Calls grow for Trump's removal after Capitol riot

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Mike Hayes and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 10:30 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021
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1:59 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will become first Cabinet member to resign after Capitol riot

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Jeremy Diamond

Elaine Chao, U.S. secretary of transportation, speaks in Washington, D.C., on October 23, 2018.
Elaine Chao, U.S. secretary of transportation, speaks in Washington, D.C., on October 23, 2018. Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is resigning, a person familiar with the situation and a senior administration official tell CNN.

She's the first Cabinet member to leave in wake of President Trump's response to a mob of his supporters breaching the Capitol.

Chao is linking her resignation to Trump's handling of the unrest on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the administration official said. Chao — who is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — is expected to tweet more details about her resignation shortly.

Here's her full statement:

Dana Bash weighs in:

1:49 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Here's what Trump told a crowd of supporters yesterday before the riot

President Donald Trump speaks during a rally on January 6 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump speaks during a rally on January 6 in Washington, DC. Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump spoke at a rally in DC on Wednesday before the Pro-Trump rioters storming the US Capitol.

At the rally, he encouraged his supporters to protest at the US Capitol. 

Here's part of what he said at the event:

"We're going to walk down to the Capitol. And we're gonna 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 and you have to be strong," he said at his rally on the Ellipse.

Despite promising he would join them, Trump retreated to the White House in his SUV and watched on television as the violence unfolded on Capitol Hill.

Erin Burnett reports:

1:36 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Top Senate Democrat wants to fire current Senate Sergeant-at-Arms

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger walks the halls of the U.S. Capitol outside the Senate Chamber on January 22, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger walks the halls of the U.S. Capitol outside the Senate Chamber on January 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who will soon be the majority leader, says will fire the current Senate Sergeant-at-Arms when he ascends to his new role in the wake of the attack on the US Capitol. 

"If Senate Sergeant Arms Stenger hasn't vacated the position by then, I will fire him as soon as Democrats have a majority in the Senate," Schumer said in a statement. 

Michael C. Stenger was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and it was expected that Schumer would eventually replace him when the chamber flipped to Democrats. 

But Schumer is making clear Stenger either needs to resign or be fired in the wake of the events that transpired.

1:31 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Nancy Pelosi is about to speak following the Capitol riot

House speaker Nancy Pelosi is about to speak following yesterday's breach of the Capitol.

A pro-Trump mob surrounded the building and at least one rioter was pictured in Pelosi's office with his feet on her desk.

A Trump supporter sits inside the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after breaching the Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6.
A Trump supporter sits inside the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after breaching the Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Pelosi's news conference comes as a growing number of lawmakers are calling for Trump's removal from office.

1:23 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Pennsylvania governor blames senator who rejected state's election results for Capitol riot  

From CNN's Gregory Lemos 

Sen. Josh Hawley stands in the House Chamber during a reconvening of a joint session of Congress on January 6 in Washington, DC.
Sen. Josh Hawley stands in the House Chamber during a reconvening of a joint session of Congress on January 6 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, took to Twitter Thursday to address "the horrific results of four years of lies and disinformation." 

Wolf called out Sen. Josh Hawley, Rep. Scott Perry, and other Republicans who "still continued to lie about Pennsylvania's election." 

"You can't change the facts. Pennsylvania had a fair and secure election," Wolf said in his tweet.  

Wolf called out Sen. Hawley individually for his rejection of the presidential election results and blamed him for the breach of the US Capitol.  

"Even after his actions directly resulted in a violent riot, Sen. Josh Hawley continues to lie about the election. Pennsylvania had a free, fair, and secure election. That's a fact. Sen. Hawley's behavior is disgraceful," Wolf tweeted Wednesday.  

1:26 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Trump pressured Pence to engineer a coup, then put the vice president in danger, source says

From CNN's Jim Acosta

President Donald Trump speaks at the "Stop The Steal" Rally on January 6 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump speaks at the "Stop The Steal" Rally on January 6 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Trump and top White House officials did little to check in on Vice President Mike Pence while he and members of his family were inside the US Capitol when Trump-backed rioters stormed the halls of Congress on Wednesday, a source close to the vice president tells CNN.

