- Members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet are discussing invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, CBS News, ABC News, and CNN reported.
- The extraordinary development comes after the president whipped his supporters into a frenzy and a mob of them stormed the US Capitol, inciting violence and forcing lawmakers and staff to evacuate.
- CNN’s Jim Acosta reported that cabinet secretaries are in the preliminary stages of discussions about the 25th Amendment, and CBS News’ Margaret Brennan reported that nothing concrete has been presented to Vice President Mike Pence yet.
- All Democratic lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee also sent Pence a letter urging him to invoke the amendment and remove the president from power, a move unlike anything ever used in the six decades since the amendment was adopted.
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Members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet are in the early stages of considering the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, multiple media outlets reported, a last resort that would be unlike any move since the amendment was adopted six decades ago.
CNN’s Jim Acosta reported that the cabinet secretaries are in the preliminary stages of discussions, and CBS News’ Margaret Brennan reported that nothing concrete has been presented to Vice President Mike Pence yet. ABC News also confirmed the reports. The reports were anonymously sourced.
The extraordinary development comes after Trump supporters, whipped into a frenzy by the president’s conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, converged on Washington, DC and stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday as Congress convened to count up the electoral votes and finalize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
The process is typically pro forma and doesn’t draw much national attention. But it came into the national spotlight this year because the president and his supporters baselessly said that Congress and, in particular, Vice President Mike Pence, have the legal authority to throw out electoral votes from states where Trump said the election was “rigged” against him.
Congress and the vice president have no such authority and are only tasked with counting up the Electoral College votes cast certifying the results of the general election. Lawmakers can object to the votes, but for an objection to stand it must be upheld by both the House and Senate. Because the Democratic Party controls the House, there is virtually no chance that Republicans who have signed onto Trump’s push to overturn the election will succeed. Pence, for his part, plays no role in approving or rejecting a state’s electoral votes and his involvement in the matter is largely ceremonial.
Regardless, Trump has repeatedly claimed that Pence and congressional Republicans are obligated to “decertify” the electoral votes from battleground states he lost because, he says, their respective elections were fraudulently conducted and their results were therefore illegitimate. As Business Insider has reported, there is no evidence that any of these claims hold merit, and in fact, the 2020 election was the safest and most secure in US history.
Wednesday’s scene at the US Capitol resembled something from a dystopian novel as the president’s supporters breached barriers, clashed with police, broke into the Capitol building, vandalized and stole property, and got as far as the House and Senate floors.
All the while, lawmakers, Hill staffers, and reporters sheltered in their offices and behind makeshift barricades before being evacuated from the building. Trump’s supporters rampaged through the Capitol, occupied lawmakers’ offices, and milled around outside for hours after the evacuation, and photos depicted multiple rioters carrying Confederate flags through the building, at times flanked by portraits of Civil War figures.
A noose was erected outside the Capitol, and Trump’s loyalists attacked members of the media who were covering the riots as they unfolded. NBC’s Tom Winter reported that half a dozen people had to be taken to the hospital, and it was later reported that one woman who was shot inside the Capitol died.
After the area and the building were secured, Congress reconvened to finish debating election challenges and count up electoral votes. Several Republican House and Senate lawmakers reversed their decisions to back Trump in his efforts following the riots, calling them “abhorrent,” “unlawful,” and “unacceptable.”
A number of administration officials resigned after the demonstrations, including First Lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff and former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews, and White House social secretary Rickie Niceta. Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien, deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, and deputy chief of staff Chris Liddell are all reportedly weighing resigning.
The Daily Beast reported that Trump aides and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is married to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, personally called senior White House officials and cabinet secretaries and asked them to stay on through the night.
Invoking the amendment
If the president’s cabinet does invoke the 25th Amendment, it would be the first time in US history that a sitting president was removed from office for a non-health related issue. The amendment lays out the steps that can be taken to ensure a transition of power if a president is deemed unfit or unable to serve.
It has been invoked three times before, but only for reasons involving the physical health of the president. The first time was in July 1985, when then President Ronald Reagan underwent surgery for colon cancer. At the time, Reagan authorized Vice President George H.W. Bush to carry out his duties while he was unable to do so.
The other two times the amendment was invoked were during George W. Bush’s administration, in June 2002 and June 2007. In both cases, Bush temporarily transferred power to Vice President Dick Cheney while he underwent routine colonoscopies.
If Trump’s cabinet invoked the amendment to remove him from office, it would be by utilizing Section IV, which allows for the vice president and a majority of the cabinet to remove the president from office if they determine that he’s unfit or unable to serve out his term.
The stipulation says: “Whenever 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, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”