On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) threatened to launch into immediate impeachment if Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s cabinet do not immediately invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president.
“Yesterday, the president of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America,” Pelosi began, mentioning the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, leading to the death of four people. “The gleeful desecration of the U.S. Capitol, which is the temple of American democracy, and the violence targeting Congress, are horrors that will forever stain our nation’s history, instigated by the president of the United States. That’s why it’s such a sting.”
“In calling for this seditious act, the president has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people. I join the Senate Democratic leader [Chuck Schumer] in calling on the vice president to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th Amendment,” Pelosi declared. “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, and the American people, by the way.”
“Justice will be done to those who carried out these acts, which were acts of sedition and acts of cowardice,” she added.
The 25th Amendment allows the vice president and the cabinet to remove a president on the grounds that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” The president has the right to protest and claim he is able to discharge his duties, at which point the 25th Amendment gives the president an 8-day process period.
George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley warned against using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump. “You have to be very careful with this. When you start to remove presidents by what you perceive as a mental disability, it is a standard that can easily be abused,” Turley told Fox & Friends. “This is about constitutional faults, not character faults, and it’s very dangerous if you start to say, ‘Well, I just view him as unstable’ unless you’ve got very strong ground.”
Impeachment provides a faster and more effective tool so long as the House of Representatives and the Senate ease the process for speed. Ironically, Pelosi and the other Democrats cheapened impeachment by rushing a flimsy partisan case against Trump in 2019.
The Capitol riots may give Pelosi the right case to impeach Trump, but she already used that weapon. She would also need to build support among Republicans in the Senate, which may be a rather high bar.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 7, 2021
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.