By Ken Bredemeier
The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate called Thursday for President Donald Trump’s immediate removal from office with 13 days left in his presidency after he urged a crowd of angry supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol, where they overran the building.
“What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States incited by the president. This president should not hold office one day longer,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York.
Schumer, set to become the Senate majority leader soon, said the “quickest and most effective way” to oust Trump from the White House would be for Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of Trump’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to declare that he is incapacitated and unable to continue in office.
“It can be done today,” Schumer said, but “If the vice president and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president.”
A handful of other lawmakers, including House speaker Nancy Pelosi, also called for Trump’s removal through use of the constitutional provision or his impeachment for a second time, even though President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office January 20.
“While it’s only 13 days left, any day can be a horror show for America,” Pelosi said, calling Trump’s actions leading up to the storming of the Capitol a “seditious act.”
Pelosi at a news conference singled out individual Cabinet members, asking why they would not intervene.
“Are they ready to say for the next 13 days this dangerous man can assault our democracy?” Pelosi said of the Cabinet.
Another Trump critic, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, said, “All indications are the president has become unmoored not just from his duty … but from reality itself.”
Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a frequent Trump opponent, said she had prepared articles of impeachment against the president.
Biden, speaking from his transition hub in the eastern state of Delaware, called Wednesday’s mayhem at the Capitol an “assault on democracy” and “one of the darkest days” in the country’s history.
Despite the widespread revulsion over the assault on the Capitol, many of Trump’s most fervent supporters are standing by him and suggesting — implausibly and without any evidence — that the riot was sparked not by the president’s backers but by radical “antifa” leftists who infiltrated the mob.
“Please, don’t be like #FakeNewsMedia, don’t rush to judgment on assault on Capitol,” wrote Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks in a tweet. “Wait for investigation.”
Others like former national security adviser John Bolton, who has become a harsh Trump critic since leaving the White House, have questioned the wisdom of attempting to impeach the president in the last two weeks of his presidency.
While acknowledging the danger in Trump’s persistent claims that he was cheated out of reelection, Bolton said on CNN late Wednesday, “We ought to bear in mind the adage ‘do no harm’ because you can make this worse if we’re not careful.”
There was, in any case, no indication that Pence is prepared to participate in any effort to end Trump’s presidency prematurely, despite his refusal to go along with the president’s entreaties for him to try to block congressional certification of Biden’s victory.
But several U.S. news outlets reported that key Trump White House aides Wednesday night discussed ways to remove him, even as lawmakers were debating whether to certify Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College victory.
According to The Washington Post, one administration official described the behavior of Trump, angered at the impending end of his presidency, as that of “a total monster.” Another official said the situation was “insane” and “beyond the pale.”
Trump eventually urged the protesters in a video to “go home,” but appeared to sympathize with them, saying, “We love you. You are very special.”
After Pence, who presided over the Electoral College debate in Congress, read the outcome of his and Trump’s defeat, Trump released a begrudging acknowledgment of the outcome.
The president, who has refused to concede to Biden, was temporarily banned from Twitter late Wednesday because of fears he would incite more violence. An aide dispatched a middle-of-the-night statement on his behalf.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again.”
It was not clear whether the commitment came in response to the growing pressure for his removal from office.
Before Congress started its Electoral College debate, Trump urged thousands of his supporters at a rally near the White House to fight the outcome. He urged Pence to thwart the certification of Biden’s victory, even though the vice president told him he did not have the constitutional power to unilaterally block the official recognition of their defeat.
At a midday rally outside the White House on Wednesday, Trump had implored his backers, many of them wearing red hats emblazoned with his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, to march on the Capitol.
“We’re going to walk down there, and I’ll be there with you,” he told the crowd. “We’re going to walk down … to the Capitol, and we are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
Trump then returned in his limousine to the White House, while hundreds of his supporters stormed past police into the Capitol building, smashing windows, and occupying the two chambers of Congress and some of the lawmakers’ offices before authorities hours later restored order.
The FBI, the top law enforcement agency in the United States, appealed Thursday for help in identifying the protesters.
In response to the mayhem at the Capitol and Trump’s role in fomenting it, several people in his administration resigned. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao resigned Thursday, the first Cabinet member to do so.
Former acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who more recently was Trump’s envoy to Northern Ireland, also resigned, as did Trump’s one-time press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, who until Wednesday was first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff.
Mulvaney said on CNBC he informed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of his decision Wednesday night.
“I can’t do it. I can’t stay,” he said.