On Wednesday, Donald Trump’s supporters stormed a session of Congress held at the Capitol building to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win, triggering unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy and accusations the president was attempting a coup.
Moments after an extraordinary rally by Trump seeking to overturn the election, a flag-waving mob broke down barricades outside the Capitol and swarmed inside, rampaging through offices and onto the usually solemn legislative floors. Police have now cleared the last of the supporters of Trump from the US Capitol on Wednesday after they stormed the building and disrupted the certification by Congress of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced she is extending the public emergency to 15 days, as a result of rioters overtaking the US Capitol building earlier today. This will take the emergency declaration until the day after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
However, the violence has prompted some lawmakers to call for Trump’s removal from office even before Biden is sworn in on January 20. But can it be done? Yes.
According to the Constitution, a President can be removed from office in two ways - the 25th Amendment or an impeachment which would require a Senate conviction. In both cases, current Vice President Mike Pence would take over until Biden’s inauguration.
In fact, reports suggest that there have indeed been some discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump. Google Trends, too, shows a spike in search for the 25th Amendment and what it means.
The Amendment was ratified in 1967 and was actually adopted in the wake of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. It basically deals with presidential succession and disability.
After Kennedy was assassinated, he was succeeded by Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson. But this meant that the country did not have a Vice President. Moreover, there were no provisions which specified the course of action in case the President was taken ill. This raised questions about presidential succession and led to the Amendment being ratified four years later.
Section 4 of the Amendment specifies what happens if a President becomes unfit to preside and yet refuses to leave office. Rings a bell? Trump has made it clear over and over again, from the day election results were declared, that he would not leave the office easily.
The drafters of the 25th Amendment clearly intended for it to apply when a president is incapacitated by a physical or mental illness, experts say. Some scholars have also argued that it could also apply more broadly to a president who is dangerously unfit for office.
For it to be invoked, Pence and the majority of Trump’s Cabinet would need to declare that Trump is unable to perform the duties of the presidency. Pence would then take over.
Could Trump refute the claim and instead say that he is capable to preside over the office? Yes, he could. But it would have to be verified by Pence and the majority of the Cabinet. If they vote in favour of Trump, he would regain his power. If not, the issue would then be decided by Congress, but Pence would continue to act as president until then.
Americans also wanted to know if the 25th Amendment has ever been invoked. Sections of the Amendment, which lays down guidelines for succession, have been invoked. According to USA Today, the third section was used during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The third section allows a president to temporarily hand over duties and responsibilities to a Vice President. It was applied when Reagan underwent a surgery in 1985.
However, the fourth section of the Amendment has never been invoked.
There is also a lot of interest on Google on where exactly Donald Trump is right now and what he could be doing right now.
For one, the President has been blocked on social media platforms Twitter and Facebook - which could explain his silence.
Twitter locked Trump out of his account for 12 hours and said that future violations by Trump could result in a permanent suspension. In a similar fashion, Facebook put a 24-hour lock on Trump’s account citing two violations of its policies.