A man with a loaded handgun and more than 500 rounds of ammunition has been arrested in Washington at a security checkpoint near the US Capitol, authorities said.
Wesley Allen Beeler, of Virginia, had driven to a checkpoint on Friday evening and tried to use a phony credential to access the restricted area where President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated next week, according to a document filed in Washington, DC Superior Court.
As officers checked against an authorized access list, one of them noticed decals on the back of Beeler’s pick-up truck that said “Assault Life,” with an image of a rifle, and another with the message: “If they come for your guns, give ’em your bullets first.”
Under questioning, Beeler told officers he had a Glock handgun in the vehicle. A search uncovered a loaded handgun, more than 500 rounds of ammunition, shotgun shells and a magazine for the gun, the court document said.
Beeler was arrested on charges including possession of an unregistered firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition, a police report said.
Following his arrest, Beeler said it was “an honest mistake” and that he was a private security guard who got lost on his way to work near the Capitol.
Washington is under a high state of alert ahead of Biden’s Wednesday inauguration after a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6.
Five people died in the assault, including a police officer.
Security officials have warned that armed pro-Trump extremists, possibly carrying explosives, pose a threat to Washington as well as state capitals over the coming week.
Thousands of National Guard troops have been deployed in Washington and streets have been blocked off downtown with concrete barriers.
The National Mall, which is normally packed with people every four years for presidential inaugurations, has been declared off-limits at the request of the Secret Service, which ensures the security of the president.
US Democrats began the process Monday of impeaching President Donald Trump for a historic second time, accusing him of “incitement of insurrection” over his supporters’ deadly storming of the US Capitol.
The move — which threatens to torpedo the single-term president’s future political ambitions — could make for a frenetic culmination of four years of controversy ahead of Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration.
Democrats introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to remove Trump — who has been absent from the public spotlight for days — as unfit for office under the Constitution’s 25th amendment.
But Republicans blocked an immediate adoption of the resolution, forcing a vote, and Democrats followed up by introducing an article of impeachment of Trump for “incitement of insurrection”.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi hit out at House Republicans, accusing them of enabling Trump’s “unhinged, unstable and deranged acts of sedition to continue.”
“Their complicity endangers America, erodes our Democracy, and it must end,” she said in a statement.
Pelosi said the House would vote Tuesday on the demand for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, and would give him 24 hours to respond.
After that, she said, Democrats would move forward with bringing impeachment legislation to the floor.
Trump has been largely silent in recent days — making few statements and holding no news conferences. Twitter, his favored public platform, has banned him for language that could incite violence.
He plans to travel to Texas on Tuesday in one of his final trips as president, reportedly to claim success in delivering on his pledge to build a border wall to keep immigrants from Mexico out of the US.
As Democrats began to act, the US Capitol building was open to lawmakers and staff but under tight security and ringed by a metal fence after Wednesday’s assault by Trump supporters that left five people dead.
– Historic second impeachment –
Inside, some windows and doors that were broken and breached by rioters remained boarded up with plywood, while reinforced glass on the outside doors near the Rotunda bore cracks from repeated battering.
The attack on Congress shook the core of American democracy and drew international condemnation. It has ignited a new effort to remove Trump, who is accused of whipping up the mob into storming the capitol where lawmakers were certifying Biden’s November 3 win.
Trump was already impeached once by the Democratic-controlled House in December 2019 for pressuring the Ukrainian president to dig up political dirt on Biden.
He was acquitted by the Republican-majority Senate.
If the House again votes to impeach, Trump would be the first US leader to be formally charged for a second time with “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Even with time running short, Democrats likely have the votes in the House to impeach Trump again and Congressman David Cicilline, who introduced the resolution, told reporters afterward he expects it will find Republican backing.
“This was an attempted coup, to overthrow the government, and we have a responsibility as Congress to respond to that,” said Cicilline.
But although two Republican Senators — Pat Toomey and Lisa Murkowski — have urged Trump to resign, Democrats are unlikely to muster the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump in the 100-member Senate and remove him from office.
– ‘Attempted coup’ –
The impeachment effort is nevertheless seen by Democrats as worthwhile.
Although any conviction would likely occur after Trump has already left office, it would lead to a secondary vote on banning Trump, who is thought to be considering a run in 2024, from holding federal public office again.
Authorities are still seeking to arrest more Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol following a rally by the president repeating false claims that he had lost the election to Biden due to fraud.
Capitol security has been stepped up and Trump supporters have threatened new action in coming days both in Washington and state capitol buildings.
Senate rules mean the upper chamber would likely be unable to open an impeachment trial before January 19.
Some Democrats, for their part, have expressed concern that a Senate trial would overshadow and hamper Biden’s efforts to quickly lay out his agenda, starting with the fight against the coronavirus and the need to support the economy.
Pope Francis on Sunday called on Americans to show their “sense of responsibility” and support for democratic values as he lamented the midweek storming of the Capitol in Washington.
Among five deaths during the incident was a US Capitol police officer who died of injuries sustained during clashes with a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters who overran a session of Congress.
“I urge the State authorities and the entire population to maintain a high sense of responsibility in order to soothe tempers, promote national reconciliation, and protect the democratic values rooted in American society,” the pontiff said during Sunday prayers broadcast from the Vatican.
Francis said he was sending a “loving greeting” to the US people “shaken by the recent assault on Congress” and said he was praying in memory of the five people killed “in those dramatic moments”.
“I reiterate that violence is always self-destructive — nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost,” the Argentinian pope concluded in his Angelus prayer.
