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President Trump’s role in inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol and disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory has led to numerous calls for Trump to be removed from office before his term ends Jan. 20.
The top Democrats in Congress — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer — have urged Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows for the powers of the presidency to be transferred to the vice president if a majority of the Cabinet determines the president is unable to discharge his duties. Pence is reportedly opposed to taking that step.
Pelosi and Schumer also said they may move to impeach Trump if the 25th Amendment isn’t invoked. More than 150 House Democrats have signed on to an article of impeachment that could be introduced as early as Monday. If impeachment proceedings were started, Congress would follow an accelerated version of the process that was used in response to Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president. If a majority of the House voted to impeach, the Senate would then hold a trial. If two-thirds of senators voted to convict before Trump’s term was up, he would be removed from office. Crucially, conviction by the Senate can also result in a ban from holding future office.
The push to remove Trump from office as soon as possible isn’t limited to just his political opponents. A small number of GOP lawmakers have also said they support it. Polls show a majority of Americans want Trump out immediately.
Why there’s debate
Supporters of removing Trump argue that, even though his term will end in less than two weeks, he can still do an enormous amount of damage in that short period of time. Everything from starting a foreign war, to pardoning himself, to encouraging another insurrection is possible if Trump still holds the power of the presidency, they argue. Removal could also send an important message that attacks on U.S. democracy, such as the riot at the Capitol, will not be tolerated.
Among those who back ousting Trump, there’s significant debate over how it should be done. Some say the 25th Amendment is the best path because it would end Trump’s presidency immediately, plus having Republican Cabinet members remove him would send an important unifying message. Others say impeachment is the appropriate constitutional remedy for a lawless executive, and blocking Trump from running for president again would safeguard the country from his dangerous influence in the future.
Those who oppose removing Trump argue that doing so would only enflame his supporters and potentially lead to an escalation of violence. Others say it’s unwise for Congress to spend its time on impeachment when the proceedings may not be completed before Trump’s term ends — and Senate Republicans are unlikely to convict him. In lieu of Trump resigning on his own, he should be allowed to finish the final days of his term, they say.
Every day Trump spends in office poses a threat to the country
“There is much worse that can happen to America than a Capitol overrun with rabid zealots. Are we just going to cross fingers, close our eyes and mouth a wish?” — Editorial Board, New York Daily News
Forcing Trump out would only lead to more violence
“The president has now, however grudgingly, given an assurance that there will be a smooth transition of power. Try to hold him to that before deciding we can’t. Let’s try to take the temperature down, rather than raising it, and get through the next two weeks.” — Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review
Trump should be pressured to resign
“If Mr. Trump wants to avoid a second impeachment, his best path would be to take personal responsibility and resign. This would be the cleanest solution since it would immediately turn presidential duties over to Mr. Pence. … This might also stem the flood of White House and Cabinet resignations that are understandable as acts of conscience but could leave the government dangerously unmanned. Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, in particular should stay at his post.” — Editorial, Wall Street Journal
Congress, not the Cabinet, should be tasked with removing Trump
“A physical attack on Congress by violent Trump supporters egged on by the president demands a direct response from Congress itself. Impeachment and conviction is that response. To rely on the executive branch to get Trump out of the White House is to abdicate the legislature’s constitutional responsibility to check presidential lawbreaking.” — Jamelle Bouie, New York Times
Trump shouldn’t just be removed, he should be prosecuted
“Many are urging Trump’s immediate impeachment or removal by invocation of the 25th Amendment. That should absolutely be done, as soon as possible. But it wouldn’t be enough. There must be a forceful response to this outrage beyond merely depriving Trump of his final days in office. After Jan. 20, the Biden Justice Department should convene a grand jury investigation of Trump’s unprecedented assault on America’s democracy.” —
Randall D. Eliason, Washington Post
Removal has downsides, but they’re outweighed by the risks Trump poses
“The question is one of relative risks, and leaving an unpunished Trump in office is the greater threat.” — Editorial Board, USA Today
The 25th Amendment would show that the GOP is willing to defend democracy, too
“Pence can not only save the country, but he can also start the process of repairing America's battered reputation. He can reassure shaken Americans and show the rest of the world that the Constitution he swore to defend is so wise, perhaps divinely inspired, that it contains the mechanism to save itself and the country from the unimaginable, a coup attempt by a sitting president of the United States.” — Frida Ghitis, CNN
The 25th Amendment wasn’t intended for a situation like this
“The authors of the amendment … made it clear that it was not intended to facilitate the removal of an unpopular or failed president, or for any other political purpose. Concerns about character are dramatically different than mental incapacity.” — Gregg Jarrett, Fox News
Impeachment could backfire in a major way
“Any attempt to usher Trump out of the White House before January 20 is likely to fail. Even in the highly unlikely case of success, Trump’s opponents would pay a heavy price. … The best way to contain the danger Trump continues to pose to our democratic institutions is, simply, to run out the clock.” — Yascha Mounk, Atlantic
Trump must be barred from seeking office again through impeachment
“Regardless of what happens in these coming days, it is imperative that Congress ensure that this president never takes power again. The clearest and most constitutionally appropriate way to do this is for the House to impeach President Trump, and then for the Senate to vote to disqualify him from holding any future federal public office.” — Corey Brettschneider, Guardian
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