Impeachment, 25th Amendment, or wait for Inauguration?


What’s it gonna be then, eh?

How are we going to deal with the man who incited the mob’s attack on the U.S. Capitol? As I see it, these are our choices:

  1. Impeach him again, only this time, the Senate does its job and removes him.
  2. Use the 25th Amendment to remove him.
  3. Just wait two weeks, and he’ll be gone anyway. Plan to have a big party once Joe is sworn in.

Let’s look at each option a little more closely.

  1. Impeachment — Possibly the best thing I’ve read today was Bret Stephens’ column in The New York Times, headlined “Impeach and Convict. Right Now.” He makes a very compelling case, and his points about why we all should have expected what happened yesterday the moment Trump came down that escalator in 2015 are compelling. He argues that “To allow Trump to serve out his term, however brief it may be, puts the nation’s safety at risk, leaves our reputation as a democracy in tatters and evades the inescapable truth that the assault on Congress was an act of violent sedition aided and abetted by a lawless, immoral and terrifying president.” True. My one disappointment in reading it is that he didn’t deal with the details: Just how would it get done that fast. It would take more time than between now and the 20th just for the Senate to go back and do what it should have done on the first impeachment — hear witnesses. I’d like to think it was possible, but is it?
  2. 25th AmendmentNancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are pushing this option. Because when it comes to impeachment, you know, they’ve been there and done that. It makes perfect sense. It really shouldn’t take much time to get those signatures together, and in any other administration since the Amendment was adopted in 1967, it would have happened already. Ah, but that’s the thing you see. There has never been an administration like this before. Everyone in the Cabinet was chosen by Trump — often as a replacement to someone who was not sufficiently subservient to him. The vice president would have to lead the way. And while it was nice that Mike Pence didn’t join the riot yesterday, do you think he would step up and do this, and that enough “principal officers of the executive departments” would go along? That would indeed be something to see.
  3. Wait for the Inauguration — We’ve endured it for four years, and we’re only talking 13 days. No, there’s no guarantee that one or more of those 13 days won’t be like yesterday, only worse. There was never a guarantee that ANY day in the last four years wouldn’t have been like that. Most of us knew this. The rest learned it yesterday. Given the difficulties of the first two options, this one seems the most practical. There’s just one big argument against it in my book, but it’s a biggie: This is what Lindsey Graham wants us to do.

Personally, I’m torn. Even if it’s impossible, I’d like to see people do their absolute best to bring about his ouster through option 1 or 2. Either would be the right thing to do. We can’t just shrug off what has happened, and miss this opportunity to redeem our country from the shame of having Trump as our president. That’s wrong.

But… would even more damage be done to the country if we tried one of those options and failed, not because either was a bad idea, but because we ran out of time? How would the rest of the world, and history, see a failed attempt to remove someone who has done what he has done? Would anyone ever see those very necessary options as being worth trying — and if they’re not, what does it do to confidence in the Constitution?

So what should we do? I look forward to your arguments…

45 thoughts on “Impeachment, 25th Amendment, or wait for Inauguration?

  1. Norm Ivey

    What should we do? 25th Amendment. It’s immediate. It has to be executed by his own party and appointees.

      1. Norm Ivey

        Oh, wow. Just looked it up. 2/3 vote in each house. That’s not going to happen.

        Looks like we’re just going to wait it out.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    This is fascinating.

    I’ve sort of been goading my old paper, and The Post and Courier, to stand up and say what needs to be said. The way The Washington Post and NYT have done.

    The Post and Courier, as you may or may not know, is the only paper left in SC with what you would normally call an editorial department, and they really beefed it up when they hired Cindi Scoppe. But I’ve been mentioning the poor, bedraggled State, too, for two reasons: They still presume to do endorsements (although not for president this time — oh, mercy me, no!), and if I didn’t mention The State people might think I was showing favoritism, just harassing the P&C. Which also didn’t endorse for president, after stunning people by lamely endorsing Lindsey Graham over Jaime Harrison.

    Let me know if you see anything happen on that front, in case I miss it.

    Meanwhile, I’m stunned to see that USA Today, which never takes a freaking editorial stand on ANYTHING, is calling for Trump to be removed:

    So anything is possible…

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, about that Bret Stephens column…

    The interesting thing is, while the NYT took a stand on the matter, they didn’t go as far as their conservative columnist.

