News

Congress Talks 25th Amendment, Trump Impeachment in Wake of Capitol Riots

January 7, 2021, 12:54 PM HST
* Updated January 7, 1:05 PM
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President Donald Trump has only 13 days left in the Oval Office, but Democratic leaders in Congress say that’s too long.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called upon Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and begin the process of removing Trump from office, after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle described the president’s rhetoric and actions leading up to the storming of the Capitol Building Wednesday by an angry mob of his supporters as “sedition” and fomenting “insurrection.”

The 25th Amendment outlines the transition of power from the president to the vice president as a result of a president’s physical or mental incapacitation, resignation, removal, or death. Congress ratified the amendment in 1967 following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy four years earlier.

Should Pence refuse to act, Pelosi and Schumer said they will move to impeach the president a second time, which would set a historical precedent.

“While it’s only 13 days left, any day can be a horror show for America,” Pelosi said Thursday. “This is urgent. This is an emergency of the highest magnitude.”

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Several national news outlets have reported that discussions about removing Trump from office are taking place between members of his cabinet. Sources told ABC news that it remains unclear how serious those talks are or if the vice president is supportive of them.

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For the 25th Amendment to actually be invoked, Pence would have to rally behind the proceedings with the support of a majority of Trump’s cabinet members. With the quorum agreeing the president is unfit to serve, Pence could temporarily assume the powers of Trump’s office.

The president would be afforded an opportunity to challenge the decision by authoring a letter to Congress, after which Pence and the cabinet members who support removal would have four days to make their case. Following that time period, Congress would vote. Keeping Trump out of office would require a two-thirds majority vote from both the House and the Senate, were the process to progress to that point.

John Kelly, former Chief of Staff to Trump, said were he still a member of the president’s cabinet he would vote to invoke the 25th Amendment.

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Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, became the first GOP member to join Democratic leadership on the record calling for the removal of Trump from office via the move.

“The president not only abdicated his duty to protect the American people and the people’s house, he invoked and inflamed passions that gave fuel to the insurrection we saw here,” Kinzinger said. “When pressed to move and denounce the violence he barely did so, while of course victimizing himself … all indications are that the president has become unmoored, not just from his duty, or even his health, but from reality itself.”

“It is for this reason that I call for the vice president and members of the cabinet to ensure that the next few weeks are safe for the American people, and that we have a sane captain of the ship.”

Several high-ranking Republicans — including Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — acknowledged directly that the president played a role in inciting the first breach of the Capitol Building since British soldiers set it ablaze in 1814.

Others — like former President George W. Bush, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Vice President Pence himself — repudiated the actions of the mob and called on the president to accept his defeat.

Trump has repeatedly asserted without evidence that the election was stolen from him, telling a crowd that amassed in Washington DC Wednesday that they wouldn’t stop the so-called “steal” through weakness.

“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump said.

Soon after, Congressional proceedings to verify the victory of President-Elect Joe Biden were halted, as lawmakers first went into lockdown and then evacuated the Capitol Building when it was breached by Trump supporters, some of whom carried flags bearing his name and others who carried banners adorned with symbols of the Confederacy.

By Thursday, the Capitol Building had been cleared and Congress had confirmed Biden’s victory, slamming shut the door on any chance Trump might remain in the White House.

The president, who has been banned indefinitely from Facebook and was suspended from Twitter for 12 hours for his role in inciting the riotous mob, continued to dispute the results of the election into the morning. However, he also finally acknowledged his willingness to step aside in a statement — something that was in question during the last several weeks leading up to the meltdown in the nation’s capitol.

“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” Trump said.

Whether the president’s mild change of tune will be enough to save him from the disgrace of removal by way of the 25th Amendment or facing down a second impeachment proceeding remains to be seen.

Impeaching Trump in less than two weeks may not be realistic considering the abbreviated timeframe. By pursuing the route of impeachment, however, the Senate could theoretically ban Trump from ever holding federal office again.

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