Plan unfolding to sack ‘treasonous’ Trump
US President Donald Trump has just two weeks left in office and yet, despite that short period of time, there are now calls for him to be sacked immediately due to the riots that have engulfed Washington DC.
Some are fearful of what Mr Trump, apparently convinced he won a "landslide" victory, could attempt in the dying days of his presidency.
It may seem a farfetched idea to unseat Mr Trump - after all he has already been impeached once and remains in the Oval Office. But an amendment to the US constitution may provide a mechanism to dethrone Mr Trump. It won't be easy; one commenter said it would have to be proved a president was as "nutty as a fruit cake" for it to get across the line.
If invoked, it would lead to an ignominious end to Mr Trump's time in office. And it demands his close ally, Vice President Mike Pence to turn on him.
Illinois Governor Jay Pritzker, a Democrat, was one of several politicians to call for Mr Trump to go.
"There is no doubt in my mind that his efforts to encourage a coup represent high treason to this democracy and all Americans. He espouses a danger to our nation. He must be impeached and removed from office immediately," he said on Wednesday US time.
Vermont Governor Phil Scott - a Republican who voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 elections - agreed.
"The fabric of our democracy and the principles of our republic are under attack by the President. Enough is enough. President Trump should resign or be removed from office by his Cabinet, or by the Congress."
Vice President Pence can help put down this attempted coup if he wants to.— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) January 6, 2021
I’m circulating a letter urging him to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
If he doesn’t, then Congress should go ahead and impeach the President.
Democrat Michigan Congresswoman Ilhan Omar declared she had begun drafting articles of the President's impeachment.
The Washington Post, which earlier this week published audio of the President asking Georgia's Secretary of State to "find 11,780 votes" so he could overturn the election result, said the 25th amendment should be invoked.
"The president is unfit to remain in office. Every second he retains the vast powers of the presidency is a threat to public order and national security," the paper said in an editorial.
"Vice President Pence should immediately gather the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment."
THE POWER OF THE 25TH AMENDMENT
The 25th amendment to the US Constitution deals with how the country will be led should the President no longer be able to govern.
Much of the amendment concerns scenarios where the President is unequivocally out for the count: death, resignation or serious illness.
But section four is the most controversial. This allows for the president to be declared "unable to discharge the powers and duties" of office, even if the person sitting in the Oval Office is still making decisions.
Section four could be invoked by the vice president along with a majority of cabinet members. Once invoked, the VP, in this case Mike Pence, would become acting president.
"Because it was imagined for a case such as Kennedy's assassination, where an unconscious president might recover, (section four) allows a president to reclaim his office when he considers himself fit," Mark Meigs, a US historian at the University of Paris wrote on website The Conversation.
"Hence the certainty of a power struggle should section four be used to dispose of a president who is conscious, active and unwilling to leave office."
The president can challenge the move by informing the President pro tempore of the Senate (the second most senior figure in the Senate) and the speaker of the House of Representatives. The VP can then, in turn, send another declaration of the president's unfitness.
"At that point, both houses of Congress have 21 days to deliver a two-thirds majority confirming the president's unfitness and thus the vice president's ascension," said Prof Meigs.
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THE 25TH HAS BEEN INVOKED BEFORE
Some sections of the 25th have been invoked before. On several occasions when a sitting president was undergoing surgery, section three has allowed a strictly temporary handover of power.
George H W Bush became acting president for eight hours on July 13, 1985, when then President Ronald Reagan had a colectomy. During Mr Bush's term as president, between 1989 and 1993, his vice president Dan Quayle had two, two-hour stints as acting president when his boss underwent two separate colonoscopies.
Section four, however, has never been used. But it has been discussed several times during Mr Trump's tenure due the perception of his erratic behaviour.
In 2018, the New York Times published an opinion piece by a "senior official in the Trump administration" which raised the 25th.
"Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis."
'NUTTY AS A FRUIT CAKE'
Section four is vague. It doesn't set out exact yardsticks for dethroning a sitting president.
"The only time it would present itself - the only time the president would say 'I'm well and able' and the vice president and cabinet would disagree - would be if the president was as nutty as a fruit cake," the late senator Birch Bayh, who helped draft the 25th amendment, wrote in his book One Heartbeat Away: Presidential Disability and Succession, in an extract quoted by USA Today.
Some politicians have now openly said it should be considered.
However, the need for a two-thirds majority on the floor of both houses if Mr Trump were to challenge the strategy makes things difficult.
Several Republican members would have to vote against the President. That risks angering his support base, whose votes many GOP politicians will crave well into the future.
And it remains to be seen whether Mr Pence has the stomach to bring down Mr Trump who has just a fortnight left on the clock.
But if the President continues to make questionable statements, to be seen to side with rioters and put US democracy at continued risk, even his most ardent political fans may ponder using the 25th to dislodge the 45th.
- with Jessica Wang.
Originally published as Plan unfolding to sack 'treasonous' Trump