On January 7th, the four hour insurrection at the United States Capitol dominated the news internationally, with governments, celebrities, and brands across the world publicly condemning the violence, white supremacy, and attempted overthrow of democracy. In the days following, there have been a number of responses to how the American government should handle the president inciting a coup in the waning days of his presidency, but the general consensus among Democrats, as well as a surprising amount of formerly supportive Republicans, believe that he should be removed from office.
Some think that the current backlash against Trump from all sides is too little too late, especially regarding removal from platforms like Twitter and backlash from sitting Republican politicians. Apart from the past four years of horrifying news, taking these actions earlier on would have almost certainly prevented the Capitol siege. With less than ten days before a new administration comes into power, what is the point of removing Trump from office? Can he really do so much damage in under a fortnight?
Part of the thought process here is setting a precedent: No public official should be inciting an overthrow of democratic systems and it needs to be made clear that this cannot be tolerated in the future. There are two different options for removing Trump from office: Vice President Mike Pence could invoke the 25th Amendment or the House of Representatives can move to impeach Trump (again). If Pence invokes the 25th Amendment, it will also need to be confirmed by a majority of the Cabinet or a Congressional review. The 25th Amendment has been discussed in the past in moments when Trump has seemed unstable, but it is more of a serious consideration now that the president and his followers have turned on the vice president. However, with this option, Trump will also be given opportunity to argue that he is fit for office and there is also some debate as to whether this is the kind of situation that the 25th Amendment was meant for, as it is specifically meant to be used when a president is deemed unfit for office (for example, many times that recent presidents have undergone surgery requiring anaesthesia, their vice president has technically been president for a few hours.)
The 25th Amendment would be the quickest way to handle the current situation and Pence would become the president for the few days remaining before the inauguration and, in theory, be able to quell future planned uprisings (the FBI has recently confirmed that there are armed protests planned for all 50 states and the Capitol in the lead-up to election day). The 25th Amendment would also leave Trump with less time to try and pardon himself. If he cannot pardon himself, it would be possible to prosecute him for a whole host of crimes once he leaves office. However, as time progresses, it seems unlikely that Pence will choose this route and as things settle down a bit, he has said that he will not.
As of January 11th, Democrats in the House of Representatives have introduced articles of impeachment. After the House votes to impeach, which they almost certainly will, the process moves to the Senate where there is a trial, and then ⅔ of the senators must vote to remove him from office. This means that about 17 Republican senators would have to agree to this, which is a difficult accomplishment. At this point, it will be all but impossible to remove Trump from office via impeachment before Joe Biden takes office, so what is the point?
While he would not be removed from office, it is still possible to continue impeachment proceedings against an official who is no longer in office. If impeached, most importantly, the Senate can vote that Trump will no longer be able to hold office if a majority of senators agree. He will also lose his pension of $200k a year, a yearly $1,000,000 travel stipend, and his life-long secret service detail which would otherwise be paid for at the taxpayer’s expense. It is this that makes it so crucial for Democrats to impeach, as Trump still has a large group of base of Republicans and could, in theory, run for office in 2024 with great support. After witnessing the January 6th coup, an election like that could very much change the face of American democracy. In the coming days we are likely to see the beginnings of an impeachment process, but also hopefully a response that actively stems the ever-rising tide of white supremacist terrorism in the United States.
By Madeleine Richardson Graham
The Crow’s Nest is a Greenwich Students’ Union Student Media channel. The views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect those of GSU, its trustees, employees, officers or the University of Greenwich.