Democratic Push to Oust Trump Runs Up Against Clock, Politics
The rapidly growing calls among Democrats to oust President Donald Trump either by his own cabinet taking action or by another impeachment is running quickly up against the limits of time and Republican Party politics.
Trump on Thursday appeared to be trying to quell the furor and head off any clamor for his ouster within the GOP. He released a video message in which he condemned the storming of the U.S. Capitol by his supporters on Wednesday and said he was prepared for a smooth transition to President-elect Joe Biden.
“A new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20th,” Trump said. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth orderly and seamless transition of power.”
The president has been besieged on all sides since supporters he inspired vandalized the Capitol and disrupted the House and Senate during the certification of the Electoral College vote. Some administration officials have resigned in protest and several senior Republicans in Congress said he bears responsibility for ginning up the mob and refusing for weeks after the election to acknowledge Biden’s victory.
Despite that, most Republicans haven’t expressed an appetite for another drawn out political battle with the combative president who has just 12 days before he leaves office.
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the lone Republican who voted to convict Trump in last year’s impeachment trial, pointed out that there’s little time for either an impeachment or what likely would be a drawn out battle over the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which provides for the removal of a president.
“I think we have to hold our breath,” he told reporters.
Trump’s encouragement of the mob in Washington prompted Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday to call on Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to remove Trump under the 25th Amendment. They both said Trump could be impeached — again — if they don’t.
Pelosi and Schumer are channeling the genuine fear and anger among Democratic lawmakers that spans the party’s ideological spectrum from Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York to Stephanie Murphy of Florida, the co-chair of the moderate Blue Dog Democrats.
Jim Manley, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said the assault on the Capitol was so unprecedented that it is in the realm of possibility that House Democrats could proceed. Five people died in the episode, including a police officer and a woman who was shot by the police outside the House chamber.
The demands by both Pelosi and Schumer “indicates that for many, doing nothing is not an option,” he said, even though he does not expect enough Republican votes to reach the two-thirds required for an impeachment conviction.
On Thursday evening, Pelosi held a conference call with other top House Democratic leaders, and discussed various options tied to the 25th Amendment and impeachment, and she plans a caucus-wide conference call at noon Friday to discuss what to do, officials said.
A number of Democrats are joining the appeal to invoke the 25th Amendment. But that course, too, has legal and procedural hurdles that would make it difficult to carry out by Jan. 20.
One person familiar with her thinking said Pelosi, as of Thursday, night, had not determined a course of action. She and her advisers believe they have multiple options but that the outcome is unpredictable, according to the person, who asked for anonymity to discuss private deliberations.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stayed mum on any next steps regarding Trump after ripping the futile effort by the president’s allies to undo the election that was part of the impetus for the mob to invade the Capitol.
McConnell is married to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who on Thursday resigned saying the attack on Congress “deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”
Later on Thursday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also resigned.
A top Trump ally, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said at a news conference Thursday that the riots would “tarnish” the president’s legacy and, like many lawmakers in both parties, he thought what happened Wednesday could have been much worse. Still, he didn’t think action against Trump was warranted.
“I don’t support an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment now,” Graham said. “If something else happens, then all options would be on the table.”
Multiple groups of House Democrats, at the same time, were circulating impeachment articles charging Trump with inciting the riot and seeking to bar him from seeking office again.
Representative Jerry Nadler of New York said he supported bringing impeachment articles straight to the House floor for a vote given the limited time.
For Democratic leaders, there’s little risk in pressuring Trump’s cabinet and Pence, but impeachment would put the spotlight on Trump instead of on preparing for Biden’s incoming administration.
Anger and Fallout Fears
Nevertheless, many Democrats were pushing to do so anyway.
A former senior House aide who keeps in close contact with representatives and staff said that resolve to remove Trump grew over the hours lawmakers were kept behind locked doors to protect them from the intruders.
The former aide said impeachment could move forward regardless of whether Senate Republicans were on board. Pelosi and Schumer also may be trying to prod some GOP lawmakers who are sympathetic to the idea of getting Trump’s cabinet to remove him.
While Pelosi could call the House back to impeach Trump with a simple majority vote on the House floor, the Senate would be compelled to hold a trial presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts.
Given that there are still millions of Trump supporters still on his side, the potential for massive political fallout for Republican senators who cross him might limit how quickly the chamber would act or how many of its members would vote to convict.
Representative Susie Lee, a Nevada Democrat, said Trump “deserves to be removed from office, whether by invoking the 25th Amendment, impeachment, or resignation.”
But she said in a statement that without broad, bipartisan support, the likelihood of forcing him out of office before Biden’s inauguration “is extremely low.”
“Especially after the political theater that consumed the Electoral College certification process in Congress,” Lee said, “we owe it to our constituents to be honest.”
— With assistance by Laura Litvan, Daniel Flatley, Erik Wasson, and Mike Dorning
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