Earlier, in an interview with Italian broadcaster Canale 5, the pontiff had said he was “amazed” by Wednesday’s assault on Congress.
Pope Francis made his comments with Trump facing a potential second impeachment attempt as he enters the final days of his presidency after losing November’s presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.
The article of impeachment charges that Trump committed a criminal act by “willfully inciting violence against the Government of the United States” by repeatedly insisting he had defeated Biden.
He also addressed supporters and told them the election outcome was “an egregious assault on our democracy,” and urged them to “walk down to the Capitol” to show their displeasure at the result.
Steven Sund “is resigning effective January 16, 2021,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP, hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for his resignation, following sharp rebukes for what many criticized as a lack of preparation.
President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday denounced the storming of the US Capitol as an “insurrection” and demanded President Donald Trump go on television to call an end to the violent “siege.”
“At this hour, our democracy is under unprecedented assault,” the veteran Democrat said in Wilmington, after hundreds of Trump supporters protesting his election defeat swarmed the Capitol building and put the nation’s lawmakers at risk.
“I call on President Trump to go on national television now to… demand an end to this siege,” Biden said. “To storm the Capitol, to smash windows, to occupy offices, the floor of the United States Senate… threatening the safety of duly elected officials? It’s not a protest, it’s insurrection.”
President Donald Trump, lawmakers and everyday Americans paid their respects Wednesday to the late Reverend Billy Graham, the influential Southern preacher who was bestowed the rare national tribute of lying in honor in the US Capitol.
The one-time backwoods minister, who rose to become a spiritual advisor to several US presidents and millions of Christian faithful via their television sets, died last week at age 99.
The bulk of official Washington — including Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, half a dozen cabinet members and many of the 535 lawmakers in Congress — were in attendance, alongside Graham’s relatives.
Mourners filed quietly into the ornate Rotunda under the Capitol’s massive dome, as a military honor guard carried Graham’s casket from a hearse up the steps for the somber ceremony.
After Trump and his wife Melania presented a wreath, the president walked up to the coffin, placed his hand on its wooden surface, and tapped it a few times.
Graham, sometimes referred to as “America’s pastor,” was the world’s foremost Christian evangelist, who earned fame and a massive following by spreading a message of spiritual redemption at tent and stadium revival meetings, in a career that spanned decades.
Trump offered a simple but poignant title for the reverend: “an ambassador for Christ who reminded the world of the power of prayer and the gift of God’s grace.”
Graham had a spiritual awakening at age 15 in 1934.
“That choice didn’t just change Billy’s life,” Trump said during the ceremony.
“It changed our lives. It changed our country, and it changed, in fact, the entire world.”
Trump and Pence plan to attend Graham’s funeral on Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Despite humble beginnings, Graham became a plainspoken preacher of essential truths, whose message resonated far and wide, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
“Billy Graham lifted up our nation,” the Republican senator said. “A grateful nation pays respects.”
The event brought official Washington to a standstill — a break from overheated national debates about gun laws following a deadly school shooting, and as Trump’s administration is roiled by fresh controversy after his son-in-law Jared Kushner lost his top security clearance.
After the official ceremony, the first of what is projected to be thousands of everyday citizens began filing past the coffin to pay tribute and sign a condolence book.
Graham will lie in honor for two days in the Rotunda.
It is an imposing environment. Statues of nine presidents and Martin Luther King stand guard, and a sweeping fresco, “The Apotheosis of Washington,” covers the Rotunda’s ceiling, 180 feet (55 meters) above Graham’s casket.
The term “lie in state” is reserved for US presidents. The last to do so was Gerald Ford in 2007.
Graham is only the fourth private citizen to lie in honor in the Capitol. The most recent non-politician was civil rights champion Rosa Parks in 2005.
The Southern Baptist preacher was close to the family of former president George W. Bush, who once said that a private meeting with Graham in 1985 helped him quit drinking.
Bush and former first lady Laura Bush on Monday visited the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte to pay their respects. Former president Bill Clinton did so on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Trump recalled how Graham addressed an audience of 100,000 at Yankee Stadium in 1957 — at the time, it was the largest single evangelistic gathering in US history.
“And I remember that, because my father said to me, ‘Come on, son… let’s go see Billy Graham at Yankee Stadium,'” Trump said, noting that his father was “a big fan” of the reverend.
For some lawmakers in attendance, Graham served as a model of an oft-forgotten character in power-hungry Washington: humility.
“His life memorializes this idea of a humble walk, and I think that’s something that all participants in the political process could learn from these days, given the way other approaches have been maybe in vogue of late,” congressman Mark Sanford told AFP.
For Sanford, whose affair with an Argentine woman while he was governor of South Carolina made national headlines in 2009 but who nonetheless managed to win a seat in Congress, Graham’s message was about the power of redemption.
“I’ve been the beneficiary of second chances,” Sanford said. “So in that regard, this idea of redemption and second chance is a pretty big deal.”
A handful of protesters were removed by police from the hallways of a U.S. Senate office building on Wednesday, after boisterously chanting their opposition to a Republican healthcare bill now under consideration at the Senate.
About half a dozen protesters had been chanting inside the Washington offices of Republican Senator for Pennsylvania, Patrick Toomey before staging a small sit-in in front of his office at the Russell Senate Office Building.
Senate Republican leaders faced calls from critics within the party on Wednesday for major changes, rather than mere tinkering to a major healthcare bill, if they are to salvage their effort to repeal major parts of the Obamacare law.
In a big setback to the seven-year Republican quest to undo Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday abandoned plans to get the bill passed this week.