Calls to remove President Donald Trump from office before his term ends Jan. 20 grew louder by the hour Thursday, including from his own administration and the Republican Party, a day after rioters supporting the leader stormed the U.S. Capitol building.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called the Constitution’s 25th Amendment “the quickest and most effective way” to remove Trump.
“It can be done today,” Schumer tweeted, adding that otherwise “Congress must reconvene to impeach President Trump.”
The 25th Amendment allows the vice president and a majority of the cabinet to remove the president from office should the leader be deemed unable to perform the duties. Vice President Mike Pence would take over as acting president in this scenario.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, also called on Pence and the cabinet to remove Trump.
“I call for the vice president and members of the cabinet to ensure the next few weeks are safe for the American people and that we have a sane captain of the ship,” Kinzinger said in a video message posted on Twitter.
“Section 4 of the 25th Amendment allows a majority of the cabinet and the vice president to assume the duties of the office of the presidency until the president is able to himself,” he said. “It’s time to invoke the 25th Amendment, and to end this nightmare.”
An increasing number of Republican leaders and cabinet officials think Trump should be removed, CNN said Thursday. Four of them called for invoking the 25th Amendment, and two others said the president should be impeached, the network reported.
It is unclear whether Pence is on board with such action. His daughter Charlotte Pence Bond congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Twitter Thursday.
Some within the State Department also are pushing to invoke the 25th Amendment, though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is closely aligned with Trump and may not support the move.
Impeachment is the more time-consuming option but Congress could subsequently bar Trump from seeking the highest office again. The Constitution allows for Congress to impeach and convict a president guilty of treason, bribery or other “high crimes,” removing the leader from office. Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House of Representatives in late 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, but the Republican-controlled Senate declined to convict.
“I am drawing up Articles of Impeachment,” tweeted Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a member of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. “We can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath.”
Democrats retain a majority in the House, meaning they would have the votes to approve articles of impeachment. But a conviction requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Almost 20 Republican senators would need to cross party lines to reach this threshold.
Despite growing pushback against Trump among Republicans, it is questionable whether enough lawmakers will risk the ire of staunch Trump supporters by backing an impeachment, especially when the president is already scheduled to step down.
A YouGov poll found that 45% of Republicans actively support the actions of those who stormed the Capitol, outnumbering the 43% who oppose them.
As those in Washington contemplate Trump’s removal, American social media giants have moved to lock Trump’s accounts, deeming the president’s conduct too dangerous and likely to provoke violence. The president told rioters inside the Capitol “I love you” in a Wednesday video, and doubled down on his claims of the election being stolen from him.
Facebook on Thursday said it will lock Trump’s account until the transition to Biden’s presidency is complete. Twitter froze his account for 12 hours and required the president to take down the video.
Mick Mulvaney, formerly Trump’s chief of staff and later U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland, told CNBC on Thursday that “I can’t do it. I can’t stay.”
At least a half-dozen senior officials in the Trump administration tendered their resignations following Wednesday’s events, seen by many as an assault on American democracy itself.
In a Nov. 7 op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Mulvaney had argued that if Trump loses, he will “concede gracefully,” saying “I’m familiar with his manner and style and know a little about how he thinks.”
Deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, a fluent Mandarin speaker who has played a key role in formulating the Trump administration’s China policy, is also among those departing.
Jim Mattis, who served as Trump’s secretary of defense from 2017 to 2019, placed blame squarely on the president himself.
Elaine Chao, transportation secretary and wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, also resigned on Thursday. Formerly a loyal Trump aide, she is the first cabinet secretary to leave the administration after the chaos on Capitol Hill.
“Today’s assault on our Capitol, an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule, was fomented by Mr. Trump,” Mattis said in a Wednesday statement. “His use of the presidency to destroy trust in our election and to poison our respect for fellow citizens has been enabled by pseudo political leaders whose names will live in infamy as profiles in cowardice.”
“Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the president stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed. As I’m sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside,” Chao wrote in an open letter to staff and colleagues. “Today, I am announcing my resignation … We will help my announced successor Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with taking on the responsibility of running this wonderful department.”