Mike Pence will not invoke the 25th amendment to remove Donald Trump from office and replace him with just eight days remaining in their term, the vice president told speaker Nancy Pelosi in a letter.
Mr Pence sent his letter to the speaker on Tuesday evening just as the House was taking procedural votes on a resolution calling on him to execute the president’s removal.
“With just eight days left in the president’s term, you and the Democratic Caucus are demanding that the Cabinet and I invoke the 25th Amendment. I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with the Constitution,” Mr Pence wrote.
In a letter that at first commends Ms Pelosi and House Democrats for showing “unity” by continuing to certify the 2020 election results even after the riots at the Capitol by Trump supporters, Mr Pence accused the speaker of playing “political games” by trying to oust Mr Trump.
But it’s not just Democrats who want Mr Trump removed from office before president-elect Joe Biden takes over the presidency on 20 January.
Multiple prominent Republicans have already announced they will vote to impeach Mr Trump when the House takes that vote on Wednesday. Those Republicans include House GOP conference chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming and congressmen Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and John Katko of New York.
Mr Katko, who hails from a Democratic-leaning district that broke for both Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, is the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee.
Ms Cheney was unsparing about Mr Trump’s role in inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol last Wednesday killing five people, including a US Capitol Police officer.
“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame ... There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the constitution,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.
Even the Senate GOP appears poised to turn on Mr Trump.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has quietly indicated he believes the president committed impeachable offenses, although he has not indicated whether he would vote to convict or acquit the president for inciting an insurrection, the New York Times has reported.
That does not necessarily mean Mr McConnell would bring back the Senate and vote to convict him.
The Kentucky Republican, who will be relegated to minority leader later this month, wants to hear the case laid against Mr Trump before making a final determination, the Washington Post reported.
House judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler on Tuesday filed a 76-page report of materials supporting Democrats’ impeachment resolution.
Mr McConnell would not urge members to vote one way or the other on conviction or acquittal, potentially setting up one of the most dramatic, uncertain, and momentous congressional votes in US history.
It is unclear when the Senate will be called into session for an impeachment trial.
For now, it is scheduled to return on 19 January, just one day before Mr Biden’s inauguration.
Mr Pence’s letter on Tuesday reiterated the administration’s ostensible desire to ensure “an orderly transition” and underscored the message prominent in some GOP circles that now is not the time take such a divisive step as removing a president.
“In the midst of a global pandemic, economic hardship for millions of Americans, and the tragic events of January 6th, now is the time for us to come together, now is the time to heal,” Mr Pence wrote.