Democrats will proceed with the impeachment of ‘deranged, unhinged and dangerous’ Donald Trump this week unless Mike Pence uses the 25th Amendment to force him from office, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday night.
Pelosi made the announcement in a letter to colleagues, framing it as an ultimatum to Pence to invoke the powers of the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
If not, she said, the House would proceed with impeachment.
Trump could become the only president to be impeached twice.
‘In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,’ she said, and added: ‘The horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this President is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told 60 Minutes on Sunday that she wants impeachment for Donald Trump so he can’t run for office in the future
Pelosi wrote to her Democrat colleagues on Sunday night to explain the next steps
Pelosi said she would prefer if Vice President Mike Pence invoked the 25th Amendment ‘because it gets rid of him – he’s out of office’ now as concerns mount that Trump could pardon the mob in his last 10 days in office
She, and other Democrats, further fear the president could pardon those involved in the storming of the Capitol in his final days.
Pelosi’s plan seeks a vote on Monday on a resolution calling on Pence and Cabinet officials to invoke the 25th Amendment. Under rules when the full House is not convened, any objection would reject the resolution.
Pelosi would then put the resolution before the full House on Tuesday.
If it were to pass, Pence and the Cabinet would have 24 hours to act before the House would move toward impeachment.
With impeachment planning intensifying, two Republican senators said they want Trump to resign immediately as efforts mounted to prevent Trump from ever again holding elective office in the wake of deadly riots at the Capitol.
House Democrats were expected to introduce articles of impeachment on Monday. The strategy would be to condemn the president’s actions swiftly but delay an impeachment trial in the Senate for 100 days. That would allow President-elect Joe Biden to focus on other priorities as soon as he is inaugurated on January 20.
Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat and a top Biden ally, laid out the ideas on Sunday as the country came to grips with the siege at the Capitol by Trump loyalists trying to overturn the election results.
‘Let’s give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running,’ Clyburn said.
Pressure was mounting for Trump to leave office even before his term ended amid alarming concerns of more unrest ahead of the inauguration.
Lawmakers and law enforcement are pursuing all available avenues to find and prosecute those involved in the Capitol riot – using picture and video evidence to do so
The president whipped up the mob that stormed the Capitol, sent lawmakers into hiding and left five dead.
Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania on Sunday joined his fellow Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in calling for Trump to ‘resign and go away as soon as possible.’
‘I think the president has disqualified himself from ever, certainly, serving in office again,’ Toomey said. ‘I don’t think he is electable in any way.’
Murkowski, who has long voiced her exasperation with Trump’s conduct in office, told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday that Trump simply ‘needs to get out.’
A third Republican, Sen. Roy Blunt, of Missouri, did not go that far, but on Sunday he warned Trump to be ‘very careful’ in his final days in office.
Corporate America began to tie its reaction to the Capitol riots by tying them to campaign contributions.
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s CEO and President Kim Keck said it will not contribute to those lawmakers — all Republicans — who supported challenges to Biden’s Electoral College win.
The group ‘will suspend contributions to those lawmakers who voted to undermine our democracy,’ Kim said.
Citigroup did not single out lawmakers aligned with Trump’s effort to overturn the election, but said it would be pausing all federal political donations for the first three months of the year. Citi’s head of global government affairs, Candi Wolff, said in a Friday memo to employees, ‘We want you to be assured that we will not support candidates who do not respect the rule of law.’
Lisa Murkowski, senator for Alaska, has said she is considering quitting the Republicans
Murkowski said that Trump should resign, saying he had done enough damage
The mob overran the Capitol Police shortly after Trump urged them to ‘fight’ on his behalf
Trump supporters, egged on by the president himself, stormed the Capitol on Wednesday
House leaders, furious after the insurrection, appear determined to act against Trump despite the short timeline.
Mike Pence ‘has not ruled out the 25th Amendment’
Mike Pence and Donald Trump have not spoken since Wednesday’s uprising, CNN reported, during which pro-Trump rioters charged through the Senate looking for Pence and threatening to ‘hang’ him.
Trump was angered by Pence telling him he was not constitutionally able to overturn the election, and lashed out at his vice president on Wednesday, telling supporters: ‘Mike Pence has to come through for us. If he doesn’t that will be a sad day for our country.’ He later tweeted: ‘Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.’
