What we have seen on January 6, 2021 is the logical conclusion of the last four years of this man encouraging hatred and attacking our institutions—and the last two months of him feeding his followers with outrageous, unfounded lies in an attempt to overturn the results of a free and fair election.
Especially because he has another 14 days in office.
There are two methods of removing a president from power, one temporary, one permanent. Either will solve our present problem.
The permanent solution—and the preferable one—is impeachment. It is preferable because it’s unquestionably appropriate and opens the door to disqualifying Trump from running for president again. (Barring someone from future office requires a majority vote in the Senate, but that vote can only happen after the Senate has voted by a two-thirds majority to convict and remove the impeached president.)
But impeachment has problems. First, you need a majority in the House and a two-thirds majority in the Senate to remove Trump. There would be no problem getting a majority vote in the House. And given the current state of affairs, it’s possible that even Trump’s supporters in the Senate now realize that the president is too irrational, too out-of-control, and too dangerous to leave in office until January 20.
But even if impeachment were politically possible, there are logistical problems. First, Congress is in the middle of counting electoral votes. Congress isn’t legally allowed to take up any other business until this task is completed. Moreover, neither the House nor the Senate is able to meet in the Capitol at the moment and though there are reports that they hope to meet again in the Capitol tonight, it’s not clear that the protests are over. And if anything would spark a new attack, it would be the start of formal impeachment proceedings. This isn’t to say that Congress should yield to the mob. It’s merely a recognition that pursuing impeachment immediately might be difficult.
The Twenty-fifth Amendment, however, requires no complicated or lengthy procedures. It allows the temporary removal of the president when the vice president and a majority of the cabinet determine that “the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
This is much simpler to accomplish, but more constitutionally fraught. This language obviously covers physical incapacity—the president can’t discharge his duties while he is in a coma—but it is broad enough to cover other incapacities as well. There is certainly a case to be made—especially after Trump’s bizarre speech supposedly de-escalating the situation—that the president’s fixed delusion regarding the election and his belief that he is the legitimate president-elect constitute a mental incapacity that renders him incapable of discharging the duties of his office.
For one obvious example, it has already rendered him incapable of properly protecting Washington D.C. and the Capitol building.
Under the Twenty-fifth Amendment, the president can contest his removal but Congress has up to 21 days to decide whether the president’s powers should be reinstated. We only need to get through the next 14 days. So a declaration by Pence and a majority of the cabinet would be enough to get us through the current crisis.
Under normal conditions, removing the president under the Twenty-fifth Amendment would be a grave step. But these are not normal conditions.
And while it is a grave step, it’s also a necessary one. Trump has demonstrated himself to be irrational, unfit, and dangerous to the republic. There is now no question that he is a political nihilist who does not care about the Republican party, the government he heads, or the nation he has sworn to protect.
If he is allowed to wield the power of the presidency for the next two weeks, there is no guarantee that he will not inflict even more damage on the country.
Even Vice President Pence and the members of Trump’s cabinet must see that now.
Something must be done.