Mike Pence has not ruled out using the 25th Amendment to remove Donald Trump from office in the wake of Wednesday’s riot on the US Capitol that left five dead, CNN reports.
Senator Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Pence Thursday to declare Trump unfit for office after he riled up crowds telling them to ‘fight’ moments before a mob stormed the Capitol.
The Vice President refused to take their calls and he has not spoken publicly since Wednesday’s events, leading the Democrats to begin an impeachment process as an alternative option to remove Trump from office.
Despite Pence’s silence, the Vice President is keeping the move to invoke the 25th Amendment very much on the table for if or when Trump becomes more unstable in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, a source told CNN.
The latest twist in this week’s events comes as it was revealed Pence sheltered in a bunker with his family during the Capitol riot and Trump didn’t check in on his safety.
Mike Pence has not ruled out using the 25th Amendment to remove Donald Trump from office in the wake of Wednesday’s riot on the US Capitol that left five dead
Pence, daughter Audrey Pence and wife Karen Pence walk during the Inaugural Parade on January 20 2017. Pence and his family were forced to shelter in a bunker where they could hear the angry mob looking for him
The source said Pence’s team is concerned the president could take action that would risk national security if either the Vice President pursues the 25th Amendment or Democrats push forward with their impeachment plans.
Now, Pence is working to ensure there is a smooth transition to the Biden administration and that the incoming team are best prepared for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported.
Tensions have reached a head between the president and his second in command following Wednesday’s riot where Trump’s supporters broke into the Capitol and chanted ‘Hang Mike Pence’.
Despite stoking the fury among the crowd by falsely telling them Pence had the power to stop the certification of Biden’s victory, Trump did not check in on the Vice President during the siege.
‘Was he concerned at all that an angry mob that he commanded to march on the Capitol might injure the vice president or his family?’ a source said to CNN.
Pence, his wife Karen Pence, daughter Charlotte and brother Rep. Greg Pence were forced to take cover in a secret location.
The VP and his family – who had joined him for the ceremony – are said to have been able to hear the angry mob shouting ‘where’s Mike Pence’ while they stormed through the building.
The two men have not spoken since the violent attack on Capitol Hill, CNN reported.
Trump has also not condemned the threats made against his second in command by his supporters and has gone to efforts to freeze him out including revoking the Vice President Chief of Staff Marc Short’s White House access Wednesday.
Pence has faced calls from Democrats to declare Trump unfit for office after he riled up crowds telling them to ‘fight’ (above) moments before a mob stormed the Capitol
Pence has finally seen ‘a glimpse of POTUS’s vindictiveness’ and is disappointed and saddened by it, a source told CNN.
After his numerous attempts to overthrow the presidential election through unfounded claims of mass voter fraud failed, Trump pushed the blame for his defeat onto Pence.
The president repeatedly and incorrectly claimed the Vice President could put a stop to the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
‘States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval,’ Trump wrote on Wednesday morning, just hours before his supporters tried to hunt Pence down.
‘All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!’
‘If Vice President @Mike_Pence comes through for us, we will win the Presidency,’ he added.
‘Many States want to decertify the mistake they made in certifying incorrect & even fraudulent numbers in a process NOT approved by their State Legislatures (which it must be). Mike can send it back!’
He continued to falsely claim that Pence simply lacked the ‘courage’ as he whipped up the crowds at his ‘Stop the Steal’ rally into a frenzy Wednesday and urged them ‘to fight’.
‘Mike Pence, I hope you get to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country, and if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you,’ Trump said at the rally.
Pence in fact did not have the power to do this – something he made clear in a statement Wednesday and in a conversation with Trump Tuesday.
‘Some believe that as Vice President, I should be able to accept or reject electoral votes unilaterally,’ Pence’s statement read.
A supporter of Donald Trump carries a Confederate flag on the second floor of the US Capitol
Pro-Trump insurgents stormed Capitol Hill on Wednesday in an attack that left nation stunned
‘Others believe that electoral votes should never be challenged in a Joint Session of Congress,’ he continued.
‘After a careful study of our Constitution, our laws, and our history, I believe neither view is correct.’
This marked the first time Pence publicly broke rank with Trump and reportedly outraged Trump.
The 25th Amendment, which also governs a president who voluntarily relinquishes power on a temporary basis, requires that 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’ inform the Congress that the president is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.’
It is a provision never before used for the removal of a president against his will.
It requires Pence and a majority of the Cabinet to vote to remove Trump from office due to his inability to ‘discharge the powers and duties of his office’.
Even if Pence and half the cabinet agrees, the 25th Amendment move requires a two-thirds majority of both chambers if the president objects.
Several cabinet members are on an acting basis, lowering the number who could agree to the move.
Pelosi and Schumer, the two top Democrats, had called on Pence to invoke the Amendment this week.
Tensions have reached a head between the president and his second in command following Wednesday’s riot
Schumer revealed their efforts were scuppered when they were put on hold for 25 minutes before being told Pence would not come to the phone.