Pence has finally ‘gotten a glimpse of POTUS’s vindictiveness,’ one source told CNN.
It is the first time the normally-loyal Pence has publicly broken with the president.
CNN said that Pence has not ruled out the 25th Amendment.
Invoking the 25th Amendment would require Pence and a majority of the Cabinet to vote to remove Trump from office due to his inability to ‘discharge the powers and duties of his office’ – an unprecedented step.
On Thursday, sources close to the VP said it was ‘highly unlikely’ Pence would attempt to invoke the 25th Amendment. He has not ruled it out, however.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has said an impeachment trial could not begin under the current calendar before Inauguration Day.
While many have criticized Trump, Republicans have said that impeachment would be divisive in a time of unity.
Senator Marco Rubio said that instead of coming together, Democrats want to ‘talk about ridiculous things like ‘Let’s impeach a president’ with just days left in office.
Still, some Republicans might be supportive.
Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said he would take a look at any articles that the House sent over. Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a frequent Trump critic, said he would ‘vote the right way’ if the matter were put in front of him.
The Democratic effort to stamp Trump’s presidential record — for the second time — with the indelible mark of impeachment had advanced rapidly since the riot.
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I, a leader of the House effort to draft impeachment articles accusing Trump of inciting insurrection, said Sunday that his group had 200-plus co-sponsors.
The articles, if passed by the House, could then be transmitted to the Senate for a trial, with senators acting as jurors to acquit or convict Trump.
If convicted, Trump would be removed from office and succeeded by the vice president.
It would be the first time a U.S. president had been impeached twice.
Potentially complicating Pelosi’s decision about impeachment was what it meant for Biden and the beginning of his presidency. While reiterating that he had long viewed Trump as unfit for office, Biden on Friday sidestepped a question about impeachment, saying what Congress did ‘is for them to decide.’
While some Democrats are pushing for the impeachment route, the House Speaker told ’60 Minutes’ in an interview that will air Sunday night that she prefers invoking the 25th Amendment because it gets Trump out of office immediately.
‘There is a possibility that after all of this, there’s no punishment, no consequence, and he could run again for president,’ CBS’ Lesley Stahl said to Pelosi in a clip released ahead of airing the full interview.
‘And that’s one of the motivations that people have for advocating for impeachment,’ Pelosi explained.
She is, however, concerned that if Trump is not booted from the White House right now, he will use his last 10 days in office to pardon those part of the mob who descended on the Capitol Wednesday – or even himself and other allies.
‘I like the 25th Amendment because it gets rid of him – he’s out of office,’ Pelosi said. ‘But there is strong support in the Congress for impeaching the president a second time.’
‘What if he pardons himself?’ Stahl asked.
‘What if pardons these people who are terrorists on the Capitol?’ Pelosi shot back.
Congress is moving to prosecute or punish any and all they can find who were involved in the riots at the Capitol – and have already found some who were pictured prominently.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday in an interview with ABC’s ‘This Week’ that half of the members of the House were at risk of dying during the riots.
‘Perhaps my colleagues were not fully present for the events on Wednesday, but we came close to half of the House nearly dying on Wednesday,’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday of the pro-Trump mob descending on the Capitol
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said Sunday that Democrats will vote on impeachment this week, but said the party might wait until after Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office to move the articles to the Senate
WHAT DOES THE 25TH AMENDMENT SAY? CAN TRUMP’S CABINET REALLY TOPPLE HIM?
The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution deals with presidential authority in the event of death or removal from office, and was ratified in 1967, in the wake of John F Kennedy’s assassination.
What does the 25th Amendment say?
It is in four sections, all dealing with the president leaving office during his or her elected term.
The first section states that the vice president takes over the Oval Office if the president dies or resigns – or is removed – something which the original Constitution did not clearly state.
Presidents of course can be removed by impeachment, a feature of the constitution from the start. They can also be removed through the 25th Amendment – of which more below.
Section II states that if the vice president dies, or resigns – or is fired – both the House and Senate have to confirm a new vice president. Until 1967, presidents could change vice presidents mid-term on their own if they got the vice president to agree to resign – not something that actually happened, but which was possible in principle.