    They did say, “Trump Is to Blame for Capitol Attack,” and “There must be consequences.” And they mentioned “impeachment proceedings or criminal prosecution.” But they didn’t really chart a clear course, and seemed to get kind of lost amid various pronouncements about how the GOP needs to have learned its lesson, etc. They even called for “an investigation of the failure of the Capitol Police.”

    But it wasn’t really a clarion call, the way Stephens’ piece is.

    Frankly, I think the NYT has fallen on sad times. We’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff come out of its editorial board. It basically had a meltdown last year, and the EPE lost his job, and probably shouldn’t have. And that was after the utterly absurd nonsense of endorsing Elizabeth Warren, or maybe Amy Klobuchar — y’all pick, because we can’t.

    That was TRULY pathetic.

    And they did that in a year in which there was clearly only ONE Democrat running with the ability to a) run the White House and b) beat Trump — Joe Biden. The people of South Carolina saw that clearly, without any ambiguity. What was the NYT’s problem?

    It’s like there are no longer any intelligent, responsible grownups in the room — and editorial boards should have ONLY intelligent, responsible grownups in the room. We’ve seen things happen there recently that makes it seem like a roomful of boisterous children, and whoever is trying (and failing) to steer it is mainly trying to just keep all of them happy. Some of the kids liked Warren. Some of them liked Klobuchar — or were at least willing to let the old people have their moderate, as long as they got Warren, who likes to “fight.” But none of them were ABOUT to stand still for endorsing that old white guy who actually has Republican friends. They’d hold their breath until they turned blue..

    Whereas Stephens, the conservative the paper stole from The Wall Street Journal awhile back, is unencumbered by that, seeing clearly and expressing his thoughts coherently. An excerpt:

    From the moment Trump became the G.O.P. front-runner in 2015, it was obvious who he was and where, if given the chance, he would take America. He was a malignant narcissist in his person. A fraudster in his businesses. A bully in his relationships. And a demagogue in his politics.

    He did not have ideas. He had bigotries. He did not have a coalition. He had crowds. He did not have character. He had a quality of confident shamelessness, the kind that offered his followers permission to be shameless, too.

    All this was obvious — but was not enough to stop him. America in 2015 had many problems, many of which had gone too long ignored and were ripe for populist exploitation. But by far the biggest problem of that year was that a major political party capitulated to a thug. And the biggest problem of every subsequent year has been that more and more of that party has excused, ignored, forgiven, colluded in and celebrated his thuggery….

    Really, you should read his piece, if they’ll let you…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Of course, I’ve always preferred columns to editorials for the same reasons many do — you’re reading a single, clear voice. Editorials are consensus documents.

      But consensus can be sharp, and focused, and take a stand as well. If you know what you’re doing…

  4. James Edward Cross

    It’s #3. It was always going to be #3.

    #1 impeachment would take too long and McConnell would block it in the Senate anyway.

    #2 is moot since Pence opposes using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump.

    There is a #4, which would be to arrest him. The DOJ policy is just that; a policy. Although a federal prosecutor would likely rather wait until Trump is out of office to indict him on any charges relating to the storming of the Capitol.

    But federal indictments after Trump leaves office are unlikely. In the interests of “bringing us together” and “healing the nation’s wounds” Biden will likely prohibit the AG from prosecuting Trump and limiting prosecutions of his cronies. State charges may work but as a first offender Trump would probably get a light sentence.

    And then of course there are the precedents that could be set. A successful impeachment in such a short time would look like railroading to many. As for the 25th Amendment is Trump really “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office?” He is not sick or mentally ill; one may not like how he decides to discharge his duties but he isn’t incapable of doing so. And I doubt that even a crime (for which the President could not be indicted under DOJ policy) would be evidence of incapability, Finally, the DOJ policy isn’t arbitrary. It’s to prevent accusations of crimes to be used politically to hamstring or remove a President. And it might be hard to prove that Trump at his rally was doing any more than encouraging his supporters to go to the Capitol and exercise their right of protest under th4e First Amendment. I’m sure that’s an argument Trump’s enablers will quickly make since it covers them as well.

    Let’s be blunt. The rich and powerful rarely pay, and even when they do it’s even more rare for them to pay a price commensurate to their crime. They can afford the excellent attorneys to help them slip away or mitigate their punishment.

