WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers of both parties raised the prospect Thursday of ousting President Donald Trump from office, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that if he wasn’t removed, the House may move forward with a second impeachment.
Though Trump has less than two weeks in office, lawmakers and even some in his administration began discussing the issue Wednesday afternoon as Trump first refused to forcefully condemn the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters, and then appeared to excuse it.
Senior Trump administration officials raised the possibility of invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment — the forceful removal of Trump from power by his own Cabinet.
Pelosi told a news conference she is waiting for a decision from Vice President Mike Pence and other Cabinet officials. She challenged several of them by name, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
“Do they stand by these actions?” Pelosi asked. “Are they ready to say that for the next 13 days this dangerous man can do further harm to our country?”
Most Democrats, and many Republicans, put the blame squarely on Trump after hundreds of protesters bearing Trump flags and clothing broke into the Capitol on Wednesday and caused destruction and mass evacuations. The president had urged the supporters to protest as Congress was counting the electoral votes that confirmed Biden’s win.
Pelosi said “a threshold was crossed of such magnitude” that Trump should not allowed to make any decisions.
There did to be public support for the move, for now, among members of Trump’s Cabinet, especially after Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao resigned in protest Thursday following the Capitol attack. But officials across the government went so far as to study up on the procedures for declaring Trump “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
According two people involved in the administration talks, staff-level discussions on the matter took place across multiple departments and even parts of the White House. No member of the Cabinet has publicly expressed support for the move — which would make Pence the acting president — though several were believed to be sympathetic to the notion, believing Trump is too volatile in his waning days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Under the 25th Amendment, Trump could dispute his Cabinet’s finding, but the Cabinet could quickly reaffirm its position, keeping Pence in power while the question fell to lawmakers.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer also called Thursday for the the Cabinet to remove him.
In a statement, Schumer said the attack on the Capitol “was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president.” He said Trump “should not hold office one day longer.”
Schumer said Pence and the Cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment and immediately remove Trump from office. Otherwise, he said, it’s up to Congress.
“If the vice president and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president,” Schumer said.
As Pelosi suggested impeachment was a possibility, three Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee announced articles of impeachment. Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Ted Lieu of California wrote in the articles that Trump “willfully made statements that encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — imminent lawless action at the Capitol.”
The House impeached Trump in 2019, but the Republican-led Senate acquitted him in early 2020.
At least one House Republican also called for Trump’s removal. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a frequent Trump critic, said in a video on Twitter that Trump is “unfit” and “unwell.”
Kinzinger said the president “must now relinquish control of the executive branch voluntarily or involuntarily.”
Former Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who’s clashed with Trump for years, said he doesn’t think invoking the 25th Amendment is realistic because of the support it would need from Cabinet members and because of the short time left in Trump’s term. But he said in an interview that he supported the decisions both by some White House and administration officials to quit and others who are remaining “to ensure that basically the guard rails stay where they should.”
Flake added: “We’ve got two weeks here, and let’s make sure we get to the inauguration.”
Here is how the 25th Amendment works:
In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
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