Following the chaotic scenes witnessed at the US Capitol on January 6, after a pro-Trump mob stormed the building in an attempt to reverse presidential election results, an emerging cohort of lawmakers is collectively calling for the outgoing President’s impeachment.
With Donald Trump’s presidency ending in less than two weeks, both Democratic and Republican members of Congress are calling for the invocation of the 25th Amendment, in the aftermath of the Capitol riots. Trump has been accused of interfering with the US democratic process and for propagating violence through his adamant refusal to accept electoral defeat. After what President-elect Joe Biden refers to as “the darkest day in US history,” the legalities of Trump’s removal are being examined, with comparisons being drawn between the process of impeachment and the 25th Amendment.
What is the 25th Amendment and how is it different from impeachment?
There are two ways, as per the American constitution, to evict a president from office; the 25th Amendment and the impeachment process. Ratified in 1967, following John F Kennedy’s assassination, the 25th Amendment involves matters related to presidential succession and disability. It broadly states that the Vice President is to assume presidency upon the president’s death, eviction, or resignation, while also referring to a president’s incapacity as a result of physical or mental illness.
The 25th Amendment would require Mike Pence, the incumbent US Vice President, and the majority of Trump’s Cabinet to declare Trump’s incompetence, unlike the impeachment process, which is voted by Congress. Impeachment is also a slower process than the 25th Amendment, under which Pence could immediately take over.
After the impeachment trial, a two-thirds majority of the Senate must vote to prosecute and oust the president. The circumstances under which an American President can be impeached are related to “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” as per the US Constitution.
Who wants Trump’s immediate deposal?
A significant number of eminent administration officials have demanded Trump’s immediate removal from office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged Vice President Mike Pence to immediately initiate proceedings, declaring Trump a threat to the country.
Pelosi’s grave statement substantiates a mounting Democratic effort to oust Trump, either through impeachment or through pressing the Vice President and Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment process.
“This is urgent, this is an emergency of the highest magnitude,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol, adding that the President had incited “an armed insurrection against America.”
She said if Pence failed to take action, “the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment,” stating that the “best route” would be for Pence to initiate the action himself.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also called on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, while Minnesota Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar tweeted about “drawing up articles of impeachment.”
“Donald J. Trump should be impeached by the House of Representatives [and] removed from office by the United States Senate,” Ilhan Omar posted on Twitter. “We can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath.”
“If the 25th amendment is not invoked today, Congress must reconvene immediately for impeachment and removal proceedings,” said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US Representative.
What could Trump be accused of?
Trump has already been impeached once in December 2019, on charges relating to “abuse of power,” especially in relation to his involvement with Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son. However, he was acquitted in February 2020.
Now, Trump could be charged with attempting to topple the US government, explains Frank Bowman, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Missouri. He could also be impeached for less specific offenses such as disloyalty to the constitution.
“The essential offense would be one against the constitution – one of essentially trying to undermine the lawful results of a lawfully conducted election,” Bowman said, as reported by The Guardian.