House passes measure calling on Pence to remove Trump

The House on Tuesday passed legislation calling on Vice President Pence to tap his constitutional authority to remove President Trump from office in response to the president’s role in the deadly mob attack on the Capitol last week.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) crafted the resolution, which calls on Pence, joined by other members of the Cabinet, to oust Trump by activating the 25th Amendment, which allows for the president’s removal if he’s deemed “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

Promoting Trump’s removal, Raskin, a constitutional law scholar, said it’s imperative that Congress send the message “that what took place is absolutely intolerable and unacceptable.”

“It is critical for us now to make clear that this was an absolute dereliction of presidential duty,” Raskin said.

The bill passed 223-205. One GOP lawmaker, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), joined with every voting Democrat in approving the measure.

Most Republicans, however, opposed the effort. Some defended Trump’s actions as harmless; others denounced the president’s behavior, but argued against his removal so close to the end of his term.

Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), senior Republican on the House Rules Committee, said the decision to initiate a president’s removal under the 25th Amendment simply falls outside of Congress’s powers.

“There is no role for Congress absent a dispute between the president and the vice president and Cabinet over his or her ability to fulfill those duties,” he said.

Cole has little reason to fear that Raskin’s proposal has legs.

Pence, a staunch Trump loyalist, had already sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) prior to the vote on Tuesday informing her he would not invoke the 25th Amendment. But the resolution has put Republican leaders in an uncomfortable spot, as more and more GOP lawmakers have come out to denounce the president for his role in the deadly attack on the Capitol.

Leading up to the assault, Trump had refused to acknowledge his election defeat, even despite every state certifying the result and a host of court decisions rejecting his claims of rampant fraud. Trump had then encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol on Wednesday — just as Pence and Congress were inside certifying Joe Biden’s victory — in order to block that process from succeeding.

“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump told thousands of supporters at the White House shortly before the stunning siege.

The ensuing mob stormed into the Capitol, smashing windows, overwhelming Capitol Police officers, defacing historic art and ransacking offices in three hours of bedlam unprecedented in the country’s history.

Five people died during the riot, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was struck by a fire extinguisher. A protester, a 35-year-old California woman, was fatally shot by another police officer as she tried to access the Speaker’s lobby just off the House floor.

Asked Tuesday morning about his role in the violence, Trump washed his hands of it.

“If you read my speech … people thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” he told reporters at the White House.

Democratic leaders have a decidedly different view, accusing Trump of sedition. And they’ve launched a two-pronged effort to remove him from office in the waning days of his tenure.

Pelosi has said repeatedly that she favors Pence invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump quickly. But with Pence unlikely to pursue that course, Democrats are also plowing ahead with a separate gambit: impeaching Trump for a second time.

A single impeachment article, charging Trump with inciting violence, is scheduled to hit the House floor on Wednesday if Pence doesn’t act first. The measure is expected to pass easily, particularly following the stunning announcement from a handful of prominent House Republicans that they’ll back it. That list includes Reps. Kinzinger, Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and John Katko (N.Y.). Republican leaders are expecting more to follow.

It remains unclear if Pelosi will send the article to the Senate immediately, forcing action in the upper chamber, or if she’ll wait for a time to allow Biden the space to seat his Cabinet first.

“Take it one step at a time,” Pelosi said Tuesday.

The lightning-fast reprimands, coming just days before Trump is scheduled to leave office, reflect the severity of the concern from lawmakers in both parties that Trump’s behavior, if left unchecked, would encourage future presidents to adopt similarly disruptive tactics following defeat.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was said to be privately supportive of the Democrats’ impeachment effort, citing an eagerness to move the Republican Party beyond the tight grip of a popular but vindictive figure who has demanded absolute loyalty.

Other Republicans bucking the president made clear that Trump’s move to encourage a mob to descend on the Capitol — and not to intervene immediately when the violence began — was simply untenable for someone in Trump’s position of trust.

“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing,” Cheney said. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Tags 25th Amendment Adam Kinzinger Donald Trump Donald Trump Impeachment Jamie Raskin Joe Biden John Katko Liz Cheney Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Tom Cole
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