House Democrats on Friday discussed moving forward with efforts to impeach President Donald Trump a second time, circulating the draft of a single article citing "incitement of insurrection" that they could introduce as early as Monday and hold a full House vote on as early as the middle of next week.
The article charges Trump with "willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States" with his comments at the rally outside the White House that it says "encouraged—and foreseeably resulted in—imminent lawless action at the Capitol."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a lengthy conference call with her caucus Friday on how to proceed with just 12 days to go before Trump will leave office.
"The president chose to be an insurrectionist," Pelosi told members at the start, according to a source on the call.
Earlier, she sent a letter saying Democrats should pursue impeachment unless Trump resigned "immediately."
"Impeachment encourages conversation on the 25th Amendment. That’s picked up a lot of steam," she told Democrats on the call, according to the source. "How we go forward is a subject for this caucus."
Pelosi also said she hoped that Watergate would be a "model" for Republicans, and that they would begin pressuring Trump to resign.
Pelosi was to speak with President-elect Joe Biden Friday afternoon.
Asked about the impeachment effort Friday, Biden did not embrace the idea.
"What the Congress decides to do, it's up to them to decide," Biden said, adding that he would be focused instead on dealing with the pandemic.
While there has been no official statement from Pelosi's office concerning next steps on impeachment, she told reporters on her way out of the Capitol Friday afternoon, "Our conversation continues. We have several options so far."
In response, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a written statement, "As President Trump said yesterday, this is a time for healing and unity as one Nation. A politically motivated impeachment against a President, who has done a great job, with 12 days remaining in his term will only serve to further divide our great country."
Prospects for any Senate trial were far from certain, even if the House were to proceed with an impeachment vote.
One Republican, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, said he would consider whatever impeachment resolution the House sent over. Some have suggested Democrats could proceed with a trial once they take control of the Senate later this month.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who has voiced support for moving on impeachment if Trump doesn't resign, outlined the arguments and timing on the call at Pelosi's request -- and warned his fellow Democrats of the potential pitfalls and challenges.
Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, an author of the impeachment resolution, told colleagues the process could move quickly in the House. His effort already had the support of more than 130 Democrats as of Friday afternoon.
The draft impeachment resolution also makes note of Trump's call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, pressuring him to "find" enough votes to overturn his loss to Biden in that state.
At least one Democrat raised concerns about impeaching Trump over the Capitol mob attack.
Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., a leading moderate, compared impeachment proceedings to a "lynching," expressing concerns about due process, a comparison that angered other Democrats.
He later apologized.
"My words were wrong, hurtful and completely inappropriate. I sincerely apologize to my colleagues, constituents and friends for the pain I caused," he said in a statement. "I recognize the horrible historical context of these words and have started to reach out to my colleagues personally to express that I understand the harm caused. I will work hard to rebuild trust and again, I humbly apologize."