Section III makes clear that a president can temporarily delegate his powers to the vice president, and later reclaim them when he – or she – is capable of serving. This is most often invoked if a president is under the influence of surgical anesthetic for a short period of time.
Section IV is the amendment’s most controversial part: it describes how the president can be removed from office if he is incapacitated and does not leave on his own.
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’ must write to both the president pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, saying that ‘the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.’
The term principal officers of the executive departments would normally mean the cabinet secretaries.
So at least eight of the president’s 15 most senior Cabinet members together with the vice president must agree that a president should be removed before any plan can move forward.
Notifying the House Speaker and the Senate president pro tempore is the act that immediately elevates the vice president to an ‘acting president’ role.
The deposed president can contest the claim, giving the leaders of the bloodless coup four days to re-assert their claims to the House and Senate.
Congress then has two days to convene – unless it is already in session – and another 21 days to vote on whether the president is incapable of serving. A two-thirds majority in both houses is required to make that determination.
As soon as there is a vote with a two-thirds majority, the president loses his powers and is removed, and the vice president stops acting and is sworn in as president.
But if 21 days of debate and votes ends without a two-thirds majority, the president gets back his powers.
What could happen to trigger the 25th Amendment?
Vice President Mike Pence and eight of the 15 ‘principal’ Cabinet members would have to agree to notify Congress that President Donald Trump was incapable of running the country.
That group is made up of the Secretary of State, Treasury Secretary, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Interior Secretary, Agriculture Secretary, Commerce Secretary, Labor Secretary, Health and Human Services Secretary, Transportation Secretary, Energy Secretary , Education Secretary, Veterans Affairs Secretary and Homeland Security Secretary.
Their formal notification would go to the House Speaker and, in the senate, to the ‘president pro tempore’, the Senate’s most senior member. As soon as the letter is sent, Pence would become ‘acting president.’
Alternatively, Congress could set up its own mechanism to decide if he is fit for office – maybe a commission, or a joint committee. Pence would still have to agree with its conclusion and then write formally to the Speaker and president pro tempore.
Or another possibility is that the pool of ‘principal officers’ is considered to be bigger than the 15 and a majority of that group call Trump incapable.
What if Trump does not agree?
If Trump claims he is capable of holding office, he would write to the House Speaker and the president pro tempore of the Senate within four days, setting up three weeks of intense debate in both houses of Congress.
Trump would be removed from office if both two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate agreed with Pence and his cabal.
If either of both chambers fell short of that mark, Trump would retain his powers and likely embark on a wholesale housecleaning, firing Pence and replacing disloyal Cabinet members.
Are there any loopholes?
The 25th Amendment allows Congress to appoint its own panel to evaluate the president instead of relying on the Cabinet – the men and women who work most closely with Trump – to decide on a course of action.
It specifies that some ‘other body as Congress may by law provide’ could play that role, but Pence would still need to agree with any finding that the president is incapable of discharging his duties.
That commission could hypothetically include anyone from presidential historians to psychiatrists, entrusted to assess the president’s fitness for office.
Another loophole is that it does not spell out that the Cabinet is needed to agree, but says that the ‘principal officers’ of the departments are needed. That term is undefined in the constitution. In some departments legislation appears to name not just the secretary but deputies and even undersecretaries as ‘principal officers’, so many more people could be called in to the assessment of Trump’s fitness.
But Trump’s cabinet has a swathe of ‘acting’ cabinet officer – and it is unclear if they could therefore take part in removing him.
Could Trump fire Pence if he rebelled?
Yes, in principle. If Trump smelled a whiff of trouble – if Pence and a cabal of Cabinet members, or Pence and a panel assembled by Congress seemed ready to judge him incapacitated – he could dismiss his vice president with the stroke of a pen to stop the process.
But installing a more loyal VP could be problematic since the 25th Amendment includes its own poison pill: Both houses of Congress must vote to approve a new vice president.
That means Trump would find himself up against the same Congress that would vote on his fitness for office, unless the process were to unfold in the weeks before a new Congress.
Theoretically, a Democratic-controlled Congress could make life dramatically more difficult for the president if it came into power in the midst of the constitutional crisis.
