CLEVELAND — The chorus of Republicans and Democrats alike calling for Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and force President Donald Trump’s ouster has only grown louder since Wednesday’s riots inside the capitol building. Among those calling for the unprecedented step is Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who told reporters Friday that if Pence does not invoke the 25th Amendment, Congress should seriously consider impeachment.
Late Thursday night, President Trump publicly acknowledged for the first time that his presidency will end on January 20th and the transfer of power has begun. By that point, for many lawmakers on Capitol Hill, it was far too little and far too late, as harrowing images of Wednesday’s protests and riots still remain fresh in the minds of many.
“This is beyond something we’ve ever seen. It’s for our national security. There’s no telling what this president might do over the next 12 days,” Brown said Friday morning. “I think [President Trump] should be removed with the 25th Amendment. If he’s not, we should consider impeachment very seriously.”
Section 4 of the 25th Amendment permits the removal of a sitting U.S. president if he or she is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
Ratified in 1967 after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the 25th Amendment details the steps needed to remove and replace the president in the event that he or she dies, resigns or is incapacitated. Section 4 of the 25th Amendment permits the removal of a sitting U.S. president if he or she is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
The fourth section of the amendment has never been invoked.
Along with the majority of the president’s cabinet, the vice president, under the 25th Amendment, has to issue a written declaration that the president is unable to discharge the duties of the position. When the declaration is made, the vice president assumes the duties of president while the president — stripped of all authority — remains in office.
Congress could take up to 21 days to decide whether to permanently remove the president from his or her position. Both chambers would have to vote by a two-thirds margin. The president would be allowed to challenge the declaration.
In a video conference call with reporters Friday, Brown said the calls for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment aren’t out of vengeance, nor are they punitive. Instead, the senator said, the 25th Amendment should be invoked in order to prevent further damage.
When asked what option would best serve the nation’s healing, Brown said the 25th Amendment remains the best option.
“I am very concerned about what this president might do over the next 12 days. That’s why I hope [Trump’s] cabinet and the vice president invoke the 25th Amendment because it will not look partisan,” Brown said. “It will be the president’s own people whom he hired, many of whom have resigned in protest. But it’s his own people saying he is not fit to serve this country. It’s not safe with him as president."
"Those decisions have to be made quickly. I think most of us — the vice president and the cabinet would do it quickly like that. It would be better for the country," Browns said. "It would look less partisan and less divided.”
David Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron, highlighted the projected timeline of an invocation of the 25th Amendment. Because Congress would have up to 21 days to decide whether to remove the president, that period would encompass the remaining 12 days of President Trump’s term.
“If Vice President Pence and the majority of the cabinet approve it, it could be done immediately and within minutes. The ball is in Vice President Pence’s court,” Cohen said. “If this were to happen, President Donald Trump would not have the ability to seize back his power before the end of his term. People forget that the President of the United States is in charge of the nuclear arsenal. He is the commander in chief. He has the power to send the US into war.”
During Brown’s press briefing Friday, Trump announced on Twitter that he would not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20th. Biden said Friday that Pence was welcome to attend.
Brown said Trump’s decision to skip out on the inauguration isn’t surprising.
“It’s what we should do in this country but this president who incited a riot on Wednesday is not going to sit there with the incoming president that defeated him,” Brown said. “I’m not surprised by that all. He should but he won’t.”