The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate called Thursday for President Donald Trump’s immediate removal from office with 13 days left in his presidency after he urged a crowd of angry supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol, where they overran the building.
“What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States incited by the president. This president should not hold office one day longer,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York.
Schumer, set to become the Senate majority leader soon, said the “quickest and most effective way” to oust Trump from the White House would be for Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of Trump’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to declare that he is incapacitated and unable to continue in office.
“It can be done today,” Schumer said, but “If the vice president and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president.”
A handful of other lawmakers, including House speaker Nancy Pelosi, also called for Trump’s removal through use of the constitutional provision or his impeachment for a second time, even though President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office January 20.
“All indications are the president has become unmoored not just from his duty … but from reality itself,” said Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a Trump critic.
Another vocal Trump opponent, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, said she had prepared articles of impeachment against Trump.
There was no immediate indication that Pence, after refusing Trump’s frequent entreaties to block congressional certification of Biden’s victory in the Electoral College, was part of any effort to oust Trump.
But several U.S. news outlets reported that key Trump White House aides discussed ways to remove him Wednesday night, even as lawmakers were debating whether to certify Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College victory.
According to The Washington Post, one administration official described Trump’s behavior, angered at the impending end of his presidency, as that of “a total monster.” Another official said the situation was “insane” and “beyond the pale.”
Trump eventually urged the protesters in a pre-taped video to “go home,” but appeared to sympathize with them, saying, "We love you. You are very special."
After Pence, who presided over the Electoral College debate in Congress, read the outcome of his and Trump’s defeat, Trump released a begrudging acknowledgment of the outcome.
The president, who has refused to concede to Biden, was temporarily banned from Twitter late Wednesday because of fears he would incite more violence. An aide dispatched a middle-of-the-night statement on his behalf.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again.”
Before Congress started its Electoral College debate, Trump urged thousands of his supporters at a rally near the White House “to fight” the outcome. He urged Pence to thwart the certification of Biden’s victory, even though the vice president told him he did not have the constitutional power to unilaterally block the official recognition of their defeat.
At a midday rally outside the White House on Wednesday, Trump had implored his backers, many of them wearing red hats emblazoned with his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, to march on the Capitol.
“We're going to walk down there, and I'll be there with you,” he told the crowd. “We're going to walk down ... to the Capitol, and we are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong."
Trump then returned in his limousine to the White House, while hundreds of his supporters stormed past police into the Capitol building, smashing windows, occupying the two chambers of Congress and some of the lawmakers’ offices before authorities hours later restored order.
The FBI, the top law enforcement agency in the United States, appealed Thursday for help in identifying the protesters.
In response to the mayhem at the Capitol and Trump's role in fomenting it, several people in his administration resigned. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao resigned Thursday, the first Cabinet member to do so.
Former acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who more recently was Trump's envoy to Northern Ireland, also resigned, as did Trump's one-time press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, who until Wednesday was first lady Melania Trump's chief of staff.
Mulvaney said on CNBC he informed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of his decision Wednesday night.
“I can’t do it. I can’t stay,” he said.