House Democrats will introduce their impeachment resolution on Monday charging Trump with ‘incitement of insurrection’.
House Rep. Ted Lieu of California announced on his Twitter feed Saturday that 180 members of Congress have signed as co-sponsors of the article of impeachment that he helped draft alongside fellow House Reps. Jamie Raskin and David Cicilline.
Lieu said that while all 180 co-sponsors are Democrats, he is confident that Republican members of the House will support to impeach.
A draft of the article prepared by Cicilline, Lieu, and Raskin states that, ‘Incited by Trump, a mob unlawfully breached the Capitol,’ injured law enforcement, menaced lawmakers and the vice president, and interfered with the count of the Electoral College.
Some Republicans have already suggested they are open to impeachment.
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who voted to acquit Trump last year, said he will ‘definitely consider’ impeachment.
And Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who also voted to acquit, told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday that she wants Trump to resign.
Senator Pat Toomey told Fox News Saturday he believes Trump committed ‘impeachable offenses’.
Two Republican Congress members told CNN they would support impeachment with one saying ‘I think you will have GOP members vote for impeachment.’
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the earliest a second trial would begin is Inauguration Day because the Senate is in recess until January 19.
The move to impeach a sitting president for a second time is an unprecedented event in American history.
The fresh talk of finding a way to remove Trump came after he egged on his supporters, who stormed the Capitol
An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while Trump supporters gather in front of the Capitol on Wednesday
Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress
Trump’s initial impeachment trial came after it emerged that he had pressured the Ukrainian president for information on Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
He was impeached in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress but was acquitted by the Senate in February after only one Republican – Mitt Romney – broke from party lines to back the impeachment article.
The move to remove Trump from power comes in the wake of Wednesday’s riot at the US Capitol.
Trump is accused of inciting violence among his supporters telling them to ‘fight’ in a rally moments before the riot erupted.
His response once the violence started has also said to have shocked White House aides.
He stayed quiet for hours as rioters wreaked chaos on the Capitol and five died, reportedly watching the scenes unfold on TV and refusing to tell his fans to exit the building.
He finally addressed the nation Wednesday several hours later – after Biden condemned the violence in a public address – where he told his supporters ‘I love you’ but ‘go home’.
It has also emerged that Trump resisted efforts to deploy the National Guard and White House officials had to intervene to make it happen, with Pence giving officials the go-ahead from where he was hiding out.
Trump supporters broke through the barricades around the Capitol Wednesday and entered the seat of government sending lawmakers fleeing for their lives.
Protesters were riled up by the president during a rally near the White House where he told them to head to Capitol Hill where lawmakers were scheduled to confirm Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
Trump told the crowd to ‘fight’: ‘Unbelievable, what we have to go through. What we have to go through – and you have to get your people to fight.’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer demanded the president’s removal from office Thursday
A violent mob then stormed the Capitol, breaking through police barricades and smashing windows to enter the building.
Lawmakers were forced to go into hiding for several hours as Capitol police grappled to take back control while the mob defecated in the Senate and House, invaded Nancy Pelosi’s office and looted items potentially including state secrets.
Five people were killed in the violent riot including a police officer who was reportedly hit over the head with a fire extinguisher by a rioter.
Three top Capitol security officials have stood down as questions are being raised over the failure to stop the breach occurring in the first place.
Dozens have been rounded up and arrested since the attack including a QAnon supporter, a 70-year-old who brought two handguns, a rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails to the riot and a newly sworn-in West Virginia delegate.
The FBI is asking for the public’s help in bringing all those responsible to justice.
Meanwhile, House Democrats will start proceedings to impeach Trump Monday charging him with ‘incitement of insurrection’ after he egged on his supporters and then failed to condemn the violence or tell them to leave the Capitol for hours after the violence erupted.
Twitter banned the president from its platform Friday saying in a statement that his recent tweets amounted to glorification of violence.
WHAT DOES THE 25TH AMENDMENT SAY? CAN TRUMP’S CABINET REALLY TOPPLE HIM?
The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution deals with presidential authority in the event of death or removal from office, and was ratified in 1967, in the wake of John F Kennedy’s assassination.
What does the 25th Amendment say?
It is in four sections, all dealing with the president leaving office during his or her elected term.
The first section states that the vice president takes over the Oval Office if the president dies or resigns – or is removed – something which the original Constitution did not clearly state.
Presidents of course can be removed by impeachment, a feature of the constitution from the start. They can also be removed through the 25th Amendment – of which more below.
Section II states that if the vice president dies, or resigns – or is fired – both the House and Senate have to confirm a new vice president. Until 1967, presidents could change vice presidents mid-term on their own if they got the vice president to agree to resign – not something that actually happened, but which was possible in principle.
