Chris Christie: Trump mob incitement an 'impeachable offense'
President Donald Trump's incitement of Wednesday's deadly violence at the U.S. Capitol was an impeachable offense, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Sunday as more of his fellow Republicans joined Democrats who support the process to remove him from office.
Christie is perhaps the most notable Republican ally of Trump's to support impeachment but he has not said whether he supports Trump's removal from office. He did not immediately respond to a message Sunday seeking clarity.
Christie has been friends with Trump for 20 years and in 2016 was the first governor to back his presidential campaign.
- Related to this story
- Article: OKC council candidate posts pro-Trump rhetoric; has never voted in a city election
- Article: Republican blocks House from bringing up 25th Amendment bill, forcing vote
- Article: House passes measure calling on Pence to invoke 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office
- Article: Cole speaks against resolution urging Pence to invoke 25th Amendment
- Article: Pence refuses to invoke 25th Amendment
- Article: Rep. Tom Cole opposes impeachment of Trump, calls for healing
- Article: Inhofe withholds comment on House impeachment case, cites upcoming trial
- Article: Oklahoma legislators advised to avoid the Capitol this weekend due to possible protests
- Article: Donald Trump impeached for 'incitement' of mob attack on US Capitol
- Article: US Capitol siege has echoes of the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building
- Article: Skydance bridge in Oklahoma City glows red, white and blue, honoring inauguration
- Article: Watch Garth Brooks singing 'Amazing Grace' at President Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony
But Trump's conduct last week, in which he directed his supporters to march to the U.S. Capitol building to pressure lawmakers to overturn the 2020 election, made him "absolutely sickened," he said afterward.
"What we had was an incitement to riot at the United States Capitol. We had people killed, and to me, there's not a whole lot of question here," Christie said on ABC's "This Week," where he is a contributor.
Asked if he thought it was an impeachable offense, Christie said, "Oh, sure. Yeah." If he would vote in favor of impeachment if he were in Congress, he said: "If I think it's an impeachable offense, that's exactly what I would do."
"If inciting to insurrection isn't," Christie said, "then I don't really know what is."
Christie's support for impeachment is his strongest position against Trump, but the latest sign of distancing himself in the president's final days in power. He recently said he would not rule out running for president against Trump in 2024 and made clear his disapproval of Trump's conduct even before a mob of the president's supporters invaded the Capitol last week.
"I think the last eight weeks has been the worst behavior that I have seen by this president in the four years he has been there, and the one that has angered and disturbed me the most," he told The New Yorker on Friday.
Although Trump leaves office in 10 days, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said he is a danger who should be removed from office through impeachment or the 25th Amendment of the Constitution.
Trump's Republican base, which has solidly backed him through repeated controversies and impeachment last year, has cracked in the fallout of the Capitol fiasco. On "Meet the Press" Sunday, Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania became the second Republican senator to call for Trump's impeachment.
“I think the best way for our country, Chuck, is for the president to resign and go away as soon as possible,” he told host Chuck Todd. “I acknowledge that may not be likely, but I think that would be best.”
On CNN, Toomey said Trump's incitement of the mob last week left the "possibility that there's criminal liability here," though he conceded he was not sure whether there was enough evidence for a conviction.
"But there should be accountability," Toomey said.
Alaska's Lisa Murkowski was the first Republican senator to call for Trump's departure from the White House, telling the Anchorage Daily News on Friday that "he has caused enough damage" and "I want him to resign."
"He’s either been golfing or he’s been inside the Oval Office fuming and throwing every single person who has been loyal and faithful to him under the bus, starting with the vice president," Murkowski said. "He doesn’t want to stay there. He only wants to stay there for the title. He only wants to stay there for his ego. He needs to get out. He needs to do the good thing, but I don’t think he’s capable of doing a good thing.”
It seems unlikely heading into next week that Trump could be removed through impeachment before his term ends. If the Democratic House majority approved impeachment, the party would need 17 Republicans in the Senate to convict him. They are far short of that goal and the outgoing Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, indicated that a trial in his chamber could not start until Jan. 19. President-elect Joe Biden is to be inaugurated the next day.
Christie said Sunday that Republicans would have to vote their conscience and many of them have "had enough" of the president. In particular, Christie said, "it is a national disgrace" that the flag at the White House is not flying at half-staff for the Capitol police officer who was killed in the rioting.
That officer, Brian Sicknick, is a South River native who served in the New Jersey Air National Guard. His was one of five deaths tied the violence last week. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered flags to fly at half-staff Monday in Sicknick's honor.
Sicknick "gave his life in protecting one of our institutions of Democracy," Christie said.
"If we're having a fit of pique and that's why we're not putting the flag at half-staff, it's just another example of why people think that, you know, these decisions are not being made on the merits; these decisions are being made purely with an idea of what's in my own personal desire at the moment on the part of the president," Christie went on. "So it's just wrong."
Follow Dustin Racioppi on Twitter @dracioppi