When the Senate reconvened on Wednesday after a deadly insurrection by a pro-Trump mob had interrupted Congress’s effort to count the Electoral College vote, Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer equated the day’s events to the Japanese sneak-attack on Pearl Harbor-the event that thrust America into the Second World War.
“President Franklin Roosevelt set aside December 7th, 1941 as a date that will live in “infamy.” Unfortunately, we can now add January 6th, 2021 to that very short list of dates in American history that will live, forever, in infamy.”
My colleague, Garrett Epps, equated the MAGA protestors who overran the Capitol with the “slave power” of the Civil War and Reconstruction Eras, and demanded justice, arguing that we not let a desire for national reconciliation–“our better angels”–seduce us into repeating the errors that led to a century of Jim Crow laws and terror in the South.
Whichever historical analogy you choose, there is a surprisingly broad sentiment that President Trump’s direct role in inciting the sedition should preclude him from serving out the final 13 days of his term.
For example, Jay Timmons, formerly the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and now president and CEO of the right-leaning National Association of Manufacturers, issued a statement calling for Trump to be immediately removed from office: “Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment…because our very system of government, which underpins our very way of life, will crumble…if our leaders refuse to fend off this attack on America and our democracy.”
For context, in 2020, the National Association of Manufacturers gave an award to Ivanka Trump for her “extraordinary support” of American manufacturing.”
The 25th Amendment would allow Pence to “immediately assume the powers and duties of the office” of the presidency” if he and a majority of the Cabinet declare the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” If Trump contested this, Congress would have to settle the matter, with two-thirds of each chamber required to permanently remove him. Under the provisions of the Amendment, the longest the dispute could last is six days—four for Pence to respond to the president and two for Congress to vote.
Of course, this constitutional provision is designed to address a physical health crisis, like the stroke President Woodrow Wilson suffered in October 1919, but it can be invoked for a mental health crisis as well and that’s exactly what Schumer called on Pence to do on Thursday.
“What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement on Thursday. “This president should not hold office one day longer.”
“The quickest and most effective way — it can be done today — to remove this president from office would be for the vice president to immediately invoke the 25th amendment,” Schumer said. “If the vice president and the cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president,” he added.
Republican columnist Bret Stephens of the New York Times prefers the latter prescription because impeachment allows Congress to disqualify Trump “to hold and enjoy any Office of honor Trust or Profit under the United States” ever again.
Impeach the president and remove him from office now. Ban him forever from office now. Let every American know that, in the age of Trump, there are some things that can never be allowed to stand, most of all Trump himself.
There are advocates from both approaches in Congress. Democratic Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD), and Rep. Ted Liu (D-CA) of the House Judiciary Committee are circulating articles of impeachment, while Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger released a video called for removal through the 25th Amendment.
Of course, a third option is that Trump follows Richard Nixon’s example and resign. That’s what Republican Governor Phil Scott of Vermont demands, and he calls on either the cabinet or Congress to remove him if he won’t go voluntarily.
For Epps, irrespective of what happens in the next 13 days, what is needed now is resolute boldness, “Until the nation receives a full accounting, and until criminality pays a suitable price, our institutions will lie open, undefended against those who openly aspire to break them up by force.”
There seems to be more consensus for this approach than I would have expected. While many Republicans are sticking with Trump and even advancing conspiracy theories that Antifa, not the president or his supporters, were responsible for the invasion and looting of the Capitol, the GOP voices calling for swift removal and accountability within Congress and the media, and among their business allies, give a reason for hope that justice may eventually be rendered.
The president may serve out the remainder of his term, but Epps’s concern that “the impulse of liberal Democrats is to forgive and forget” might not bear out. Joe Biden is a conciliator by nature, but when demands for justice are bipartisan, he can best bring the country together by providing a reckoning for Trump’s actions on the infamous day of January 6.