America and the world watched Wednesday as a harrowing, chaotic, violent scene unfolded in Washington, D.C., where supporters of President Donald Trump breached the U.S. Capitol in protest of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
Protesters lined the streets in Washington, D.C., in support of Trump. Violent protesters broke through Capitol Police barricades to access the Capitol Grounds outside the building. A mob of protesters stormed the Capitol Building and could be seen walking through Statuary Hall. Rioters broke windows to access the House Chamber floor.
In the early evening, President Trump released a video message to Twitter urging his supporters to “go home now.” But for many, the response was too little, too late, as Trump has spent months claiming the November presidential elections were rigged against him with little to no evidence to back his claims.
Now, a growing group of lawmakers and business industry professionals are calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to wrestle power away from his boss.
The amendment gives the president the right to temporarily transfer power to the vice president should it be deemed necessary, or – in more dire circumstances – for Congress to deem the president unfit for service, thereby transferring presidential powers to his second in command.
Section 4 of the Amendment, which has never before been invoked, is something of a legal grey area. In order to secure Trump’s removal, both the vice president and a “majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide” confirm in writing that the president is unable to perform his duties.
This declaration must be submitted to both the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives – in this case, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Nancy Pelosi – before the vice president can assume acting duties of the president.
Rep. Ted Lieu of California was one of the first sitting Democrats to call for Pence to invoke the amendment, claiming the president is “detached from reality.”
Rep. Charlie Crist, current Florida congressman and former governor of the state, similarly tweeted: “It's time to remove the President.”
Calls for Trump’s removal extend to the private sector as well. On Wednesday afternoon, National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons issued a biting statement to those still supporting the president’s claims of election fraud.
“This is not law and order. This is chaos. It is mob rule. It is dangerous. This is sedition and should be treated as such,” Timmons wrote in part. “The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power, and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy. Anyone indulging conspiracy theories to raise campaign dollars is complicit.”
“Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy,” he added.
Former Defense Secretary William Cohen, who served in the position under President Bill Clinton’s administration, said calls to invoke the amendment were “long overdue.”
“I don’t know where his Cabinet has been all this time, but it’s long overdue for the 25th Amendment because this man is no longer capable of serving the United States of America,” Cohen said in a CNBC interview Wednesday.
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar also tweeted Wednesday that she has begun drafting Articles of Impeachment against the president, saying Congress “can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath.” Reps. David Cicilline and Ayanna Pressley expressed similar sentiments on their social media accounts.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker echoed the calls for impeachment: "Two weeks is too long for Donald Trump to remain in office, where he can continue to incite more untold violence."
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, also called for Trump's removal: "Enough is enough."
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put it simply, in a one-word post: "Impeach."
Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for abuse of power in late 2019, but the motion failed in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Despite the growing calls to oust President Trump, invoking the 25th amendment is unlikely to come to fruition.
The key part of this section is that the vice president would have to agree that the president was mentally unfit for office – which “no vice president in his right mind would do anything that looked like he was trying to unseat and then succeed the president,” according to the Brookings Institute.
Pence did, however, make a rare break from President Trump earlier in the day. In a statement issued minutes before he was to begin presiding over a joint session of Congresssaid, Pence said that he does not have the power to discard electoral votes that will make Democrat Joe Biden the next president on Jan. 20.