Pelosi calls for Trump’s immediate ouster after deadly riotsJanuary 8, 2021
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday called for Vice President Mike Pence to immediately initiate the removal of President Donald Trump, declaring him a seditious threat to the country who can’t be trusted to finish even the last two weeks of his term.
Pelosi’s extraordinary statement, a day after Trump-inspired mobs ransacked the Capitol, lends significant weight to a mounting Democratic effort to oust Trump, either by impeaching him for the second time or pressuring Pence and Cabinet officials to invoke the 25th Amendment process.
“This is urgent, this is an emergency of the highest magnitude,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol, one day after Trump’s supporters stormed the complex in a deadly riot and spurred dozens of Democrats — and a tiny number of Republicans — to call for Trump’s removal. “Yesterday the president of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America.”
Pelosi said if Pence did not take action, Democrats could quickly act to remove Trump from office, and did not rule out canceling next week’s planned recess and bringing the House back into session. Democrats could swiftly create a commission to begin the process of removing Trump through the 25th Amendment, or take the unprecedented step of impeaching a sitting president for the second time in one term.
“While there’s only 13 days left, any day can be a horror show for America,” said Pelosi, whose own office was among those invaded by rioters on Wednesday.
Pelosi later escalated her rhetoric on Trump, telling her leadership team on a private call that he committed an act of treason, per multiple sources familiar with the call.
The time frame for any floor action is impossibly tight with President-elect Joe Biden taking the oath on Jan. 20. But House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat, said “there is time for impeachment which seems appropriate.”
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have remained mostly silent on the attempt to either press Pence to deploy the 25th Amendment or impeach Trump, which without their support would doom any effort.
Pelosi said the “best route” would be for Pence to initiate the action himself, which would involve the vice president and a majority of either the Cabinet, or another body “established by law” — which could include Congress.
Pelosi told reporters she hoped to hear from Pence Thursday on whether he was willing to act and if not, she was prepared to move quickly in the House. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also called on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment Thursday and said Congress should move to impeach if that did not happen. He also said Congress should include an impeachment charge that declares Trump can never run for office again.
Pelosi and Schumer tried to reach Pence by phone earlier Thursday to urge him to invoke the 25th Amendment but were never patched through, after being put on hold for 25 minutes. Pence has not spoken publicly about being pressured to remove the president.
“We don’t need a lengthy debate,” Schumer said at a press conference in New York. “The president’s abuse of power, his incitement of a mob against a duly elected representative body of the United States, is a manifestly impeachable offense.”
“If there ever was an impeachable offense, what the president did was it,” he added.
The once-unthinkable push for a second impeachment vote had been steadily gaining ground across the House Democratic Caucus, with members incensed at Trump’s role in the deadly chaos on Wednesday that gripped Capitol Hill — and put the lives of themselves and their staff at danger, according to multiple lawmakers and aides.
Still, the comments to call for his immediate removal with less than two weeks in office are remarkable for Pelosi — second in line to the presidency — who had long resisted impeachment before the House went ahead with the proceedings in late 2019 and has mostly taken a measured approach in her dealings with Trump over the last four years.
“People’s lives are at stake, as well as our democracy,” Pelosi told reporters in the press conference Thursday, noting that she hadn’t slept since the daylong siege at the Capitol, which had kept her in her office until 5 a.m.
There is also a very real discussion among Democrats and at least some Republicans about how exactly Congress can convince Pence and Trump’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, whether it’s more of an outside pressure campaign or the kind of commission that Pelosi and Democrats, led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), have floated.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who has been sounding the alarm about Trump’s dangerous and false rhetoric for weeks, became the first congressional Republican to declare that Trump should be removed.
“It’s time to invoke the 25th Amendment and to end this nightmare,” Kinzinger said Thursday.
And Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, a former head of the House GOP’s campaign arm, told Spectrum News Ohio: “If the Cabinet decided to do that, I would not oppose it.”
Privately, multiple Democratic members and aides insist that there is a larger group of Republicans beyond Kinzinger who support the move and are in discussions about how to proceed.
But most House Republicans have remained silent about the effort. Some Trump allies, including GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, flirted with the baseless suggestion that anti-Trump forces had infiltrated the riots, and others even directly raised that notion on the floor of the House.
While Senate Republicans are escalating their condemnation of the president, no one so far is calling for Trump to be removed from office. When asked about the 25th Amendment late Wednesday evening, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who unlike Kinzinger voted to impeach Trump last year, said: “I think we’ve got to hold our breath for the next 20 days.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Thursday that invoking the 25th Amendment is not “appropriate” at this time and said he’s still hoping for a peaceful transfer of power.
But Pelosi appeared undeterred by the lack of Republican support Thursday, saying Congress could establish its own commission “very fast” to make its own recommendation to remove Trump, which she noted could include former presidents. Impeachment, too, remains on the table.
“The president must be held accountable again,” Pelosi said, though she said she doesn’t have “immediate plans” to move toward impeachment proceedings.
Although impeachment can be a time-consuming process, some Democrats have also urged that it be deployed for a secondary purpose: to bar Trump from ever holding a federal office. Trump has not indicated if he intends to run for president in 2024, but the specter of his continued presence in politics has shaped some of his supporters’ — and potential primary rivals — behavior.
Even without Republican backing on the Hill, some GOP officials have begun discussing deploying that drastic option, according to multiple reports, while some Trump administration officials have already resigned in protest. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, became the first Cabinet secretary to step down Thursday.
Another high ranking official, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, said he’s “disappointed” by Trump’s incitement of violence but hasn’t discussed the possibility of removing the president with other Cabinet members.
Perdue said he’s “had no contact with other Cabinet members in that area — nor do I expect to have any.”
If Democrats did move to impeach, it could launch Congress into a weekslong investigation into Trump’s role in the chaos at the Capitol this week, potentially lasting into the start of Biden’s term.
Democrats are currently circulating two different sets of impeachment articles, led by Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.), respectively. Omar’s resolution is expected to be filed in “privileged” form, a mechanism that would allow a single member to demand a vote on it in relatively short order.
The push for impeachment has been particularly strong within the Judiciary Committee. Several members of that panel had discussed the option on their group text chat on Wednesday, in the same moments that members were evacuating from the House chamber as Trump supporters breached the Capitol building.
It’s uncertain if more Republican lawmakers will deliver additional public statements rebuking the president. A majority of the House GOP caucus still voted to back Trump’s doomed bid to overturn the election results Wednesday night after a day of mayhem in the Capitol.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who said he supported efforts to remove Trump from office immediately, also expressed doubt that enough Republicans would support removing Trump from office before Jan. 20.
“I am skeptical there is either a path through impeachment or the 25th Amendment to remove the president,” he said. “I have watched the president’s enablers long enough to know that they are unlikely to rise up and remove him from power.”
Marianne LeVine, Burgess Everett, Ryan McCrimmon and Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.