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Democrats plot impeachment move if Cabinet refuses to oust Donald Trump

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Democrats are discussing whether to act quickly to impeach President Donald Trump as soon as next week if his Cabinet does not first try to remove him after he encouraged loyalists who ransacked the Capitol in a siege that has left five people dead.

If Mr Trump, whose term ends on January 20, were to be impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, he could be prevented from running again in 2024 or ever holding the presidency again.

Mr Trump would be only the president to be twice impeached.

House Democrats planned a caucus meeting at noon on Friday, the first since Wednesday’s harrowing events at the Capitol, and could take up articles of impeachment against Mr Trump as early as the week ahead.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, discussed the prospect of impeachment with her leadership team Thursday night, hours after announcing the House was willing to act if Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials did not invoke Section Four of the 25th Amendment, the forceful removal of Mr Trump from power by his own Cabinet.

The final days of Mr Trump’s presidency are spinning toward a chaotic end as he holes up at the White House, abandoned by aides, leading Republicans and Cabinet members.

He is set to leave office when Democrat Joe Biden is sworn in, but top officials are gravely warning of the damage that he still could cause on his way out.

Representative Adam Schiff, who led Mr Trump’s impeachment in 2019, said in a statement on Friday that Mr Trump “lit the fuse which exploded on Wednesday at the Capitol”.

Mr Schiff, a Democrat, said that “every day that he remains in office, he is a danger to the Republic”.

Five people are now dead from the violent melee, including a Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick.

Ms Pelosi said in a statement on Friday that Mr Sicknick’s death “reminds us of our obligation to those we serve: to protect our country from all threats foreign and domestic”.

She said those responsible for the officer’s death “must be brought to justice”.

Though Mr Trump has less than two weeks in his term, politicians and even some in his administration began discussing options for his removal onb Wednesday afternoon as Mr Trump first encouraged rally-goers near the White House to march on the Capitol, then refused to forcefully condemn the assault and appeared to excuse it.

Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark, a member of House Democratic leadership, said procedural steps could allow politicians to move far more quickly than they did on Mr Trump’s impeachment last year.

A car drives by newly-erected fencing around the Capitol grounds (Matt Slocum/AP)

Representative James Clyburn, the third ranking House Democrat, said he could confirm that “we have had discussions about it and I would hope that the speaker would move forward if the vice president refuses to do what he is required to do under the Constitution”.

Mr Clyburn: “Everyone knows that this president is deranged.”

One leading Republican critic of Mr Trump, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, said he will “definitely consider” impeachment.

“The president has disregarded his oath of office,” Mr Sasse told CBS’ This Morning.

He said what Mr Trump did was “wicked” in inciting the mob.

A Marine stands outside the entrance to the West Wing of the White House (Patrick Semansky/AP)

If the House impeaches, “I will definitely consider whatever articles they might move”, Mr Sasse said.

Ms Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer have called for Mr Trump’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to force Mr Trump from office before Mr Biden is inaugurated.

Mr Schumer said he and Ms Pelosi tried to call Mr Pence early Thursday to discuss that option but were unable to connect with him.

Ms Pelosi, during a new conference, challenged several Cabinet members by name, including US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin.

“Do they stand by these actions?” Ms Pelosi asked.

“Are they ready to say that for the next 13 days this dangerous man can do further harm to our country?”

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Donald Trump ‘fell victim to hoax caller pretending to be Piers Morgan’

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Donald Trump fell victim to a hoax caller who pretended to be Piers Morgan, the Good Morning Britain presenter said.

Morgan told the BBC’s Americast podcast the prankster rang the then-president in October when he was on Air Force One.

It only emerged when Mr Trump rang the real Morgan out of the blue while on his way to vote in Florida.

Piers Morgan said a prankster impersonated him and spoke to Donald Trump on the phone. Photo: Ian West/PA

The pair had fallen out over Morgan criticising Mr Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

Morgan described the prank call as “an hilarious story,” adding “somebody had called him pretending to be me the day before and got through to him on Air Force One and they had a conversation with Trump thinking he was talking to me”.

