Washington, 8 January 2021 (tca/dpa/MIA) — US Vice President Mike Pence has not engaged in any discussions with Cabinet members on invoking the 25th Amendment despite White House staff openly questioning Donald Trump’s fitness for office in the final days of his presidency, an administration official told McClatchy on Thursday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called on Pence to invoke Section 4 of the constitutional amendment, which allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to declare that the sitting president is incapable of exercising the duties of the office. The California Democrat said her caucus is demanding Trump be held responsible for inciting a violent mob to storm the Capitol building as members of Congress certified his election loss.
Absent that extraordinary constitutional move, which has never been tried in the nation’s history, the House of Representatives may proceed with impeaching Trump for a second time, Pelosi said. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has similarly called on Pence to act.
Although sources close to the White House said that the prospect of invoking the 25th Amendment had come up among current and former administration officials, they said it was highly unlikely that Pence would act on it.
Former national security adviser John Bolton, who also saw it as improbable, said that it would take Pence meeting in secret with Cabinet members to get a majority to sign a letter declaring Trump incompetent.
“Because as soon as Trump finds out one or more of his Cabinet members have signed this letter he will fire them. He will fire them, and then how’s Pence going to get a majority of the Cabinet to sign the letter?” Bolton said in an interview with McClatchy.
Only one Republican congressman, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, has joined the call for Pence to invoke the constitutional provision. Other prominent Republicans, such as Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have cautioned against the move.
In a statement on discussions about the 25th Amendment, Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for the Biden transition, said that the president-elect “will leave it to Vice President Pence, the Cabinet and the Congress to act as they see fit.”
“Donald Trump disqualified himself long ago, and his actions to foment a violent mob in a vain attack on our democracy, which overwhelmingly failed, were repugnant,” Bates said.
Trump during the day was not seen or heard from publicly. Twitter and Facebook locked his account on Wednesday and he had no public events on Thursday.
For weeks, he had been encouraging supporters to come to Washington on Jan. 6. In an address early on Wednesday on the outskirts of the White House complex, Trump directed those attending the rally to march on Capitol Hill. They did so and succeeded in storming the Capitol Rotunda, passing through Statuary Hall and reaching the Senate and House chambers.
Trump’s incitement of the mob contributed to a slew of resignations Wednesday night and Thursday morning, leaving a White House already hollowed out of staff less than two weeks from Biden’s inauguration seeming even more empty.
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, was on a plane home to Washington on Wednesday afternoon hoping to reap the benefits of another diplomatic breakthrough in the Middle East — easing a yearslong regional crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar — before landing to news of a mob rampaging through the Capitol.
His absence alongside Trump was particularly acute as the outgoing president faced an unprecedented crisis of his own making with few trusted confidants left by his side to guide his response.
Some of the remaining staff are dejected, disgusted and depressed that the Trump era is coming to an end with unprecedented violence and chaos, even for a president who has sown disruption as a matter of course over his four years in office.
Speaking with national security staff on Thursday morning, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien offered motivational remarks and said that he would remain in his post through the remaining days of Trump’s term, another administration official said. But he was unable to stop his own top deputy, Matt Pottinger, from resigning in abhorrence of Wednesday’s display.
Meanwhile, a former senior official who remains close to the White House said that while there had been talk among some current White House officials and Cabinet members about invoking the 25th Amendment, “They are more likely to ride it out.”
From a legal standpoint, several Republican lawyers told McClatchy that it would be “unworkable” to apply the 25th Amendment to Trump because he does not meet the conditions in the Constitution for using it outright.
The amendment says that the vice president will become president in the case of death or resignation or if the vice president and a majority of Cabinet secretaries provide a written declaration to the House and Senate that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
“But Trump is capable of discharging the duties and powers. That’s what they’re worried about,” Bolton said.
Bolton said that Democrats pushing impeachment as an alternative should consider whether the country would be better off having Pence as president for the remaining days in Trump’s almost concluded term.
“Is it worth the risk that this would drive Trump to doing something that as of now, he may have just given up?” Bolton said. “With Trump it’s never over till it’s over, but you want to provoke a fight with him? You want to increase the risk that he’ll do something really destructive? Go ahead and impeach him.”