WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined presumptive Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to call on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from office, after the president’s incitement of a crowd of supporters that violently stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Pelosi said if Pence does not act, then the House would consider impeachment to remove him from office. Such a move would be largely symbolic, since there would be little time for a Senate trial before Trump’s term ends in 13 days.
“What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president," Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Thursday morning. "This president should not hold office one day longer."
“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,” Schumer said. “If the vice president and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president."
In the afternoon, Pelosi called Trump a "dangerous man who should not continue in office. "This is urgent. This is [an] emergency of the highest magnitude," she told reporters at her weekly press conference.
"I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the vice president to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th amendment. If the vice president and Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment. That is the overwhelming sentiment of my caucus, and the American people, by the way."
Pelosi said that Trump incited "sedition" on Wednesday when a crowd of his supporters violently stormed the Capitol.
"While it's only 13 days left, any day can be a horror show for America," she said.
Under a provision of the 25th Amendment, the vice president can, with the support of the majority of the Cabinet, invoke the the measure and declare Trump unfit for office, which could lead to his early removal. Under such a scenario, the vice president would immediately take over as acting president.
Asked what would spur the House to vote on articles of impeachment, Pelosi said that the fastest way that Trump can be removed is if Pence, with the assistance of members of Trump's Cabinet, decide to remove up using the 25th Amendment.
"My phone is exploding with impeach, impeach, impeach," said Pelosi, who admitted that she had no immediate plans yet because she hasn't gone to sleep since the electoral vote certification process finished around 4 a.m. ET.
As for investigating the violence that unfolded at the Capitol, she said that she is calling for the resignation of U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund. He announced he would do so on Thursday night.
Pelosi also said that there will be an after-action review that will look into the shortcomings in the government's intelligence and what took so long for National Guard troops to be mobilized and sent to the Capitol.
The attack on the Capitol on Wednesday came after Trump spoke to the crowd, encouraging them to march to the building and saying, "You'll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong."
Trump was slow to respond after his supporters stormed the building, and eventually sent out a pair of tweets calling for peaceful protest while also repeating his false election claims and telling the rioters he loved them.
On Thursday, more than 24 hours after the occupation, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany read a statement blasting the rioters' actions.
"We condemn it — the president and this administration — in the strongest possible terms. It is unacceptable and those that broke the law should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," McEnany said, adding that "Those who violently besieged our capital, are the opposite of everything this administration stands for."
She spoke for just under two minutes and did not answer questions, including why she was making the statement and not the president, who's been loathe to personally criticize any wrongdoing by his supporters during his four years in office.
Earlier Thursday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois became the first Republican in Congress to call for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
In an interview with MSNBC, Kinzinger called Trump “unmoored, not just from his duty, or even his oath, but from reality itself,” and said Pence and the rest of Trump’s Cabinet needed to invoke the measure “to end this nightmare.”
“The president is unfit and the president is unwell. And the president must now relinquish control of the executive branch voluntarily or involuntary,” he said.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said he supports the "immediate impeachment of the president and his removal from office." The process would go through his panel.
Democratic Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland, all members of the committee, circulated articles of impeachment against Trump on Thursday.
The legislation accuses Trump of "willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States" and having "gravely endangered the security of the United States," which they added, "demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office."
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., began circulating articles of impeachment against Trump in the House, she tweeted Thursday.
Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith of Minnesota and others joined Schumer in calling for the invocation of the 25th Amendment. Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, also signaled in a news interview on Thursday that he would not oppose the effort.
Multiple sources familiar with the matter told NBC News late Wednesday that there have been informal discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment among staff within the Trump administration.
It's unclear whether Cabinet-level officials have discussed the matter; two sources said the issue hasn't been broached with Pence, who would need to agree along with a majority of the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment.
Theconversations have been fueled in part by concerns of unrest and insurrection throughout the U.S. over the next two weeks, before President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as president on Jan. 20.
Prominent members of both parties, however, also warned against taking such drastic action — although for exceedingly different reasons.
Biden's transition team said in a statement on Thursday that he would leave the issue to Pence and to Congress.
“An unprecedented number of Americans voted Donald Trump out of office because they wanted new leadership that would act decisively to bring the country together, defeat the pandemic, and put Americans back to work," Andrew Bates, a transition spokesperson, said.
"President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris are focused on their duty - preparing to take office on January 20th - and will leave it to Vice President Pence, the Cabinet and the Congress to act as they see fit."
Brian Fallon, the executive director of the progressive Supreme Court reform group Demand Justice, who served as Hillary Clinton’s press secretary during the 2016 campaign, tweeted that invoking the 25th Amendment would merely be a “copout” for Republicans, whom he accused of failing to hold Trump accountable themselves.
John Bolton, who served as Trump’s national security adviser for nearly 18 months in 2018 and 2019, said invoking the measure would only further inflame tensions in the U.S.
"I acknowledge this is dangerous, but I'll say again, we ought to bear in mind the adage 'do no harm,' because you can make this worse if we're not careful," he said on CNN late Wednesday.
Adam Edelman reported from New York and Rebecca Shabad from Washington.