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House likely left with no choice but impeachment

If President Donald J. Trump does not resign, and Vice President Mike Pence and the members of the cabinet do not invoke the 25th Amendment to remove his authority, the U.S. House of Representatives should impeach him — again.

And it will almost certainly come to that.

We can’t recall an instance when Trump has even admitted a mistake. So it is highly unlikely he would take responsibility for provoking the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and step aside, as he should.

And while Section 4 of the 25th Amendment is applicable to the situation, there are no indications that Pence and the cabinet have the stomach for it.

According to the amendment, whenever the vice president and a majority of the principal officers of the executive departments provide Congress a written declaration that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, “the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

With his unending claims he won the election “in a landslide” when, in reality, he lost both the Electoral College vote, 306-232, and the popular vote, 51.4% to 46.9%, by substantial margins, Trump is either guilty of willfully lying in an unsuccessful effort to undermine the results, or he is delusional. Either explanation makes him unable to be trusted to faithfully discharge the powers and duties of his office.

The lack of a resignation or the invoking of the 25th would leave the House two choices: allow Trump to finish his last week in office with no repercussions for his actions, or proceed to impeachment. Given those choices, the House must impeach and this time the Senate should convict.

The newly drafted House resolution calling for the impeachment of President Trump has a single article, “Incitement of Insurrection.”

It notes that in the weeks since the Nov. 3 election Trump repeatedly issued false statements that his loss was the result of widespread fraud. Further, in a Jan. 2 phone call, Trump urged the secretary of the state of Georgia to “find” enough votes overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory there. And Trump threatened Secretary Brad Raffensperger with possible arrest if he did not comply.

Having told the American people they should not accept the election results, and having then urged his supporters to bring their grievances to Washington on the day the electoral results were being certified by Congress and the vice president — grievances constructed from the lies of the president and his enablers — the president then incited the mob to insurrection.

“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump told the already agitated crowd, daring them to violent action. “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength.”

“Thus incited,” reads the impeachment article, members of the crowd “unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts.”

Rep. Liz Cheney, the third highest ranking Republican in the House, put it succinctly: “There’s no question the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob. He lit the flame.”

But, it may be argued, why bother, there is only a week of his presidency left. But what message would that inaction send to some future president who might likewise want to try to reverse an election loss? Not the right one.

It is also argued that this Senate will not have time to conduct a trial before Trump’s presidency ends. This is likely true, but there is precedent for completing the trial after he leaves office. Further, the impeachment article references the 14th Amendment’s prohibition against any person who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from “hold(ing) any office.”

In other words, a Senate conviction for insurrection — even after Trump leaves office — would rule him out of running again, which is proper given his actions.

Trump should have been removed from the presidency a year ago for abusing the powers of that office. With the exception of Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, Republicans failed to do their duty and hold the president accountable. Now the charge is insurrection. The Senate should not make the same mistake twice.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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