WASHINGTON – A growing number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers are calling for the removal of President Donald Trump a day after pro-Trump rioters rampaged through the Capitol, violently forced their way into a rare joint session of Congress and left a trail of destruction in their wake.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday Congress may be prepared to impeach Trump if the vice president did not immediately invoke the 25th Amendment, which would remove Trump and put Vice President Mike Pence in power, with just two weeks before the president is set to leave office.
“I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the vice president to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th amendment,” she said. “If the vice president and cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment.”
Pelosi’s comments came after Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer became the highest-ranking lawmaker to throw his support behind invoking the amendment to remove Trump.
“What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president. This president should not hold office one day longer,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “The quickest and most effective way – it can be done today – to remove this president from office would be for the Vice President to immediately invoke the 25th Amendment.”
The top Senate Democrat added that if Pence and Trump’s Cabinet refuse to take up the procedure, Congress could again impeach the president, a move already backed by some Democratic lawmakers.
Under the 25th Amendment, the vice president and a majority of the 15 Cabinet members could declare the president unable to “discharge the powers and duties of his office.” If the president disputes that determination, two-thirds of both the House and the Senate must vote in favor of keeping Pence in charge as acting president.
It is unclear if Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who announced her departure earlier Thursday citing the unrest, or the three Cabinet members who are serving in an “acting” capacity could cast a vote.
In addition, lawmakers can designate through legislation an alternative group – other than the Cabinet – that the vice president could work with to declare a president unable to serve.
An administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the prospect of invoking the 25th Amendment has not been brought to the vice president.
Pelosi said she was unsure of when the vice president would respond to her call but added: “I don’t think it will take long to get an answer from the vice president. It will be yes or it will be no.”
“While it’s only 13 days left, any day can be a horror show for America,” she added.
Schumer, who is set to become Senate majority leader later this month after Democrats won two Senate runoff elections in Georgia earlier this week, joined a chorus of Democratic lawmakers, some outside organizations and even a Republican congressman calling for Trump’s removal by the 25th Amendment or through impeachment.
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a military veteran and vocal critic of Trump in recent weeks, called the president “unfit” and “unwell” and came out in favor of invoking the 25th Amendment in a two-minute video posted to social media.
“I think yesterday it became clear that the president is unmoored from reality and from his oath and I think the vice president taking over and ensuring that the next couple weeks are a peaceful transfer is essential right now to the continuation of this strong union,” Kinzinger told MSNBC Thursday.
The Illinois Republican said he was “acting alone” in calls for removing Trump but said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if others in his party join him. Kinzinger said he hasn’t “ruled out” impeachment, which other House Democrats have expressed for support for.
Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota drew up articles of impeachment against Trump and circulated them among House Democrats on Twitter.
Wednesday’s riot was roundly condemned by former and current administration officials, members of Congress as well as world leaders. The violence led to the deaths of four people and more than 60 arrests.
Several media outlets, including the Washington Post, NBC and CBS, have reported that informal and preliminary conversations regarding the 25th Amendment have been taking place among senior officials. The reports cite sources familiar with the conversations who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The upheaval on Capitol Hill also triggered a string of resignations within the administration, including Chao, First Lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff Stephanie Grisham, and Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger.
Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former acting chief of staff, told CNBC Thursday morning he would leave his post as the U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland and said some within the administration are choosing to stay out of fear of who might replace them.
“Those who choose to stay, and I have talked with some of them, are choosing to stay because they’re worried the president might put someone worse in,” Mulvaney said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of my friends resign over the course of the next 24 to 48 hours.”
On CNN, former national security adviser John Bolton warned such an effort could make matters worse.
“We ought to bear in mind the adage ‘do no harm,’ because you can make this worse if we’re not careful,” Bolton said.
CNN, however, quoted a former senior official it did not name saying said Trump’s actions were egregious enough to remove him quickly.
“I think this has been a huge shock to the system,” said the former official. “How do you keep him in place for two weeks after this?”
For weeks, Trump had urged his supporters to come to Washington for the rally on Wednesday, the day Congress met to certify the results of the Electoral College. As the protest turned ugly, Trump took to Twitter urging the crowd to go home. But he also described the mob as “great patriots” who were reacting to an election victory “viciously stripped away.”
The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, allows for replacing the president when he or she is disabled or dead. It also formalized a system for the vice president to permanently take over if the president dies or resigns. It also gives the president and Congress shared power to replace the vice president.
Outside the administration, the idea has drawn a lot of support. The head of the National Association of Manufacturers said Trump incited the violence in an attempt to retain power and Pence should consider triggering the amendment to preserve democracy.
“This is sedition and should be treated as such,” said Jay Timmons, the group’s president and CEO.
The head of the left-leaning advocacy group Public Citizen, the head of the NAACP and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, all have made similar statements.
And some congressional Democrats, laying the blame at Trump’s feet for inciting the riot, called for his removal from office or impeachment for a second time.
Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., the fourth-ranking House Democrat, seemed to endorse invoking the 25th Amendment in a Wednesday night statement saying Trump needed to be removed from office.
And on MSNBC, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a close ally to President-elect Joe Biden, said “This is a fire that he first lit in Charlottesville, and that has only been building in intensity in the last few years, and will only be solved by the removal of President Trump.”
Contributing: Maureen Groppe