USA TODAY International Edition

Im­peach the pres­i­dent and threaten the 25th

Con­demn his be­hav­ior to start uni­fy­ing Amer­ica

- Chris Truax Chris Truax, an ap­pel­late lawyer in San Diego, is spokesman for Repub­li­cans for the Rule of Law, a le­gal ad­viser to The Guardrails of Democ­racy Pro­ject and a mem­ber of USA TO­DAY’s Board of Con­trib­u­tors. US Elections · U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Elections · United States Senate · Mitch McConnell · McConnell · Donald Trump · United States of America · Mike Pence · Congress of the United States · Twitter · Republican Party (United States) · Kevin McCarthy · Nancy Pelosi · Joe Biden · Pence · Ted Cruz

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell has confirmed that the Se­nate won’t be back un­til Jan. 19, a day be­fore Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s term ends. That dashes hopes of a quick Se­nate im­peach­ment trial and con­vic­tion that would cut his ten­ure short. Be­tween now and Jan. 20, only one per­son can safe­guard Amer­ica against an in­creas­ingly er­ratic com­man­der in chief: Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence.

While Pence is, ap­par­ently, not ea­ger to in­voke the 25th Amend­ment, he should not throw that lever­age away. In­stead, he should write a for­mal let­ter to Trump on vice pres­i­den­tial let­ter­head and tell him: “I am not cur­rently in fa­vor of in­vok­ing the 25th Amend­ment and tem­po­rar­ily as­sum­ing the pow­ers and du­ties of the pres­i­dency. In an abun­dance of cau­tion, how­ever, I have con­sulted with the 15 prin­ci­pal officers of the ex­ec­u­tive de­part­ments.

“In the event that you fail to fully as­sist in a peace­ful tran­si­tion of power to your suc­ces­sor, fur­ther fo­ment do­mes­tic un­rest, or en­gage in any other dan­ger­ous or er­ratic be­hav­ior, I will have no choice but to con­clude you are un­able to effec­tively carry out your du­ties as pres­i­dent and trans­mit the dec­la­ra­tion nec­es­sary for me to as­sume those du­ties pur­suant to the 25th Amend­ment.”

Pence should then send copies of this let­ter to the House speaker and the Se­nate pres­i­dent pro tem­pore, and cross his fingers. If Trump does fur­ther dam­age to this coun­try over the next sev­eral days, he and he alone bears the re­spon­si­bil­ity for his fail­ure to in­ter­vene. May he choose wisely.

Though im­peach­ment can­not be com­pleted in time to pro­tect us from an un­sta­ble pres­i­dent in the dy­ing days of his pres­i­dency, it is still im­por­tant. We should im­peach Trump to purge the stain of what he has done.

Revel­ing in naked vi­o­lence

The case against Trump is sim­ple. The pres­i­dent of the United States used a vi­o­lent mob to at­tack the Congress to pre­vent it from confirm­ing the re­sult of a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Trump’s role in in­cit­ing the at­tack on the U. S. Capi­tol was bad enough; his fail­ure to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion to end it and his re­fusal to con­demn it are even more damn­ing.

One of the last tweets Trump posted be­fore Twit­ter sus­pended his ac­count read, “These are the things and events that hap­pen when a sa­cred land­slide elec­tion vic­tory is so un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously & vi­ciously stripped away from great pa­tri­ots who have been badly & un­fairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Re­mem­ber this day for­ever!”

In short: This is your fault, Amer­ica. You brought this on your­selves.

There are many peo­ple call­ing for unity and heal­ing. The best way to achieve both is for a sweep­ing bi­par­ti­san ma­jor­ity in Congress to officially con­demn this be­hav­ior.

There will be, no doubt, some who at­tempt to de­fend what the pres­i­dent has done, to jus­tify it, to ra­tio­nal­ize it. I will save the Se­nate’s res­i­dent con­sti­tu­tional scholar, Ted Cruz, a lot of time and trou­ble: There is no pos­si­ble read­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tion where in­cit­ing a mob to at­tack Congress and then re­fus­ing to call it off is ac­cept­able pres­i­den­tial be­hav­ior. If we can­not im­peach a pres­i­dent for revel­ing in naked vi­o­lence di­rected at an­other branch of gov­ern­ment, what can a pres­i­dent be im­peached for?

Even if the pres­i­dent avoided con­vic­tion, how­ever, the effort to im­peach him would be worth­while. If there are those in Congress who be­lieve mob vi­o­lence is a le­git­i­mate form of po­lit­i­cal ex­pres­sion and think that the pres­i­dent’s be­hav­ior is ac­cept­able, even laud­able, let us iden­tify them now. Our democ­racy is not safe in their hands.

Judged by our re­sponse

House Repub­li­can leader Kevin McCarthy claimed Fri­day that im­peach­ing Trump “with just 12 days left in his term will only di­vide our coun­try more.” He may be right. If so, let’s di­vide the sheep from the goats. Any­one who en­dorses the at­tack and Trump’s role in it is a fu­ture min­ion of au­toc­racy.

If this divi­sion ac­tu­ally ex­ists, if the value of democ­racy is now in ques­tion, the coun­try is al­ready di­vided and pre­tend­ing it is not will sim­ply make the even­tual reck­on­ing that much worse.

I think McCarthy is wrong. A dig­nified pro­ceed­ing and a bi­par­ti­san vote to con­demn the pres­i­dent’s ac­tions will unite the coun­try. And if it won’t, noth­ing else will, so it is in­cum­bent on Congress to try.

The House is mov­ing quickly to for­mally im­peach Trump while he is in office, and the Se­nate could hold his trial af­ter he leaves. If con­victed, Trump can be barred from hold­ing fu­ture office, so an im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ing would be both cathar­tic and mean­ing­ful. And as she did a year ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could wait to trans­mit the im­peach­ment to the Se­nate un­til at least some of Pres­i­dent- Elect Joe Bi­den’s Cab­i­net officers are confirmed.

If Trump were not so in­com­pe­tent and fool­ish, the Capi­tol at­tack would have been the pre­lude to in­stalling him as a dic­ta­tor. The next per­son who tries this will be nei­ther in­com­pe­tent nor fool­ish. They will be pre­pared and in deadly earnest. Congress was the vic­tim of this at­tack, and it is up to Congress to con­demn it. There is a time to en­gage in po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion and a time to stand up for prin­ci­ple.

When the his­to­ries of this time are writ­ten, the events of Jan. 6, 2021, will not define Amer­ica. How we re­sponded to those events will.


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