WASHINGTON — A day after deadly riots in the Capitol encouraged by President Donald Trump, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., on Thursday became the first Republican in Congress to call for invoking the 25th Amendment to force Trump out of office.
“The President is unfit. And the President is unwell,” Kinzinger said. Trump must step down either voluntarily or involuntarily, he said.
Trump’s once-solid wall of Republican support — fueling talk of a comeback 2024 presidential bid and an outsized role in the 2022 midterm elections — is starting to crumble in the wake of the Trump-inspired mob storming the Capitol.
“All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough,” Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in the late-night session to finish counting Electoral College votes. Congress got back to work, making official the Joe Biden presidency, after the rioters forced the proceedings to pause.
For the first time, Trump is also muzzled, banned for now on Twitter and Facebook.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. — who soon will be the majority leader — also called for the 25th Amendment to be used to force Trump out of office, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
She said if the 25th amendment is not used, the House will pursue a second impeachment.
“The quickest and most effective way — it can be done today — to remove this president from office would be for the Vice President to immediately invoke the 25th Amendment. If the Vice President and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president.”
By Thursday night, the prospects of invoking the 25th Amendment dimmed. Vice President Mike Pence was not returning calls from Pelosi and Schumer, they said in a statement.
“This morning, we placed a call to Vice President Pence to urge him to invoke the 25th Amendment, which would allow the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to remove the President for his incitement of insurrection and the danger he still poses. We have not yet heard back from the Vice President.”
Kinzinger, already the most outspoken Republican when it comes to denouncing the lies and conspiracy theories Trump spreads, said in a video posted on Twitter — “What happened yesterday is a wake-up call to many, but it’s a call to accountability for others.”
The 25th Amendment, created to deal with a president who is incapacitated, has been used in the past when a president was facing a minor matter — say, under anesthesia for surgery, said Kinzinger. Now, with a president “unmoored,” Kinzinger said the far more serious situation demands action. The amendment also has provisions for involuntary presidential removal.
Trump has only days left in office — the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden is Jan. 20. Kinzinger said there is still a need to act.
“Sadly yesterday it became evident that not only has the president abdicated his duty to protect the American people and the people’s house, he invoked and inflamed passions that only gave fuel to the insurrection that we saw,” Kinzinger said.
”All indications are that the president has become unmoored, not just from his duty, or even his own but from reality itself,” Kinzinger said.
“And it is for this reason that I call for the vice president, members of the Cabinet to ensure the next few weeks are safe for the American people. And that we have a sane captain on the ship,” he said.
Illinois Democrats — Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth plus Reps. Lauren Underwood, Sean Casten, Marie Newman, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Brad Schneider and Jan Schakowsky — also called for the 25th Amendment to be invoked.
Schakowsky said she is joining with colleagues to introduce Articles of Impeachment against Trump “for Incitement of Insurrection and Abuse of Power,” she said.
“Trump presents a grave threat to the continuity of our government, and our democracy. He must be removed from office immediately, and I am calling on the House to impeach, and for Vice President Pence, in parallel to initiate removal via the 25th Amendment,” Casten said in a statement.
Newman said in a statement: “This nation does not have the luxury of waiting two more weeks for him to leave office. The 25th Amendment needs to be invoked immediately.”
Durbin said in tweet, “The VP should immediately invoke the 25th Amendment. If the VP & Cabinet refuse to do their duty, Congress should reconvene to impeach the President.”
Northwestern University History Associate Professor Michael Allen said the 25th Amendment was “intended to deal with precisely this sort of danger from executive power, which the nation’s founders considered the most grave threat to a constitutional democracy, one nearly as dangerous as the king they had just waged revolution against.”
25th Amendment at-a-glance
The 25th Amendment provides for the president to be removed voluntarily or without consent.
At issue with Trump is the provision in Section 4 of the amendment; it allows removal if the Cabinet members and vice president take action.
According to a Nov. 5, 2018, report by the Congressional Research Service titled “Presidential Disability Under the Twenty Fifth Amendment: Constitutional Provisions and Perspectives for Congress,” Section 3 — the voluntary removal — has been “informally” implemented once, by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, and “formally implemented twice, by President George W. Bush, in 2002 and 2007.”