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U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence  (REUTERS)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence (REUTERS)

220 US House members, including 5 Republicans, want Trump impeached

Democrats moved forward on an impeachment vote after Vice President Mike Pence rejected an effort to persuade him to invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remove Trump

The Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives on Wednesday opened debate on a historic second impeachment of President Donald Trump over his supporters' attack of the Capitol that left five dead.

Lawmakers in the lower chamber are expected to vote for impeachment around 3:00 pm (2000 GMT) -- marking the formal opening of proceedings against Trump.

215+ House Democrats, 5 House Republicans support impeaching US President Donald Trump (218 votes needed). House Majority Leader Hoyer says he would send articles of impeachment to US Senate immediately, NBC News reported.

A vote of the House majority to impeach would trigger a trial in the still Republican-controlled Senate, although it was unclear whether such a trial would take place in time to expel Trump from the White House.

Washington is on high alert after the riot and with a week to go in Trump's term. Thousands of National Guard troops were planned to be on hand and some members in fatigues, with weapons at hand, could be seen sleeping inside the Capitol building on Wednesday ahead of the session.

The House convened just after 9 a.m. (1400 GMT) in the same chamber where lawmakers hid under chairs last Wednesday as angry rioters clashed with police in the halls of the Capitol.

Democrats moved forward on an impeachment vote after Vice President Mike Pence rejected an effort to persuade him to invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remove Trump.

"I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution," Pence said in a letter Tuesday evening to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Despite the letter, the House passed a resolution late Tuesday formally calling on Pence to act. The final vote was 223-205 in favor.

As the House prepared for the impeachment vote, there were signs Trump's once-dominant hold on the Republican Party was beginning to ebb.

The New York Times reported that the Republican majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell, was said to be pleased about the impeachment push, another sign Trump's party is looking to move on from him after the attack on Congress.

'TOTALLY APPROPRIATE'

In his first public appearance since last Wednesday's riot, Trump showed no contrition on Tuesday for his speech last week in which he called on his supporters to protest Biden's victory by marching on the Capitol.

"What I said was totally appropriate," Trump told reporters.

At a meeting to set the rules for Wednesday's impeachment vote, Democratic Representative David Cicilline, who helped craft the impeachment measure, said the impeachment drive had the support of 217 lawmakers - enough to impeach Trump.

House Republicans who opposed the impeachment drive argued Democrats were going too far, as Trump was on the verge of leaving office.

"This is scary where this goes, because this is about more than about impeaching the president of the United States. This is about cancelling the president and cancelling all the people you guys disagree with," said Republican Representative Jim Jordan, one of Trump's staunchest defenders when the president was impeached in 2019 after encouraging the government of Ukraine to dig up political dirt on Biden.

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