  5. Phillip

    He still has time to resign and be pardoned by Pence, though I know that would only apply to possible federal crimes, not state charges such as those likely coming his way from NY state. It (pardoning Trump) might be a way for Pence to get back somewhat in the good graces of the Profa crowd, who now view him as a traitor for not doing what they wanted him to do yesterday.

    As for impeachment or 25th amendment, it seems unlikely. Perhaps the wisest course is for some back-channel conversations between Pence, various Cabinet members, even Pentagon officials to unofficially agree not to carry out any order from the President between now and Jan 20 that they deem to be crazy.

    1. James Edward Cross

      Of course, back channel agreements like that (I believe something like that happened at the end of the Nixon Administration, didn’t it?) sets a bad precedent all their own. How do you define crazy? Does this mean you can just refuse an order you don’t like? What about one’s oath, especially military officers? For them, it would have to be an illegal order and you are taking your career into your hands when you start determining what is illegal and what is not. It may also threaten to cross the line into military interference in politics.

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    FYI, in case you were waiting breathlessly for it, our governor has sounded off on this:

    Gov. Henry McMaster said Thursday he did not support the forced removal of President Donald Trump from office, as some federal lawmakers have called for in the wake of Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump agitators.

    McMaster, a steadfast Trump ally who in early 2016 was the first statewide elected official in any state to endorse the president’s election bid, said through a spokesman he thought Trump would voluntarily leave office Jan. 20 and did not need to be removed….

    So… looks like Henry’s in the “wait two weeks” camp. He’s an Option 3 guy.

    I’m sure that will have a heavy impact on y’all’s thinking…

  7. randle

    Do 1. And 2., then if you have to wait until Jan. 20 to remove him from office, at least you would have: A. tied his hands for the rest of his term B. presented the case to the nation for why he should be removed from office and C. set the record straight as to what actually happened on Wed. so that majority of the country knows the truth.
    A. If Pence invokes the 25th amendment, he must get the majority of the cabinet, or another body designated by Congress, to agree that Trump is unable to serve and inform Congressional leaders of this in writing. Pence then assumes the responsibilities of the president. Trump has 4 days to refute this by informing the Speaker and the President Pro Tempore that he is able to govern. Congress then has 21 days to decide what to do with this person. That takes the country past the inauguration. Better yet, act swiftly and vote to remove this threat to our nation.
    B. The president has racked up two impeachable offenses in the past week or so, both attempts to overthrow the government. What functioning government or democratic society lets someone like that remain in office and takes no action? Joe Biden did a very fine job today of stating in plain English what principles of American democracy are at stake here and what threats the president poses. This needs to be repeated. Also, truth, justice and the American way are worth fighting for, so say so in article of impeachments you present to the Congress while waiting to see what happens with 25th amendment. Witnesses not needed. We have the tapes and the videos from the Capitol and the rally. They speak for themselves unless…
    C. You let the far-right media and the radicals who support him in Congress recast the insurrection as being led by Antifa and fueled by and the fault of the “left and left-wing radicals.” — which they are doing already. Tucker Carlson said Wednesday night that the mob’s actions were no fault of their own. “We got this sad, chaotic day for a reason. It is not your fault. It is their fault.” Social media is already using the same doublespeak they used to create the election fraud myth. Regarding the mob who stormed the Capitol, Chuck Woolery tweeted: “Some on social media are saying they are Antifa. I don’t know until proven otherwise.” Matt Gaetz has alleged this on the floor of the House. When invoking the 25th amendment and/or presenting impeachment articles, set the historical record straight. Clap back on disinformation and its purveryors.

    The disinformation apparatus that has fueled the rise of right-wing extremism and conspiracy theories, including voter fraud, will work tirelessly to rewrite history, and their revisions will be eagerly accepted by their radical followers. And if we allow Trump to get off yet again, he will continue to foment violence, using these latest unsubstantiated allegations as the reason. Also, he’s getting ready to pardon himself.
    The country needs to act now.
    My two cents.

  8. bud

    25th Amendment is clearly a non-starter. No way 8 cabinet members + Pence do that. Back deals to refuse POTUS sounds good but sets a horrible precedent. Impeachment is pointless unless you do a head count and have 67 senators on board. Perhaps now that their own sorry asses were at risk they’ll act but I doubt it. I just don’t see the point in “sending the world a signal” or “doing the right thing”. Symbolic gestures just leave me cold. So we wait. Best of the terrible options.

    1. Bob Amundson

      I think Impeachment is a good idea, making HIM the only President to be impeached twice. I agree that the Senate would not convict HIM.

