Republicans, using a procedural move, blocked consideration of a resolution calling on Pence to initiative removal proceedings under the 25th Amendment.
The measure, written by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., called on Pence to mobilize Cabinet members "to declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office."
Republicans are expected to block the resolution a second time today, and Democrats will then move ahead with impeachment, accusing Trump of exhorting the mob to move on the Capitol as lawmakers were formalizing Biden's victory in the presidential election.
"Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session's solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts," the impeachment resolution says.
Wolf, the acting homeland security secretary, abruptly resigned nine days before a presidential inauguration whose jittery security preparations are unfolding amid fears of worsening political violence.
In a statement to department staffers, Wolf said he was "saddened to take this step," having previously announced plans to remain on the job through the end of the Trump administration.
"Unfortunately, this action is warranted by recent events, including the ongoing and meritless court rulings regarding the validity of my authority as Acting Secretary," Wolf's statement said. "These events and concerns increasingly serve to divert attention and resources away from the important work of the Department in this critical time of a transition of power."
Peter Gaynor, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will take over as acting Department of Homeland Security secretary, Wolf said.
Gaynor will be the agency's sixth chief under Trump, twice the highest number to serve in any previous administration. Established in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the department was intended to reassure a nervous public by projecting stability and command.
Trump turned the department's focus toward the Mexico border and changed its primary mission from counterterrorism to immigration enforcement.
Several lawmakers have called for hearings to question why Wolf and Homeland Security failed to anticipate threats posed by Trump's followers to Congress's Electoral College certification Wednesday. The Capitol Police, who are responsible for security at the building, had not requested the agency's support before the protests.
Wolf's resignation comes at a time of high anxieties for the federal law enforcement officials preparing for violent attempts to disrupt the inauguration of Biden. Pro-Trump militants have called for armed crowds to gather at all 50 state capitols, according to an FBI memo warning of the threat.
In one of his final moves as acting secretary Monday, Wolf announced that the Secret Service would take over security preparations for the inauguration Wednesday, six days ahead of schedule.
The U.S. Secret Service, a Department of Homeland Security entity, typically plays the lead security role at presidential inaugurations. This year as many as 15,000 National Guard troops will be mobilized to support the effort and protect the event, and busloads of uniformed soldiers arrived at the Capitol on Monday in an extraordinary show of force.
Biden said he was "not afraid" of taking the oath of office outside -- as is traditionally done at the Capitol's west steps, one of the areas where people stormed the building.
As for the rioters, Biden said, "It is critically important that there'll be a real serious focus on holding those folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage -- that they be held accountable."
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called Wolf's decision to step down now "questionable."
"He has chosen to resign during a time of national crisis and when domestic terrorists may be planning additional attacks on our government," Thompson said in a statement. "Unlike others, he is apparently not leaving the Trump Administration on principle."
"The Trump Administration too often used the Department as a political weapon, left countless senior leadership positions vacant, and let morale suffer," Thompson added. "Our homeland security has diminished as a result."
Biden has named Alejandro Mayorkas, who served as Homeland Security's second-in-command during President Barack Obama's second term, as his pick for the secretary role. The Cuba-born Mayorkas would be the first immigrant, and first Hispanic, to lead the agency, which has 240,000 workers and a $50 billion annual budget.
NO FROM SUPREME COURT
As expected, the U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to fast-track a batch of challenges to the election filed by Trump and his allies.
The rejections came without comment or noted dissent, and were formal notifications of what already had become clear. Some of the petitions asking for the court to move quickly were filed in early December, and the court had not even called for responses from officials in the states where the results were challenged.
The cases presumably will become moot when Biden is sworn in.
Among the cases the court declined to expedite were Trump v. Biden and Trump v. Boockvar, which challenged the results in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, respectively. Other cases filed by Trump allies objected to the outcomes in Michigan and Georgia.
The Supreme Court has uniformly rejected challenges to the election results.
Trump said after the decisions that the Supreme Court "really let us down," and has expanded his criticism of the justices since then.
Information for this article was contributed by Seung Min Kim, Annie Linskey, Josh Dawsey, Matt Viser, Dan Balz, Nick Miroff and Robert Barnes of The Washington Post; and by Lisa Mascaro, Bill Barrow, Mary Clare Jalonick, Alan Fram, Jill Colvin, Ellen Knickmeyer, Tom Beaumont and Darlene Superville of The Associated Press.