Pence rules out invoking 25th Amendment on Trump

Vice President Mike Pence is ruling out invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from power, less than a week after the president fomented the violent insurrection at the Capitol. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Vice President Mike Pence is ruling out invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from power, less than a week after the president fomented the violent insurrection at the Capitol. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

House likely to begin historic second impeachment effort Wednesday

Vice President Mike Pence is ruling out invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from power, less than a week after the president fomented the violent insurrection at the Capitol.

In a letter Tuesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Pence said the mechanism should not be used “as a means of punishment or usurpation” and reserved for cases of medical or mental incapacitation. Pelosi has called on Pence to secure the majority of the Cabinet and vote to declare Trump unfit to serve.

As the House appears on the cusp of a bipartisan impeachment of Trump, Pence encouraged Congress to avoid actions to “further divide and inflame the passions of the moment” and to focus on smoothing the transition to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

Pelosi has said if Pence rejects use of the 25th Amendment, the House will move to impeach him. Already, at least three Republicans have said they would vote for that.

Even though Trump’s term ends in eight days, House Democrats are moving to oust him from office through an unprecedented second impeachment in the final days of his presidency.

Trump faces a single charge — “incitement of insurrection” — after the deadly Capitol riot in an impeachment resolution that the House will begin debating Wednesday. The House Rules Committee spent much of Monday morning and early afternoon debating the resolution virtually.

On Monday, House Democrats introduced a resolution calling on Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office before Inauguration Day.

Before departing for Texas on Tuesday morning, Trump decried the Democrats’ latest effort to remove him from office. In his first remarks to reporters after last week’s violent Capitol riots, Trump defended his rally remarks to a protest crowd last week as “totally appropriate,” and said impeachment is “a really terrible thing that they’re doing.”

“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” he said. “I want no violence.”

At the same time, the FBI warned ominously Monday of potential armed protests in Washington and many states by Trump loyalists ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20. The Washington Monument was closed to the public amid the threats of disruption, and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf abruptly resigned.

It all added up to stunning final moments for Trump’s presidency as Democrats and a growing number of Republicans declare he is unfit for office and could do more damage after inciting a mob that violently ransacked the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday.

ExploreU.S. Capitol riots investigation

“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government,” reads the four-page impeachment bill. “He will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is summoning lawmakers back to Washington for votes, and Democrats aren’t the only ones who say Trump needs to go.

ExploreREAD: Democrats’ new impeachment charge against President Trump

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling on Trump to resign.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, encouraged House GOP colleagues late Monday to “vote your conscience,” according to an anonymous source quoted by The Associated Press.

The Democrats’ House resolution was blocked by Republicans. However, the full House is to hold a roll call vote on it Tuesday, and it is expected to pass. After that, Pelosi said, Pence will have 24 hours to respond. Next would be the impeachment proceedings.

ExploreWhich U.S. presidents have faced impeachment?

Pence and Trump met late Monday for the first time since the Capitol attack, a senior administration official said.

Trump and Pence had a “good conversation” in the Oval Office discussing the week ahead, and they pledged to continue working for the remainder of their terms, said the official, another anonymous source quoted by the AP.

No member of the Cabinet has publicly called for Trump to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment.

Impeachment was established in the U.S. Constitution as a way to accuse a president of a crime and then hold a trial to determine if guilty. The first step requires a U.S. House member to introduce an impeachment resolution. The House speaker directs the judiciary committee to hold a hearing to decide whether to put the full measure to a vote by the full chamber. A majority of the committee must approve the resolution. If approved, it moves to a full vote on the House floor. If a majority of the House vot

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer was exploring ways to immediately convene the Senate for the trial as soon as the House acts, though Republican leader Mitch McConnell would need to agree. The president-elect suggested splitting the Senate’s time, perhaps “go a half day on dealing with impeachment, a half day on getting my people nominated and confirmed in the Senate, as well as moving on the package” for more COVID relief.

The impeachment bill from Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Jerrold Nadler of New York draws from Trump’s own statements about his election defeat to Biden.

ExploreDC attorney general may charge Trump for allegedly inciting Capitol riots

Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.

The impeachment legislation also details Trump’s pressure on state officials in Georgia to “find” him more votes, as well as his White House rally ahead of the Capitol siege, in which he encouraged thousands of supporters last Wednesday to “fight like hell” and march to the building.

The mob overpowered police, broke through security lines and windows and rampaged through the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to scatter as they were finalizing Biden’s victory over Trump in the Electoral College.

While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, Democrats and others argue he must be held accountable and prevented from holding future public office. He would be the only president twice impeached.

House Democrats have been considering a strategy to delay for 100 days sending articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial, to allow Biden to focus on other priorities.

There is precedent for pursuing impeachment after an official leaves office. In 1876, during the Ulysses S. Grant administration, War Secretary William Belknap was impeached by the House the day he resigned, and the Senate convened a trial months later. He was acquitted.

Cicilline, leader of the House effort, tweeted Monday that “we now have the votes to impeach,” including 213 cosponsors and private commitments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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