Democrats and even a smattering of Republicans eyed options Thursday to immediately oust President Trump from office, but they faced the more likely prospect that they will have to live with him through the Jan. 20 change of power.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, both urged Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to declare Mr. Trump too infirm to serve.
Otherwise, they said, they will pursue another attempt to impeach and remove him from office — with the possibility of banning him from ever serving again.
“This is an emergency of the highest magnitude,” Mrs. Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol, speaking about 24 hours after she and fellow lawmakers had to be evacuated as pro-Trump rioters broke into the building and stormed the House and Senate chambers to disrupt the counting of electoral votes.
That count confirmed Joseph R. Biden will become the 46th president on Jan. 20, putting a firm end to Mr. Trump’s tenure.
But a number of lawmakers say the damage Mr. Trump might do between now and then — less than two weeks from now — is too great.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois became the first sitting Republican member of Congress to publicly back Mr. Trump’s immediate ouster, though private conversations among Republicans suggest the appetite does run deeper than him.
One attractive aspect to impeachment for some lawmakers is that, depending on how it is pursued, it could bar him from seeking office in the future.
Flexing the 25th Amendment, meanwhile, would require Vice President Mike Pence to trigger the process, declaring Mr. Trump too infirm to serve. As the rules stand, that decision would have to be ratified by a majority of the Cabinet.
But Mr. Trump could dispute that declaration, sending the matter to Congress, which would be forced to quickly convene and vote. It would take a two-thirds vote of each chamber to remove the president.
That’s an even higher bar than impeachment, which requires only a majority vote in the House to draw up articles, but a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict and remove a president.
Mr. Trump also could unilaterally and temporarily remove himself under the 25th Amendment, but he has shown no indication he’s going to take that step.
Neither has Mr. Pence shown an inclination to trigger the process, and some Republicans said that’s the right call.
“I do not believe that’s appropriate at this point,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican. “I’m looking for a peaceful transfer of power.”
Impeachment and removal is also unlikely.
While Mrs. Pelosi said her troops are ready to act, and indeed some have already drawn up articles, the Senate is slated to be out of town until just before Inauguration Day.
Walking out of the Capitol overnight Wednesday, Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, told reporters that “time is a little short” for impeachment and he doubted the 25th Amendment as a viable avenue.
“I think we’ve got to hold our breath for the next 20 days,” he said.
Mr. Romney was the sole Republican to vote to convict Mr. Trump on one of the articles of impeachment House Democrats brought against the president earlier this year. That attempt fell far short of the two-thirds Senate vote needed to remove him.
Congress‘s own legal research branch says the 25th Amendment was crafted for use in cases of an actual disability, not to derail an unpopular or failing president.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said Mr. Trump’s behavior this week rises to that standard because it “revealed that he is not mentally sound and is still unable to process and accept the results of the 2020 election.”
Mr. Trump delivered a vociferous denunciation of Congress and even Mr. Pence to thousands of supporters gathered near the Capitol around noon on Wednesday, saying they were complicit in denying him an election victory. He repeated a lengthy list of debunked claims and conspiracy theories about the election.
An hour after he stepped off stage, a mob with Trump flags and hats stormed the Capitol, pushing through police barricades and invading the building, breaching the Senate chamber and forcing an armed standoff with police at the doors of the House chamber.
The president, while calling for peace, took to Twitter to reassert the same claims about the election that had riled up his supporters in the first place.
On Thursday Mr. Trump was publicly silent, with much of his social media presence blocked. The White House said he did hold a small, private ceremony to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to three golfers.
Americans for Limited Government, which has backed Mr. Trump, warned that an attempt to oust him in his final days “would light a fuse and endanger the union.”
“Rather than further dividing the country more than it already is, it is time to help the country to heal and move forward so that the orderly transition of power can occur as it should,” said Rick Manning, the group’s president.
The 25th Amendment has never been triggered by a vice president before, and there are a number of questions about how it would operate.
The current Cabinet has a number of acting secretaries, and it’s not clear whether they would be able or required to vote. Complicating matters is the situation of acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, who several courts have ruled was illegally installed in the job.
Mr. Wolf issued a stern statement Thursday morning rebuking Trump supporters, comparing them to last summer’s racial justice rioters, and demanding the president do more to control them.
About an hour later, Mr. Trump informed Congress he was withdrawing Mr. Wolf’s official nomination to serve as secretary, which he had reaffirmed just four days earlier.
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