Pelosi, Schumer call for Trump's immediate removal, threaten impeachment

They demanded Vice President Mike Pence invoke the 25th Amendment.

January 7, 2021, 4:08 PM

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called for the immediate removal of President Donald Trump following the breach of the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters Wednesday, leading the charge by Democratic lawmakers to unseat Trump just two weeks before he is scheduled to leave office.

Pelosi demanded Vice President Mike Pence immediately invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump for what she called 'inciting sedition" by encouraging the rioters, threatening to start impeachment proceedings if Pence doesn't agree.

"I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the vice president to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th amendment. If the Vice President and Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment. That is the overwhelming sentiment of my caucus -- and the American people by the way," Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press conference Thursday on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters a day after supporters of President Donald Trump occupied the Capitol, during a news conference in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.
Erin Scott/Reuters

“I don’t think it will take long to get answer from the Vice President. It will be yes, it will be no. And then we’ll see," Pelosi said. She said she and Schumer have made their "interest" in this "known" to Pence world and hope to hear from him soon.

"So, again, we'll review what our options are in terms of the 25th Amendment ... if he wants to be unique and be doubly-impeached. That's kind of up to him and his Cabinet as to whether he should stay in office," Pelosi said.

Calling Trump "a very dangerous person," she said, "this is urgent. This is an emergency of the highest magnitude."

"By inciting sedition as he did yesterday, he must be removed for office. While there's only 13 days left any day could be a horror show for America," she said. "The president has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a press conference at the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Earlier, Schumer, who will soon become the Senate's majority leader, called Wednesday's assault an "insurrection at the Capitol incited by the president" and likewise called on Pence and members of Trump's Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

"If the Vice President and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president," Schumer said.

Schumer also said Thursday he intends to fire the Senate sergeant-at-arms due to the breach of security at the Capitol. Pelosi called for the resignation of the chief of the Capitol Police.

"There was a failure of leadership at the top of the Capitol Police ... he hasn't even called us since this happened," she said.

Separately, Pelosi says she has received the resignation of the Paul Irving, the House sergeant-at-arms, who oversees the Capitol Police.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed concerns about the failure to secure the Capitol complex Wednesday, calling it a "massive failure" of the institutions, protocols and planning that are supposed to protect the first branch of our federal government."

"A painstaking investigation and thorough review must now take place and significant changes must follow," McConnell said in a statement. "Initial bipartisan discussions have already begun among committees of oversight and Congressional Leadership."

Schumer and Pelosi joined a chorus of other lawmakers who are calling on Trump's Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, which lays out the procedures for replacing the president in the event of death, removal, resignation or incapacitation.

Under the amendment Pence and a majority of the president's Cabinet would need to agree that Trump is unfit for office.

Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat with close ties to President-elect Joe Biden, told ABC News Thursday that removing Trump is "urgent" matter.

"If the leadership of the Republican Party, the leadership of the Trump administration, his Cabinet, his vice president, don't see this as a moment of very clear and present danger, then I don't know what the 25th Amendment is for," Coons said.

Their sentiments have been echoed by other Democratic senators on Twitter.

"What happened yesterday was an egregious assault on our democracy and our Constitution, perpetuated by an unfit president," Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-OrC., tweeted. "The 25th Amendment should be invoked today and Trump should be removed from office."

The call from Senate Democrats follows a push by the full force of the House Judiciary Committee, who penned a letter to Pence Wednesday urging him to take action.

"President Trump revealed that he is not mentally sound and is still unable to process and accept the results of the 2020 election," the members wrote.

At least one Republican is also advocating for Trump's removal.

On Thursday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., became the first GOP member to call on Pence to take action.

"The president not only abdicated his duty to protect the American people and the people's house, he invoked and inflamed passions that gave fuel to the insurrection we saw here," Kinzinger said in a video posted to Twitter. "When pressed to move and denounce the violence he barely did so, while of course victimizing himself ... all indications are that the president has become unmoored, not just from his duty, or even his health, but from reality itself."

"It is for this reason that I call for the vice president and members of the Cabinet to ensure that the next few weeks are safe for the American people, and that we have a sane captain of the ship," Kinzinger continued.

The majority of Republicans have stopped short of calling for Trump's removal, though some have admitted that he does shoulder some of the blame for escalating protests Wednesday.

Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a news conference at the US Capitol on Jan. 7, 2021.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he does not support using the 25th Amendment but that he believes Wednesday's events will "tarnish" Trump's presidency.

"The president needs to understand that his actions were the problem not the solution, that the rally yesterday was unseemly, got out of hand, and a good friend of mine, Rudy Giuliani, did not help," Graham said.

"It breaks my heart that my friend, a president of consequence, would allow yesterday to happen and it will be a major part of his presidency," Graham continued. "It was a self-inflicted wound."

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said Thursday morning that it's "hard to really evaluate" who is responsible for the events that occurred at the Capitol but that Trump's rhetoric "inflamed a lot of people."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters that the riots at the Capitol are "one reason why you don't stir people up."

"I think it's just a good lesson to learn," Cornyn said.

Riots at the capitol broke out Wednesday while the House and Senate were in the process of certifying state Electoral College votes. At the beginning of the day, 13 senators had announced their intention to the object to the results in at least 3 states. Trump had urged Pence and senators to stand up objections.

But by the time the protestors were cleared from the capitol, many of those objections were dropped.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted what seemed to be defense of the president Thursday.

"Some misled you. That the VP could reject ballots. That objections could pass or used as leverage to force an audit. They knew the truth but thought it was a great way to get attention & raise money. At this point, Pence has not yet signaled any intention to invoke the 25th Amendment."

He left Capitol Hill after presiding over a joint session of Congress to certify the electoral votes early Thursday morning without responding to shouted questions from reporters.

But, according to Inhofe, Pence expressed that he was "very upset" with Trump during a conversation with him.

If Pence refuses to act, Democrats are calling on their leaders to quickly reconvene to launch an impeachment effort.

"If the 25th Amendment is not invoked today, Congress must reconvene immediately for impeachment and removal proceedings," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted Thursday.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., is working to draft and finalize potential articles of impeachment.

But a move to impeach Trump is likely going nowhere fast. Both the House and Senate are currently scheduled to be out of session until the day before inauguration. Even if they reconvene, drafting and approving articles would take time, and a trial on the Senate floor would take even longer.

Vice-President elect Kamala Harris was asked about impeaching Trump as she left the Senate chamber Thursday morning.

"Oy," she replied.

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