Georgia lawmakers condemn U.S. Capitol violence; Democrats seek Trump’s removal

Supporters of President Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Wednesday. On Thursday, members of Georgia's U.S. House delegation condemned the rioters but split by party over whether Trump should be held accountable for the violence. (Kenny Holston/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — Democrats in Georgia’s congressional delegation say President Donald Trump had a role in inciting the violence at the U.S. Capitol and should be removed from office immediately.

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath was among the first lawmakers on Wednesday to urge the vice president and Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment as a measure to force the president to step aside instead of allowing him to finish out his term through Jan. 20.

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also endorsed that proposal, along with other Democrats. The 25th Amendment allows a president to be removed from office if it is determined he can no longer do the job.

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“The eyes of the world are upon us, and the president’s incitement of violence, his inducement of chaos, and his inability to faithfully ‘discharge the powers and duties of his office’ make it clear,” said McBath, a Democrat from Marietta. “The president has refused to protect our democracy and must be removed.”

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Her comments came after the joint session of Congress was interrupted by rioters who breached the Capitol, ransacked offices and forced their way into the Senate chamber. One person was shot and killed by police near the House chamber.

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Many Republican members from Georgia denounced the violence that temporarily disrupted the session where the Electoral College votes were tallied and Joe Biden’s presidential victory was confirmed. None of them joined Democrats in holding Trump responsible for the violence.

U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson and Nikema Williams also said Thursday that they support Trump’s ouster via the 25th Amendment. Their fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. David Scott, agreed that Trump should be removed from office but did not specify how.

“Yesterday I was terrified. Today I’m pissed,” said Williams, a Democrat from Atlanta, wrote on Twitter.

Newly installed U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux of Suwanee was the only member of the Democratic delegation to support impeaching Trump for a second time. Both options could result in a president’s removal but usually require long deliberations, making it unlikely that Trump will face either in the next two weeks.

Bourdeaux said starting the process of impeachment anew could send a message that Trump will be held accountable for spreading false and misleading information about the general election that helped incite protests.

“Our words matter,” she said in a statement. “Actions have consequences. It has never been more urgent for my colleagues to uphold the pillars of our democracy and put an end to the conspiracy theories that fueled this insurrection attempt.”

Some of the Republican members of the delegation spent Thursday explaining their votes during the joint session.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter of Pooler was one of six House members from Georgia, joining more than half of all House Republicans, who voted against accepting Arizona and Pennsylvania’s electoral votes for Biden. However, those objections were overruled by a bipartisan coalition in the House and Senate.

In a video posted on social media, Carter said the insurrection at the Capitol was unacceptable but that he stood behind his decision to challenge electoral votes from certain states.

“The issue at hand here that we were debating, having civil debate with and that we should be having a debate with, had to do with the certification of the electors from the states,” Carter said. “Now that’s separate from storming the Capitol; that’s unacceptable.”

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro, also explained himself after posting a picture Wednesday on Instagram that appeared to show him walking toward the House chamber ahead of the joint session. “This is our 1776 moment,” the caption said.

A reporter shared a screenshot on Twitter, bringing attention to and condemnation of Hice’s post. By that time, the rally outside the Capitol had turned violent. Soon after, Hice deleted the picture.

His spokeswoman, Sarah Selip, said Thursday that the congressman did not intend for his photo to be misinterpreted as a consent of the insurrection.

“The 1776 post was our way of highlighting the electoral objection — we removed the post when we realized it could be misconstrued as supporting those acting violently yesterday and storming the Capitol,” Selip told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Both of which Rep. Hice strongly condemns.”

Georgia U.S. Reps. Austin Scott and Drew Ferguson were among the Republicans who joined with Democrats to defeat the challenges to counting certain electoral votes for Biden.

Scott released a statement Thursday calling the riots at the Capitol “disgraceful.” He also defended the actions of the Capitol Police, who were overwhelmed and overtaken during Wednesday’s events.

The congressman from Tifton also said he stood by his decision to accept all Electoral College votes from states, saying there was no other choice if he wanted to uphold his oath of office.

“As I stated in a letter to House leadership on Tuesday, Congress does not have the constitutional authority to overturn a state’s electoral votes — nor does the vice president,” he said. “And I believe my decision to support the Electoral College fulfills my sworn oath to the Constitution.”