House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined calls to remove President Donald Trump from office in the final two weeks of his presidency on Thursday, followingintending to disrupt a procedural electoral count that certified ‘s victory in the 2020 election. The votes were certified in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Pelosi spoke with reporters at the Capitol on Thursday and said that Trump had “incited an armed insurrection against America.”
“I join the Senate Democratic Leader in calling on the Vice President to remove this President immediately by invoking the 25th Amendment,” Pelosi said. “If the Vice President and cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment. That is the overwhelming sentiment of my caucus.”
Initiating impeachment articles and the 25th Amendment — both of which could result in removing Trump from office ahead of Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration — began Wednesday over the role that lawmakers, members of the cabinet and a US trade group say Trump played in inciting the illegal siege of Capitol Hill. The violence left four people dead and destroyed and defaced federal property.
A day after making continued false claims of voter fraud from his supporters and the president himself, as well as lawmakers planning to air election objections during the count, Trump agreed on Thursday to an tweeted a statement from the president at 3:49 a.m. ET regarding the election certification.. White House Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino
The president could not tweet himself, after Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch and Snapchatfor spreading fraudulent claims about the integrity of the presidential election.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” Trump’s statement said over two tweets. “I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”
The most recent calls for employing the 25th Amendment have come from Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith, Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, of Illinois and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Rep. David Cicilline tweeted that he was drawing up Articles of Impeachment with Reps. Ted Lieu and Jamie Raskin.
Late Wednesday, the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee — led by Cicilline and Lieu — wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, urging him to invoke the amendment.
“For the sake of our democracy, we emphatically urge you to invoke the 25th Amendment and begin the process of removing President Trump from office,” the letter read.
Since then, almost 100 Democratic members of Congress have voiced their support for Trump’s removal from office through the use of the 25th Amendment or by impeachment. The talks began early as Congress members were shuttled into the safety of an undisclosed location under the protection of Capitol police. If successful, the action would represent Trump’s second impeachment, this new effort arising just shy of two weeks ahead of the statutory end of his term. It would also be the second time lawmakers have discussed invoking the 25th Amendment.
If the 25th Amendment were enacted, Pence would assume the presidency.
Ahead of the impeachment talks, officials in the Trump administration said that Pence had approved an order to deploy the Washington DC National Guard. This authority is traditionally reserved for the president.
So, what does the 25th Amendment say? Why is it so important, and how likely is it to be enacted? Here’s what you need to know.
What is the 25th Amendment?
The 25th Amendment of the US Constitution pertains to the president’s ability to perform the duties of the presidency and what happens in the event that the commander in chief can no longer do his or her job. It empowers the vice president to temporarily become president, enabling a smooth transition of power in an emergency.
The amendment also says the president can nominate a vice president if there’s a vacancy.
The part of the 25th Amendment now under discussion generally relates to Section 4, which would allow the vice president and a majority of either the president’s cabinet or the members of Congress to declare in writing to the Senate president pro tempore and House speaker that the sitting president is unable to perform the duties of the office. This immediately makes the vice president the acting president.
The president can push back on this effort by the vice president and Congress, however, declaring him or herself fit for office in official writing. From there, the vice president and those supporting impeachment have four days to disagree, or the sitting president resumes the presidency. If they disagree, Congress can settle the matter with a vote.
Why lawmakers are urging Pence to use the amendment
As chaos erupted on Capitol Hill, lawmakers, business leaders and others began calling for the president’s removal from office. Earlier in the day, Trump had told supporters at a rally nearby that “we will never give up, we will never concede.” Trump’s tweets, some of which were deleted or blocked, continued to spur the crowd.
“We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue … and we’re going to the Capitol,” Trump said at the rally. Afterward, supporters marched to the Capitol, where they later broke past barricades and entered the building. Hours passed as constituents and lawmakers urged Trump to call for the mob to stand down.
Trump eventually gave a brief taped statement telling the rioters to go home, calling them “special people,” adding, “we love you,” while continuing to circulate false claims of voter fraud, as he has done for months.
As night fell, social media cracked down on Trump, Twitter flagged and deleted multiple tweets and slapped Trump with a 12-hour suspension. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat followed suit. Twitch also disabled Trump’s account.
What it would take to enact the 25th Amendment
The invocation of the 25th Amendment is considered extraordinary (see below for when it’s been used) and the use of the amendment’s Section 4 is unprecedented: A variety of conditions must come together for the vice president to assume the duties of the president this way.
Section 4 of the 25th Amendment 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.”
The “principal officers of the executive departments” refer to the 16 secretaries within the president’s cabinet.
For Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to take effect, the vice president would need to secure the support of a majority of the department heads and then alert congressional leaders. Alternatively, Congress can designate another body instead of the cabinet. Following the vice president’s notification of congressional leaders, the president can request the return of his presidential powers.
In the event that the 25th Amendment is used, it would mean Pence would assume Trump’s presidential responsibilities. Trump could then declare to the House Speaker and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate that there is “no inability” for him to govern. At that point, it would be up to Congress to decide on the matter within 21 days, which would pass the Jan. 20 date when Biden takes office, meaning Pence would hold onto the presidential powers till Biden takes over.
Congress is not in session and would need to be called back, if it came to that.
This isn’t the first time Congress has considered invoking the 25th Amendment against Trump
Following his coronavirus diagnosis and hospitalization, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced legislation that would allow Congress to enact the 25th Amendment if Trump became incapacitated, although she insisted at the time that the legislation wasn’t specifically aimed at Trump.
When released from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Trump, while still under physician supervision and the steroid dexamethasone, abruptly stopped stimulus check negotiations, only to reinstate them hours later, and offer a stimulus package that ultimately fizzled out. At the time, congressional Democrats discussed invoking the 25th Amendment, but didn’t bring the matter to a vote.
Has the 25th Amendment ever been used before?
Section 4, the portion largely referenced throughout the week, has never been enacted, only coming close once during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
Congress approved the 25th Amendment in 1965. It was ratified and certified as an amendment the following year by President Lyndon Johnson.
The first use of the other sections of the 25th Amendment was in 1973 when President Richard Nixon nominated Gerald Ford to replace Vice President Spiro Agnew, who had resigned. The amendment was used once more when Nixon resigned and Ford assumed the presidency and chose Nelson Rockefeller to fill the vice presidency.
Most recently, President George W. Bush twice invoked the 25th Amendment to temporarily transfer the powers of the presidency to Vice President Dick Cheney while Bush underwent colonoscopies under anesthesia, first in 2002 and then again in 2007. His father, then-Vice President George H. W. Bush, was the recipient of 25th Amendment authority from President Ronald Reagan in 1985.