  9. bud

    I’ve alway wondered what line Trump needed to cross for congressional Republicans to finally say ENOUGH! Now we know. It wasn’t insulting gold star families or praising white nationalists or stealing military money to pay for a damn wall or lying about the threat of COVID or violating the emoluments clause or threatening a foreign leader to incriminate a political rival or snatching babies from the arms of their mothers and throwing them in cages or acting like a petulant child over a lost election. None of this was the line. But when their sorry butts are put at risk they finally say Trump has acted inappropriately. What a selfish bunch of cowards. What a sad day for America.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Actually, though, here’s another silver lining… we finally got to see it.

      It seemed like we never would. Like the idiot had some kind of super power, and was invulnerable to anything that would normally bring a politician down.

      But he wasn’t. We just didn’t know what it would take. And the thing is, he’s the one who showed us. He went way out of his way to do so. No one has EVER done a hundredth of what he’s done to shred norms. Previously, anyone who hesitated much more than an hour conceding defeat would have been held in contempt by his own party. But he did it day after day, week after week. As everything he said proved to be wildly false, he kept at it. And they kept following him.

      And then, at the very end, for about the millionth time, he did his thing, essentially saying, “Hold my beer and watch THIS,” and launched the mob at the Capitol…

      And just when we thought we’d never see it, we did. Members of his party stood up to him. Oh, too many did not. But far more did than we thought we’d ever see.

      And I’m glad I got to see it…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Outrage isn’t the point.

          There are a lot of things going on, including the fact that there are plenty of Republicans who would love for Trump to disappear, but for four years have been too afraid of his base to act accordingly.

          What we saw this week was, for the first time, a significant number of them no longer being afraid of that mob.

          And I had doubted I’d ever see that…

          1. Barry

            From that article

            “ I think most of the members down here are very loyal to the president”

            I’m not sure what it is that makes people lotpyal to someone that is totally unlocalized….

            Maybe it’s Stockholm syndrome

            I have always been fascinated at how North Koreans could be brainwashed and willing to die for their dictator. I was glad that Americans were different.

            We aren’t though. We aren’t different at all.

            1. Bob Amundson

              “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

              Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

              1. Randle

                I agree that this is the case with many of HIM’s supporters, but what of those who knew what he was and signed on anyway? And those who know he is unfit to remain in office, but refuse to act?
                Now Mick Mulvaney and others are claiming HIM changed AFTER the election into a madman. Before that he was a policy wonk, an engaged leader, Santa Claus, maybe. Are these guys bamboozled or bamboozlers or something else? So many possibilities.
                And while these enablers are saying HIM should stay in office, The Daily Mail reports that Pence has taken over the cabinet, and HIM has been completely shut out. 25th amendment without the responsibility or blowback. They’re still feeding the mob.
                Can any of these people just do the right thing?

                1. Bob Amundson

                  I listened to Mulvaney (generally I’d use his title, past or present, but he doesn’t deserve that respect) try to justify “why now” this morning and he completely failed. Too many of our leaders, including HIM, used their power transactionally in a way that showed an amazing lack of character.

                  Some are sheep, and this quote explains how the sheep think. This does not explain the wolves’ (many in sheep’s clothing) behaviors. That is my judgement, and I hope many, including Mulvaney, face a larger Day of Judgement. It’s above my paygrade to be that Arbitrator.

            2. Barry


              I’m not sure what it is that makes people lotpyal to someone that is totally unlocalized….

              Should be… I’m not sure what it is that makes people loyal to someone that is not loyal to anyone

  10. Bill

    My favorite inside source
    I’ll kiss your open sores
    Appreciate your concern
    You’re gonna stink and burn
    Rape me
    Rape me, my friend
    Rape me
    Rape me again:

  11. Ken

    Tom Friedman offered a fourth option: Republicans in Congress (minus the likes of the infamous five listed in the other post) can go en masse to the White House and demand Trump’s immediate resignation (not linked to any promise of a pardon). Seems like a win-win for them. If he accepts, they’ve rescued (at least some of) their and their party’s reputation. And even if he doesn’t, they can still claim to have made a real effort at redemption — by openly parting ways with the dead-end Trumpist elements in their party. They should recognize that it can only work to their advantage.

  12. Barry

    The new ridiculous rationalization is that the people storming the capitol building thought they were welcome to be there.

