SYRACUSE — U.S. Rep. John Katko said Tuesday he'll back the impeachment of President Donald Trump, saying it was his duty under the Constitution after Trump incited the riot at the U.S. Capitol last week.
"It cannot be ignored that President Trump encouraged this insurrection, both on social media ahead of Jan. 6, and in his speech that day," the former federal prosecutor representing central New York said in a statement. Katko said Trump's claims that the election had been stolen created "a combustible environment of misinformation, disenfranchisement and division."
Katko, R-Camillus, who was among hundreds of members of Congress locked down for hours while rioters invaded the Capitol on Wednesday, said he didn't take his decision to impeach lightly.
"For the staff and police officers who were in the Capitol that day, this event will forever haunt them. To allow the president of the United States to incite this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy," he said. "For that reason, I cannot sit by without taking action."
Katko’s move unleashed a wave of Republicans including U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, saying Tuesday they'll join House Democrats who have signed onto an impeachment resolution vote expected Wednesday.
Katko, who was elected to a fourth term in November, has tried to cultivate an independent brand to reflect the nature of the 24th Congressional District, where Democrats narrowly outnumber Republicans. But he also endorsed Trump's reelection bid after declining to do so in 2016.
Congress pressed forward Tuesday toward impeaching Trump for the deadly Capitol attack, taking time only to try to persuade his vice president to push him out first. Trump showed no remorse, blaming impeachment itself for the “tremendous anger” in America. Already scheduled to leave office next week, Trump is on the verge of becoming the only president in history to be twice impeached. His incendiary rhetoric at a rally ahead of the Capitol uprising is now in the impeachment charge against him, even as the falsehoods he spread about election fraud are still being championed by some Republicans.
Trump faces a single charge — “incitement of insurrection” — in the impeachment resolution after the most serious and deadly domestic incursion at the Capitol in the nation’s history.
During an emotional debate ahead of the House action, Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., urged her Republican colleagues to understand the stakes, recounting a phone call from her son as she fled during the siege.
“Sweetie, I’m OK,” she told him. “I’m running for my life.”
But Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a top Trump ally just honored this week at the White House, refused to concede that Biden won the election outright.
Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., tied such talk to the Capitol attack, interjecting, “People came here because they believed the lie.”
A handful of other House Republicans could vote to impeach, but in the narrowly divided Senate there are not expected to be the two-thirds votes to convict him.