Pence was joined by his wife Karen Pence and his daughter Charlotte for the ceremonial counting of the electoral votes in Congress Wednesday. Several of the violent Trump supporters who were rampaging the US Capitol were heard screaming "where's Mike Pence," the source said, frightening the vice president and his family.

Yet, the President and his top aides barely lifted a finger to check in on Pence to make sure he and his family were unharmed, the source added.

"Was he concerned at all that an angry mob that he commanded to march on the Capitol might injure the vice president or his family?" the source asked.

The White House did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.

People close to the vice president now believe he is being set up as a "scapegoat" to shoulder the blame inside Trump-world, after Pence refused to buckle to the President's demands to engineer a procedural coup that would keep Trump in power.

Some more context: On Tuesday, Pence came under intense pressure from Trump to toss out the election results, during a meeting that lasted hours in the Oval Office. The vice president's chief of staff, Marc Short, was banned by Trump from entering the West Wing, the source said, as the President repeatedly warned with "thinly veiled threats" to Pence that he would suffer major political consequences if he refused to cooperate.

"The message was pretty clear," the source said.

The events Wednesday have left some aides to the vice president feeling Pence was betrayed by Trump as well as White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and the President's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

"Rudy, Meadows and their teams have been trying to set up the vice president to take the fall as opposed to admitting they laid out false hope in all of this," the source said.

"Trump just can't admit defeat and wants a scapegoat," the source added.

On Thursday, Charlotte Pence Bond, who had been at the US Capitol with the vice president, tweeted her congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Jim Acosta reports:

1:17 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

House Representative calls for an investigation and criticizes police for "double standard" in response

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

With the U.S. Capitol in the background, lights from police vehicles illuminate Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, on January 6.
With the U.S. Capitol in the background, lights from police vehicles illuminate Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, on January 6. Carolyn Kaster/AP

House Representative Karen Bass called for a “thorough investigation” into the riots.

“You can't even come into the Capitol with a purse without it being screened. How can you break into the Capitol and walk around with flag poles? And you see the Capitol police right there. They were completely overwhelmed. Why did that happen? Why didn't they erect barriers around the Capitol that are present now, the fences? I think a lot of this needs to be investigated,” she said.

Bass also criticized the “double standard” in the police response to the rioters at the Capitol on Wednesday as compared to what happened during the Black Lives Matter riots in the summer.

“Obviously, Black Lives Matters protesters were perceived as very threatening. And for some reason these weren’t,” she said. “It is so demoralizing for people, in particular, African Americans and other people of color, who know … if tens of thousands of young, old African Americans attacked the Capitol like that, what would have happened.”

“We are sick and tired of seeing the same type of double standard,” she said.

1:05 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Pennsylvania State lawmakers – who rejected election results – denounce pro-Trump mob violence

From CNN's Kelly Mena

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier on January 6 at the Capitol in Washington, DC.
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier on January 6 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. John Minchillo/AP

Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler and House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff – two Republicans who had rejected the results of the November election – denounced the violence by the Pro-Trump mob in Washington, DC.  

"Any act of violence or destruction is a crime and should be treated as such,' read the statement they released Wednesday. 'An objection to the electoral process is within the rights of members of Congress and has been exercised by members from both sides of the aisle at different times in our nation’s history. However, that process leads to debate and dialogue, not violence and mayhem."

The two lawmakers most recently signed onto a letter, along with 60 other state legislators, urging the Keystone state’s Congressional delegation to dispute electors. 

"We strongly condemn any act of violence and destruction and pray for all those impacted today' they added. 

2:46 p.m. ET, January 7, 2021

Biden has no immediate intention to weigh in on 25th Amendment talks

From CNN’s Jeff Zeleny

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has no immediate intention of weighing in on the rising calls for the 25th Amendment to be invoked, people familiar with the matter say. 

The Biden transition team has not commented on this, including today’s call from Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer.

Biden has expressed deep revulsion for what transpired at the Capitol, watching the events in disbelief and horror, as he said himself in his remarks on Wednesday. But he has expressed no appetite for adding his voice to the growing calls for Trump’s removal. 

There also are no conversations among the former presidents about weighing in, people familiar with the matter say, adding that they don’t believe it would be helpful.

"It’s not a question of whether President Trump is fit for office. That’s been long answered," a person close to Biden said. "It’s a question of how much more difficult that would make it to rebuild the country."

Jeff Zeleny reports: