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The top Republican in the House of Representatives said Wednesday that Donald Trump “bears responsibility” for inciting a riot at the US Capitol, but warned that a hurried impeachment of the president would be inappropriate.

“I believe impeaching the president in such a short time frame would be a mistake” because the action would “further divide this nation,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a floor speech an hour before a bipartisan majority was expected to impeach Trump for an unprecedented second time.

But he did acknowledge that Trump “bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob riots.”

He also said Congress should pass a “censure resolution” against the president, a public but largely symbolic condemnation that is opposed by Democrats because it carries no tangible penalty.

Impeachment of Trump would trigger a trial in the US Senate, similar to the one in which he was acquitted one year ago.

But the Senate is in recess until January 19, the day before Democrat Joe Biden’s inauguration, and its Republican majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, will not agree to bringing the chamber back into session early in order to address impeachment.

“The Senate has confirmed that no trial will begin until after President-elect Biden is sworn in,” McCarthy said.

That would mean the Senate would take the historic step of launching an impeachment trial with the president in question no longer in office.

Republicans have repeatedly stressed that a rushed impeachment process — with no hearings, no formal witness presentations, and little laying out of evidence — would open a Pandora’s Box by paving the way for opposing parties to launch lightning impeachment efforts against presidents they did not like.

McCarthy was among several lawmakers in his party who supported Trump’s ill-fated effort to contest election results in several states over baseless claims of massive election fraud.

But on Wednesday, with six House Republicans now publicly stating they will vote for impeachment, McCarthy affirmed Biden’s election victory and said he was “ready to assist” the new president.

“Let’s be clear: Joe Biden will be sworn in as president of the United States in one week, because he won the election,” McCarthy said.

“The eyes of the nation and the world are upon us. We must seize this opportunity to heal and grow stronger.”

Agence France-Presse

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