House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says President Donald Trump should immediately be removed from office or Congress may proceed to impeach him. Her call came one day after a violent mob stormed the Capitol, forcing the building into lockdown. (Jan. 7)
DONALD TRUMP: Let's walk down Pennsylvania Avenue--
NANCY PELOSI: President has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people. I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the vice president to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th Amendment. If the vice president and cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment.
BILL BARROW: There are two ways that President Trump could conceivably be stripped of his powers. One is the 25th Amendment, which is not fully removing the president from office, but basically just opposing him from controlling the levers of government. The quickest way for that to happen would be for Vice President Mike Pence to convene the cabinet and hold a majority vote removing the president temporarily from office. Pence would become the acting president.
The catch here, though, is that for that to last, President Trump would basically have to accept that. He could send his own letter to Congress, more or less disputing this act. And then that would throw the matter to Congress. And they would have to vote on it. And that creates, you know, another timeline here, as we tick through the last few days of his term before the January inauguration.
An even longer timeline is impeachment and conviction by the Senate. Impeachment in the House would then require a trial in the Senate. And there's just questions of whether that can be done in such a short time frame. After he spent weeks questioning the results and sowing doubt among tens of millions of Americans, and then yesterday very clearly inciting one of his signature rallies in Washington to, quote, "go to the Capitol," "to be wild."
And then that's exactly what the country saw. And we're seeing, since then, even members of his own party criticize this president, who remains very popular among their base. But criticized this president in ways we have not seen. It is difficult to say that Congress absolutely couldn't do something in this time frame. The legal process the absolute legal timeline, is there that you could move things very rapidly through.
Politically, could that happen? I think that's an obvious open question. There is a possibility-- and to be clear, I've not spoken with top aides to the leaders of either chamber-- but there's another option that, for the purposes of history, might become appealing in the final days.
And that is a joint censure of the president by Congress. That's Congress going on record in resolution form, laying out charges against the president, just as you might in an impeachment proceeding. But not convicting him, per se, of any sort of high crime or misdemeanor, under the Constitution. Simply saying, this is what you did, it is reprehensible for these reasons, and we are putting into the historical record the formal disapproval of the legislative branch of this chief executive. And it's there forever.