The identity of the alleged prankster is unknown. If Mr Trump was duped, he would not be the first prominent figure to be fooled.

In March last year the Duke of Sussex was reportedly tricked into speaking about his decision to quit the royal family by Russian hoaxers posing as activist Greta Thunberg.

Morgan (55) is a long-time acquaintance of Mr Trump (74) and in 2008 won a series of Celebrity Apprentice, a show hosted by the billionaire businessman.

They had been friendly during Mr Trump’s time in the White House before their fallout last year.

Morgan said Mr Trump was a “useless leader” because of his “character flaws – the chronic narcissism, the desire to make everything about himself”.

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Republican Senate leader wants Donald Trump’s impeachment trial delayed

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Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is proposing to push back the start of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial to give the former president time to prepare and review his case.

House Democrats who voted to impeach Mr Trump last week for inciting the deadly Capitol riot on January 6 have signalled they want to move quickly to trial as President Joe Biden begins his term.

They argue a full reckoning is necessary before the country – and the Congress – can move on.

But Mr McConnell has suggested a more expansive timeline that would see the House transmit the article of impeachment next week, on January 28, launching the trial’s first phase.

After that, the Senate would give the president’s defence team and House prosecutors two weeks to file briefs, with arguments in the trial likely to begin in mid-February.

He said: “Senate Republicans are strongly united behind the principle that the institution of the Senate, the office of the presidency, and former President Trump himself all deserve a full and fair process that respects his rights and the serious factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is reviewing the plan and will discuss it with Mr McConnell, a spokesperson said.

The ultimate power over timing rests with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who can trigger the start of the trial at any point by sending to the Senate the charge of incitement of an insurrection.

The Democrat has not yet said when she will do that, saying on Thursday: “It will be soon. I don’t think it will be long, but we must do it.”

Shortly before the insurrection on January 6, Mr Trump told thousands of his supporters at a rally near the White House to “fight like hell” against the election results that Congress was certifying.

A mob marched down to the Capitol and rushed in, interrupting the count.

Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in the mayhem, and the House impeached Mr Trump a week later, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in support.

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Google threatens to pull search engine in Australia in row over Government plans

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Google has threatened to make its search engine unavailable in Australia if the government goes ahead with plans to make tech giants pay for news content.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison quickly hit back, saying “we don’t respond to threats”.

Mr Morrison’s comments came after Mel Silva, the managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, told a Senate inquiry into the bill the new rules would be unworkable.

The mandatory code of conduct proposed by the government aims to make Google and Facebook pay Australian media companies fairly for using news content they siphon from news sites.

Ms Silva said: “If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google search available in Australia.

“And that would be a bad outcome not only for us, but also for the Australian people, media diversity, and the small businesses who use our products every day.”

Ms Silva said it was willing to pay a wide and diverse group of news publishers for the value they added, but not under the rules as proposed, which included payments for links and snippets.

She said the code’s “biased arbitration model” also posed unmanageable financial and operational risks for Google and suggested a series of tweaks to the bill.

“We feel there is a workable path forward,” she said.

Facebook has also spoken out against the plans (Niall Carson/PA)

Like in many other countries, Google dominates internet searches in Australia, with Ms Silva telling senators about 95% of searches in the nation are done through the company.

Mr Morrison, speaking to reporters in Brisbane, said: “Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia.

“That’s done in our Parliament. It’s done by our government. And that’s how things work here in Australia.”

Facebook also opposes the rules and has threatened to remove news stories from its site in Australia.

Simon Milner, a Facebook vice president, said the sheer volume of deals it would have to strike would be unworkable.

The Australia Institute, an independent think tank, said politicians should stand firm against Google’s bullying.

“Google’s testimony today is part of a pattern of threatening behaviour that is chilling for anyone who values our democracy,” said Peter Lewis, the director of the institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology.

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