Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that Washington policymakers should act immediately to remove President Trump from office just two weeks before his term ends, citing “seditious” acts related to the president’s role in encouraging the assault on the U.S. Capitol a day earlier.
Pelosi joined Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y) in calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to oust Trump without delay.
Short of that, she said, the House will impeach him for a second time.
“Yesterday the president of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “The gleeful desecration of the U.S. Capitol, which is the temple of our American democracy, and the violence targeting Congress are horrors that will forever stain our nation’s history — instigated by the president.”
Pelosi characterized Trump’s role in his supporters’ storming of the Capitol as “an unspeakable assault” on the very democracy he’s charged with protecting. And she called on Pence and other members of the president’s cabinet to join forces to remove Trump from office, despite the short window remaining before President-elect Joe Biden assumes the White House.
“This is an urgency of the highest magnitude,” Pelosi said.
“While there are only 13 days left, any day can be a horror show for America,” she added.
Feeling that urgency, progressive House Democrats — led by Reps. David Cicilline (R.I.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) — have spent the past 24 hours circulating a draft of two articles of impeachment against Trump.
The first charges that Trump abused his power by seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Specifically, the article points to Trump’s efforts, memorialized in a phone call recording, to pressure Georgia’s top election official to doctor votes in his favor.
The second article states that the lame-duck president abused his power by inciting violence at the Capitol and trying to “orchestrate an attempted coup against our country” on Wednesday as House and Senate lawmakers were certifying the election of Joe Biden.
“Donald Trump remains the single greatest threat to our democracy,” Omar said Thursday, calling on Congress to cut short its recess this month and reconvene. “Every day that he remains in the office of the presidency — overseeing the United States military and nuclear arsenal — is a day the safety of the American people and the world are threatened.”
House Democrats have impeached Trump once before, in December of 2019, after he had withheld foreign aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure officials in Kyiv to launch investigations into Biden and his son. The Senate, led by Republicans, voted along near-party lines to reject those charges and keep Trump in office.
It remains unclear if Pelosi will make good on her threat to impeach Trump again in the short time left before Jan. 20. Both the House and Senate are on recess until then, and Pelosi on Thursday did not indicate that she’s ready to call lawmakers back to Washington to take that extraordinary step. If she did, there’s almost certainly not enough time for the Senate to act on impeachment articles before Trump’s scheduled departure.
Still, the extraordinary nature of Wednesday’s violent assault on the Capitol has created enormous pressure on lawmakers of both parties to hold the president accountable, both for failing to concede his clear election defeat and for encouraging his supporters to march on the Capitol just as Congress — joined by Pence — was voting to certify Biden’s victory.
“You’ll never take back our country with weakness,” Trump told a crowd of supporters Wednesday at the White House, just before the Capitol breach. “You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
The attack on the Capitol shortly afterwards was unprecedented by any standard. Hundreds of protestors quickly overwhelmed the Capitol Police, some of whom were maced and beaten with iron bars, before marching through the vaunted building, smashing windows, stealing items from member offices and attempting to storm onto the House floor while lawmakers ducked for cover.
In the process, one protestor was shot and killed by an officer as she tried to access the House chamber. Three other protestors died of unrelated medical emergencies, according to officials.
In the wake of Wednesday’s extraordinary events, Pelosi called on the resignation of the chief of the Capitol Police, Steven Sund. And she announced that the House Sergeant-at-Arms, Paul Irving, has already delivered his intention to resign.
Trump is not the only figure in Pelosi’s sights.
The Speaker also hammered Republicans on Capitol Hill, accusing them of “enabling” the president by championing his false claims that corrupt election officials in states across the country had orchestrated Biden’s victory. More than 100 House GOP lawmakers — joined by a handful of Senate Republicans — had challenged the official vote tally in Arizona and Pennsylvania, forcing Congress back into session into the wee hours of Thursday morning, even after the Capitol riot.
“These Republicans abdicated their oath of office that was taken just three days prior: to protect the American people and to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Pelosi charged.
But some Republicans sickened by Wednesday’s insurrection said they are backing Democratic calls to remove Trump from power. On Thursday morning, centrist Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) became the first GOP lawmaker to press Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment.
“The president caused this. The president is unfit and the president is unwell. And the president now must relinquish control of the executive branch voluntarily or involuntarily,” Kinzinger, a combat veteran and frequent Trump critic, said in a video message posted on Twitter.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), another moderate and a potential 2024 contender, quickly followed suit, saying Trump must resign or be forcibly removed. And former business executive Carly Fiorina, who ran against Trump in the 2016 GOP primary, said party officials must “repudiate Donald Trump and excise him from the Republican Party.”
Pelosi suggested her preferred response to the week’s extraordinary events is to have Pence remove Trump with the 25th Amendment. That amendment empowers Congress to create “a body” which, working with the vice president, can remove a president deemed “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
Schumer said both he and Pelosi tried to reach Pence by phone Thursday morning to discuss removing Trump. The leaders were placed on hold for 25 minutes, then were told he was unavailable.
“I don’t think it will take long to get an answer from the vice president — it will be yes or it will be no,” Pelosi said.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a former professor of constitutional law, had introduced legislation last year to create such a commission, and Pelosi said Democrats are ready to move quickly on it this month, if need be.
If the vice president declines to take that step, Pelosi warned, then House Democrats would be left with no choice but to impeach Trump again.
“If he wants to be unique and be double impeached that’s kind of up to him and his Cabinet,” she said.