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Trump says urging supporters to march on Congress was totally appropriate

Donald Trump has defended his speech before last week’s deadly Capitol riot in which he urged his supporters to march on Congress, said it was totally appropriate.

Mr Trump dismissed as “ridiculous” efforts by Democrats in Congress to impeach him for inciting insurrection.

He leaves office on 20 January, when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on an article of impeachment on Wednesday.

“I think it’s [the impeachment procedure] causing tremendous danger to our country and it’s causing tremendous anger. I want no violence,” Mr Trump said.

He was speaking as he left the White House for a visit to Texas to inspect a section of the border wall with Mexico. It was his first public appearance since the violence at the Capitol, in which five people died and dozens of people were injured, including at least 60 police officers.

During his speech at the rally in Washington on 6 January, Mr Trump repeated his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud during the 3 November presidential election and urged his supporters to march on Congress.

“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength,” he told the crowd of several thousand supporters.

He said Vice-President Mike Pence should have “the courage to do what he has to do”, claiming without foundation that Mr Pence had the constitutional power to overturn the votes which were being formally tallied in Congress that day.

“I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” Mr Trump said.

Dozens of people have since been detained in connection with last week’s violence. Of the five who lost their lives, one was a police officer and one was a rioter shot dead by police.

Meanwhile, a third US lawmaker has said he has Covid-19 after sheltering with maskless Republicans in a safe room during the events of 6 January.

The House of Representatives will vote on Tuesday to ask Mr Pence to invoke the 25th amendment to the constitution to remove Mr Trump from office – an idea Mr Pence is said to oppose.

That vote is expected to fail, and so the House will then consider an article of impeachment against Mr Trump for “incitement of insurrection”.

Democrats have the majority in the House, so the impeachment vote is likely to pass. If it does, Mr Trump will become the first president in US history to be impeached twice.

However, the impeachment will only lead to his removal from office if a two-thirds majority votes in favour of his conviction in the Senate.

That would need the assent of a substantial number of Republicans and so far, few have shown any willingness to vote against a president from their own party.

Speaking on his visit to Texas, Mr Trump brushed off the threat of removal from office under the constitution.

“The 25th amendment is of zero risk to me but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration,” he said.

According to the New York Times, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has told confidants he is pleased Democrats want to impeach the president.

The Kentucky senator believes the punishment will make it easier to cleanse Mr Trump from the Republican party, reports the newspaper.

Mr McConnell has also told associates he believes the president committed impeachable offences, reports the Washington Post.

Neither Mr McConnell nor his Republican counterpart in the House, Kevin McCarthy, plan to whip votes for or against impeachment, according to US media.

On Tuesday afternoon, one of the most senior House Republicans, Liz Cheney, said she would vote to impeach Mr Trump.

The Wyoming representative said in a statement: “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Ms Cheney, the number three Republican in the lower chamber and the daughter of former Vice-President Dick Cheney, said Mr Trump had “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, lit the flame of this attack”.

Calls for Mr Trump’s resignation, removal from office or impeachment have grown among Democrats and some Republicans in the days following the riots in Congress.

The FBI is warning of armed protests in all 50 states by right-wing extremists ahead of Mr Biden’s inauguration. Up to 15,000 National Guard troops will be deployed in Washington DC for the event.

The leaders of the US military’s different branches, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a message describing the riots as a direct assault on Congress and the constitution, CNN reported.

The message said Mr Biden would be inaugurated on 20 January and warned service members: “Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.”

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