The US House has passed a resolution calling for Vice President Mike Pence to remove and replace Donald Trump as president after Trump was accused of inciting a deadly insurrection at the US Capitol last week.
The resolution which Pence confirmed on Tuesday he will not heed calls on the vice president to “immediately use his powers under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to convene and mobilize the principal officers of the executive departments in the Cabinet to declare what is obvious to a horrified nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties of his office.”
Pence would then expel Trump from the presidency and assume “the powers and duties of the office as Acting President” until Joe Biden is sworn in on 20 January.
The resolution was introduced this week and shepherded through the House Rules Committee by Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who has been grieving the death-by-suicide of his 25-year-old son, Tommy, earlier this month.
At a committee hearing establishing the parliamentary rules for the final vote on the 25th Amendment resolution on Tuesday, Raskin shared that his daughter and son-in-law had been with him on the House floor last Wednesday as the Trump-incited mob laid siege to the Capitol.
Led by Pence, Congress was voting to certify Biden’s electoral victory when rioters breached security.
Raskin on Tuesday echoed the position of nearly every Democrat in Washington that each day Trump remains in office represents a threat to lawmakers and the American people.
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“This is not just a crisis and an emergency. It is a continuing crisis and emergency. It is not over yet,” Raskin said. “Can we say that we feel safe being in the hands of this president, with the horror and the threats returning to our nation’s Capitol?”
Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger was the only Republican to vote for Tuesday’s resolution. Every Democrat in the chamber voted for it.
The 25th Amendment was ratified and added to the US Constitution in 1967. No vice president has ever pursued it.
With Pence declining to be the first, the House will now move to impeach Trump, who has just eight days left in office.
The House will vote on impeachment on Wednesday, a resolution that already has the requisite 218 Democratic co-sponsors to pass.
Unlike the first impeachment of Trump in December 2019, this one will have bipartisan support.
Several prominent Republicans have already announced they will vote to impeach Trump, including House GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Congressmen Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and John Katko of New York.
Katko, who hails from a Democratic-leaning district that broke for both Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, is the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee.
Cheney was unsparing about Trump’s role in inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol last Wednesday killing five people, including a US Capitol Police officer.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame. … There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.
Whether the Senate will actually remove Trump from the White House and bar him from ever holding elected office again is an open question, although the New York Times has reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has quietly indicated he believes the president committed impeachable offenses.
That does not necessarily mean McConnell would bring back the Senate and vote to convict him.
The Kentucky Republican, who will be relegated to minority leader later this month, wants to hear the case laid against Trump before making a final determination, the Washington Post reported.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler on Tuesday filed a 76-page report of materials supporting Democrats’ impeachment resolution.
McConnell would not urge members to vote one way or the other on conviction or acquittal, potentially setting up one of the most dramatic, uncertain, and momentous congressional votes in US history.
It is unclear when the Senate will be called into session for an impeachment trial.
Trump’s impending legal woes
In addition to being impeached and barred from holding public office again, Trump should also face “prosecution,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said this week.
“Sadly, the person that’s running the Executive Branch is a deranged, unhinged, dangerous president of the United States. And we’re only a number of days until we can be protected from him,” Pelosi said in a surreal interview with “60 Minutes” surveying the damage to the Capitol.
“He has done something so serious that there should be a prosecution against him,” the speaker said of Trump.
The president’s own legal advisers have urged him to tamp down his rhetoric not only to quell tensions across the US but also to limit his legal exposure for the lethal mob attack on the Capitol last week, CNN has reported.
Experts have speculated that Trump could face both criminal and civil liability for being an organising figure for the mob and stoking its rage.
In his first live speech since last week’s ham-handed but deadly coup attempt, the president finally called the supporters who stormed the Capitol a “mob.”
He also warned Democrats not to remove him from office in his final days.
The outgoing president was vehement that House Democrats’ plan to have him removed and replaced by Vice President Mike Pence either through the 25th Amendment or impeachment would only cause further fraying of the country’s social fabric.
“It’s causing tremendous anger and division and pain far greater than most people will ever understand, which is very dangerous for the USA, especially at this very tender time,” Trump said on Tuesday at a prepared speech along a segment of the US-Mexico border wall in Alamo, Texas.
The president began that speech with a plea “for peace and for calm,” remarks meant to placate his detractors who have accused him of inciting the riot by telling his supporters to “fight” for their country.
“Respect for law enforcement is the foundation of the MAGA agenda,” said the president, who just a week earlier encouraged the mob to descend on the Capitol and subsequently dragged his feet for hours on calling in the National Guard as law enforcement at the Capitol was overrun.
POTUS denies responsibility
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump refused to take any responsibility for the deadly riot.
“If you read my speech, and many people have done it, and I’ve seen it both in the papers and in the media, on television, it’s been analysed, and people thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” the president said in response to questions about his role in the riots.
But that speech was not appropriate; it is one of the very grounds for an impeachment article “incitement to insurrection” that has a staggering breadth of support, a neoconservative Republican like Cheney to the self-avowed Democratic socialist Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
Shortly before sending the crowd up to the Capitol, Trump told his supporters: “If you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Wednesday’s impeachment article cites that and other inflammatory lines from the speech as grounds for dismissal from office.
The article states: “In all this, Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
The House will begin debate on the impeachment resolution at 9 am local time on Wednesday.