Section III makes clear that a president can temporarily delegate his powers to the vice president, and later reclaim them when he – or she – is capable of serving. This is most often invoked if a president is under the influence of surgical anesthetic for a short period of time.
Section IV is the amendment’s most controversial part: it describes how the president can be removed from office if he is incapacitated and does not leave on his own.
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’ must write to both the president pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, saying that ‘the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.’
The term principal officers of the executive departments would normally mean the cabinet secretaries.
So at least eight of the president’s 15 most senior Cabinet members together with the vice president must agree that a president should be removed before any plan can move forward.
Notifying the House Speaker and the Senate president pro tempore is the act that immediately elevates the vice president to an ‘acting president’ role.
The deposed president can contest the claim, giving the leaders of the bloodless coup four days to re-assert their claims to the House and Senate.
Congress then has two days to convene – unless it is already in session – and another 21 days to vote on whether the president is incapable of serving. A two-thirds majority in both houses is required to make that determination.
As soon as there is a vote with a two-thirds majority, the president loses his powers and is removed, and the vice president stops acting and is sworn in as president.
But if 21 days of debate and votes ends without a two-thirds majority, the president gets back his powers.
What could happen to trigger the 25th Amendment?
Vice President Mike Pence and eight of the 15 ‘principal’ Cabinet members would have to agree to notify Congress that President Donald Trump was incapable of running the country.
That group is made up of the Secretary of State, Treasury Secretary, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Interior Secretary, Agriculture Secretary, Commerce Secretary, Labor Secretary, Health and Human Services Secretary, Transportation Secretary, Energy Secretary , Education Secretary, Veterans Affairs Secretary and Homeland Security Secretary.
Their formal notification would go to the House Speaker and, in the senate, to the ‘president pro tempore’, the Senate’s most senior member. As soon as the letter is sent, Pence would become ‘acting president.’
Alternatively, Congress could set up its own mechanism to decide if he is fit for office – maybe a commission, or a joint committee. Pence would still have to agree with its conclusion and then write formally to the Speaker and president pro tempore.
Or another possibility is that the pool of ‘principal officers’ is considered to be bigger than the 15 and a majority of that group call Trump incapable.
What if Trump does not agree?
If Trump claims he is capable of holding office, he would write to the House Speaker and the president pro tempore of the Senate within four days, setting up three weeks of intense debate in both houses of Congress.
Trump would be removed from office if both two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate agreed with Pence and his cabal.
If either of both chambers fell short of that mark, Trump would retain his powers and likely embark on a wholesale housecleaning, firing Pence and replacing disloyal Cabinet members.
Are there any loopholes?
The 25th Amendment allows Congress to appoint its own panel to evaluate the president instead of relying on the Cabinet – the men and women who work most closely with Trump – to decide on a course of action.
It specifies that some ‘other body as Congress may by law provide’ could play that role, but Pence would still need to agree with any finding that the president is incapable of discharging his duties.
That commission could hypothetically include anyone from presidential historians to psychiatrists, entrusted to assess the president’s fitness for office.
Another loophole is that it does not spell out that the Cabinet is needed to agree, but says that the ‘principal officers’ of the departments are needed. That term is undefined in the constitution. In some departments legislation appears to name not just the secretary but deputies and even undersecretaries as ‘principal officers’, so many more people could be called in to the assessment of Trump’s fitness.
But Trump’s cabinet has a swathe of ‘acting’ cabinet officer – and it is unclear if they could therefore take part in removing him.
Could Trump fire Pence if he rebelled?
Yes, in principle. If Trump smelled a whiff of trouble – if Pence and a cabal of Cabinet members, or Pence and a panel assembled by Congress seemed ready to judge him incapacitated – he could dismiss his vice president with the stroke of a pen to stop the process.
But installing a more loyal VP could be problematic since the 25th Amendment includes its own poison pill: Both houses of Congress must vote to approve a new vice president.
That means Trump would find himself up against the same Congress that would vote on his fitness for office, unless the process were to unfold in the weeks before a new Congress.
Theoretically, a Democratic-controlled Congress could make life dramatically more difficult for the president if it came into power in the midst of the constitutional crisis.
One scenario has appeared to stump presidential historians, however: Firing Pence before the process is underway, and then leaving the vice presidency vacant, would give Congress no practical way forward. That would present its own constitutional crisis.
Is there any precedent for this?
No. Only Section III, the voluntary surrender of presidential powers, has ever been used – and only very briefly.
In December 1978, President Jimmy Carter thought about invoking Section III when he was contemplating a surgical procedure to remove hemorrhoids.
Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both voluntarily relinquished their powers while undergoing procedures under anesthetic.
Section IV has also never been invoked, although there have been claims that Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff Donald Regan told his successor, Howard Baker, in 1987 that he should be prepared to invoke it because Reagan was inattentive and inept.
The PBS documentary ‘American Experience’ recounts how Baker and his team watched Reagan closely for signs of incapacity during their first meeting and decided he was in perfect command of himself.