One scenario has appeared to stump presidential historians, however: Firing Pence before the process is underway, and then leaving the vice presidency vacant, would give Congress no practical way forward. That would present its own constitutional crisis.
Is there any precedent for this?
No. Only Section III, the voluntary surrender of presidential powers, has ever been used – and only very briefly.
In December 1978, President Jimmy Carter thought about invoking Section III when he was contemplating a surgical procedure to remove hemorrhoids.
Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both voluntarily relinquished their powers while undergoing procedures under anesthetic.
Section IV has also never been invoked, although there have been claims that Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff Donald Regan told his successor, Howard Baker, in 1987 that he should be prepared to invoke it because Reagan was inattentive and inept.
The PBS documentary ‘American Experience’ recounts how Baker and his team watched Reagan closely for signs of incapacity during their first meeting and decided he was in perfect command of himself.
‘If another head of state came in and ordered an attack on the United States Congress, would we say that that should not be prosecuted? Would we say that there should be absolutely no response to that?’ the New York congresswoman told ABC host George Stephanopoulos.
‘No,’ Ocasio-Cortez asserted. ‘It is an act of insurrection. It’s an act of hostility. And we must have accountability, because, without it, it will happen again.
‘Perhaps my colleagues were not fully present for the events on Wednesday, but we came close to half of the House nearly dying on Wednesday,’ she said.
Hakeem Jeffries, a fellow New York Representative, agreed with AOC’s points in an interview with NBC on Sunday, claiming: ‘Donald Trump represents a clear and present danger to the health and safety of the American people, as well as our democracy’
The representative, as well as the handful of members of her progressive ‘squad’, are fully on board with plans to again impeach President Trump.
Clyburn said Sunday that articles have already been drawn and he is expecting a vote in the lower chamber in the coming day.
‘I think that will come – probably Tuesday, and maybe Wednesday, but it will happen this week,’ the No. 3 House Democrat told ‘Fox News Sunday’ when asked about the House taking action to impeach Trump. ‘The rest of the articles have been drawn up.’
‘If we are the people’s House, let’s do the people’s work and vote to impeach this president,’ Clyburn continued in his interview with Fox’s Chris Wallace. ‘And then we’ll decide later — or the Senate will decide later — what to do with that impeachment.’
Ocasio-Cortez said ‘every minute’ Trump is still in office, there is a looming threat.
‘I absolutely believe that impeachment should be scheduled for several reasons,’ she said on Sunday.
‘Our main priority is to ensure the removal of Donald Trump as president of the United States,’ AOC added. ‘Every minute and every hour that he is in office represents a clear and present danger, not just to the United States Congress, but, frankly, to the country.’
While Democrats pursue impeachment, many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are calling for Trump to step down on his own volition to prevent Congress from having to intervene.
Lawmakers were forced to evacuate the House and Senate chambers and shelter in offices or other locations on Wednesday after thousands of Donald Trump’s supporters breached the Capitol and rioted through the halls
There are also talks of banning Trump from running for president again in the future – as speculation mounts he will pursue another run for the White House in 2024.
‘In addition to removal, we’re also talking about complete barring of the president – or, rather, of Donald Trump from running for office ever again,’ Ocasio-Cortez told ABC.
‘And, in addition to that, the potential ability to prevent pardoning himself from those charges that he was impeached for.’
Jeffries also wants immediate action against Trump, expressing concern that the president still has ‘access to the nuclear codes.’
‘The goal at the present moment is to address the existential threat that Donald Trump presents at this time. Every second, every minute, every hour that Donald Trump remains in office presents a danger to the American people,’ the Democrat representative said on Sunday during an interview on ‘Meet the Press’.
‘You know, Donald Trump may be in the Twitter penalty box, but he still has access to the nuclear codes,’ Jeffries said, referencing Trump’s indefinite ban from Twitter.
‘That’s a frightening prospect.’
He added: ‘Donald Trump is completely and totally out of control, and even his longtime enablers have now come to that conclusion.’
Clyburn, however, said Sunday that House Democrats are weighing if they should hold off on sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate until after Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office.
This way, Democrats would allow the new president to install key members of his team and would have a new 50-50 split Senate to work with.