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Biden says impeachment is a "decision for the Congress to make"

Biden defers to Congress on impeaching Trump
Biden defers to Congress on impeaching Trump 01:22

President-elect Joe Biden deflected Friday when asked if he'd advise Democrats to proceed with articles of impeachment against President Trump. A trio of Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump on Monday, although there are just days left in Mr. Trump's term. 

"That's a decision for the Congress to make. I'm focused on my job," Mr. Biden said. He added that he will be speaking with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders later in the day. 

"I'll be speaking with Nancy and the Democratic leadership this afternoon, as a matter of fact, about my agenda, as well as whatever they want to talk to me about," Mr. Biden said. Democrats plan to introduce articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump as soon as Monday — little more than a week before he leaves office — for incitement of insurrection following Wednesday's riots at the U.S. Capitol, multiple sources familiar with the efforts tell CBS News.

Democratic Representatives Ted Lieu and David Cicilline began drafting a bill while sheltering in place inside the Capitol complex on Wednesday. It has since garnered 150 cosponsors, a sign its support among House Democrats.

Mr. Biden said it's no secret that he wants President Trump out of office. "I've thought for a long, long time that President Trump wasn't fit to hold the job, that's why I ran," he said. "In 12 days — God willing, I'll be president of the United States of America, and I'm focused on the urgency of three immediate concerns... the virus, the vaccine and economic growth. What the Congress decides to do is for them to decide."

"I think it's important we get on with the business of getting him out of office. The quickest way that that will happen is us being sworn in on the 20th. What action happens before or after that is a judgement for the Congress to make, but that's what I am looking forward to: him leaving office," Mr. Biden said. "I was told that … he indicated he wasn't going to show up at the inauguration — one of the few things he and I have ever agreed on. It's a good thing him not showing up."

Just one Democrat, Congressman Kurt Schrader of Oregon, has argued that impeachment would be too divisive for the country. Speaker Pelosi told her members Wednesday that her preference would be to see Mr. Trump removed through the 25th Amendment, but that impeachment is an option if that does not happen.

A House impeachment resolution would move to the floor and could get a vote quickly, because there would be no hearings to present evidence. The Judiciary Committee has not yet been constituted for the 117th Congress, so an impeachment resolution would go directly to the floor under what's known as a "privileged resolution." A simple majority of members in the House is required for impeachment, so it seems likely to pass.

However, this is where the proceedings could be an impediment to Mr. Biden: the impeachment article would then move to the Senate for consideration, monopolizing the calendar just ahead of Mr. Biden's inauguration. 

Once the Senate receives articles of impeachment, it is required to consider them before acting on any other business — including confirming any nominees for the incoming president's cabinet. There's already a confirmation hearing scheduled for Mr. Biden's pick to lead the Defense Department, retired General Lloyd Austin, on January 19, the day before inauguration. That would potentially be delayed. The Senate would also have to delay a vote on a waiver to allow him to serve as defense secretary, given his recent departure from the military.

Two-thirds of the Senate — 67 senators — would be required to remove him from office. Mr. Trump is on track to be the first president in U.S. history to undergo impeachment proceedings twice.

Senator Bernie Sanders wrote on Twitter Friday that impeachment is necessary to set a precedent for future presidents. "Some people ask: Why would you impeach and convict a president who has only a few days left in office? The answer: Precedent," Sanders wrote. "It must be made clear that no president, now or in the future, can lead an insurrection against the U.S. government."  

As for the Republican lawmakers who helped incite those Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol by supporting election falsehoods, such as Senator Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, Mr. Biden again would not go so far as to endorse their resignation or removal from office. "I think they should just be flat beaten the next time they run," he said. "I think the American public has a real good clear look at who they are. They're part of the big lie," Biden told CBS News' Nikole Killion, and referenced Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. "Goebbels and the great lie, you keep repeating the lie, repeating the lie."

Biden said those who repeat the lies originated by Trump, "like Cruz and others... are as responsible as he is." Adding, "It's not about whether or not they get impeached, it's about whether or not they continue to hold power."  

Rebecca Kaplan, Grace Segers and Kathryn Watson contributed reporting.

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