    This could be the case for a very few (like 5 people) at the very start but I would guess even those “patriots” would have realized something was wrong when they heard breaking glass and witnessed other “patriots” stealing items like the speaker’s lectern- Not to mention storming into House members offices or walking onto the Senate and House floor and sitting in chairs and taking items from the Senate and House floor.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Actually… I’m sure there was a wide variety of perceptions of what was happening. I’m reminded of something Stephen Ambrose wrote about D-Day — all those hundreds of thousands of men involved, and each one saw a different battle. Especially at Omaha Beach, where there was such an intensity of defensive fire. A man on his belly in the sand with things exploding around him had a different perspective, saw a different battle, from what someone 15 feet away saw. Omar Bradley, watching from a ship, thought he might have to order a retreat from Omaha, even as small groups were making their way up the bluffs and taking the German positions, ensuring victory….

      But I digress.

      The point is that I suppose a person who was taking selfies with the cop thought something was happening that was very different from someone who was breaking a window, or in earshot of the breaking window.

      Doesn’t matter, really. They were all guilty of trying to stop the confirmation of a legitimate election result. That made them traitors, even if they thought the “revolution” was a party…

      1. Norm Ivey

        Rolling Stone has an interview with the photographer who got the shot of the guy at Pelosi’s desk. He was inside during the entire episode. He makes the observation that there were two waves of protesters. The first wave were the violent ones. Later groups he refers to as sightseeing protesters. That group was wandering around like tourists.

  13. Brad Warthen Post author

    Anybody notice my Anthony Burgess reference in the post?

    I had the urge to enlarge upon it, tie it somehow to all the droogs who attacked the Capitol Wednesday, some of them engaging in a bit of the old ultraviolence, or at least plenty of tolchocking and the like, but then it felt like I’d be linking myself to them somehow, and I was the one who wanted to say, “What’s it gonna be then, eh?”

    So I dropped the idea…

  14. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, and by the way, when I said, “Plan to have a big party once Joe is sworn in,” I meant virtually, of course. From home. Hoist a toast via Zoom, say “huzzah” into the mic, that sort of thing…

  15. David Carlton

    Frankly, it looks like 2 is the best option. 1 is clearly a no-fly, because Pence won’t go there, and probably not enough of the others–at least whoever is left–will sign on. But this is a moment of profound danger for the country. We have a lunatic in charge of national security–a man who has basically gone to war against his own country, albeit with a ragtag mob of cosplaying “revolutionaries.” And a lot of those people will be back in DC in a week and a half. In the meantime, our foreign enemies are rejoicing, and taking advantage, while our friends and those, like the Belorussians, who we should be supporting, are hung out to dry. It looks like the House vote will be Monday; the Senate no more needs testimony than they claimed to need last time.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yep, that’s the way it’s going. Nancy Pelosi said if Pence wouldn’t act, she’d proceed with impeachment. And Pence isn’t acting. Or even answering the phone.

      So apparently she’s proceeding. And it seems likely that he’ll be the only president ever impeached twice.

      Too bad there’s no time to do it about 50 more times…

  16. Leon

    Hey, lets impeach him a thousand times! Like it really means anything now. Bill Clinton was impeached and he remains a hero of the Democrats. Donald Trump remains a hero for many Republicans after his impeachment. He will be leaving the Presidency in 11 days. I am just sick of all the drama and hypocrisy of both parties. Joe Biden/Kamala Harris will now get their chance at leading the nation. We will see how that all works out. I don’t have as much confidence in them as everyone else here seems to have. However, I always keep the President, no matter who he or she is, in my prayers. Hopefully, it will be a prosperous and peaceful four years for our nation.

    1. Barry

      I don’t think Bill Clinton is seen as a hero.

      Maybe to a small group but I don’t know any democrat that even wants to hear from him.

  17. James Edward Cross

    Our Governor.

    Headline from *The State*: “SC Gov. McMaster says don’t let ‘one day’ overwhelm the good things Trump has done”


  18. Mark Stewart

    Only one SC politician earned my respect last week: Nancy Mace. But then she just as quickly lost it this weekend.

    The only option is to impeach Trump again, doesn’t matter if it has any practical effect, it’s the morally correct thing to do. Even the GOP understands that now, whatever they still say.

    The real question here is what are we as a country going to do about the representatives and senators who supported this terrorism – especially after the fact. They should be banished from the Congress, that’s what the Constitution says. This is the real reckoning.

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