House prepared to impeach Trump if Pence, Cabinet don’t remove him, Pelosi says

Congressional action would take time, which is limited in Trump's remaining 13 days

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during her weekly news conference Thursday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during her weekly news conference Thursday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 7, 2021 at 3:59pm

The House is prepared to impeach President Donald Trump if Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of the Cabinet do not invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

“I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the vice president to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th Amendment," the California Democrat told reporters at her weekly news conference, referencing a statement from Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer calling for Trump's removal.

[Why it’s unlikely Trump is removed using the 25th Amendment]

"If the vice president and Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment," Pelosi added. "That is the overwhelming sentiment of my caucus -- and the American people by the way.”

Democrats, and some Republicans, are blaming Trump for inciting his supporters to violence, after a mob stormed the Capitol on Wednesday looking for lawmakers, firing shots and destroying government property.

Pelosi said she and Schumer have communicated to Pence that the vice president and the Cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump.

Trump is “a very dangerous person who should not continue in office," she said. "This is urgent. This is emergency of the highest magnitude.”

'Any day can be a horror show'

Trump only has 13 days left in his presidency, as President-elect Joe Biden is set to be sworn in Jan. 20.

“While it’s only 13 days left, any day can be a horror show for America,” Pelosi said.

The speaker declined to provide a specific timeline under which she would bring articles of impeachment to the House floor absent Trump's removal via the 25th Amendment, but she said she expects Pence to communicate his plans as soon as Thursday.

“I don’t think it will take long to get an answer from the vice president," she said. "It will be yes, or it will be no.”

Later Thursday, after Business Insider reported Pence would not support invoking the 25th Amendment, Pelosi and Schumer issued a joint statement saying they had yet to hear back from Pence after a phone call with him earlier that morning.

"We look forward to hearing from the Vice President as soon as possible and to receiving a positive answer as to whether he and the Cabinet will honor their oath to the Constitution and the American people,” the Democratic leaders said.

Earlier at the press conference, Pelosi admitted she hadn't gamed out exact steps for moving forward with impeachment if Pence says no since it had been less than 12 hours since Congress certified the Electoral College results for Biden.

“We would be prepared to do that, but I don’t have immediate plans because I haven’t even been to sleep,” she said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in a statement that he supports Trump's "immediate" impeachment and that he would bless an effort to skip hearings and a markup under his panel's jurisdiction.

"We have a limited period of time in which to act," the New York Democrat said. "The nation cannot afford a lengthy, drawn out process, and I support bringing articles of impeachment directly to the House floor."

Even if the House does impeach Trump, it's not clear there'd be time for the Senate to hold a trial to consider whether to remove him.

Because the Senate has already reached an agreement to hold pro forma sessions with no business conducted until noon on Jan. 19, that is the earliest that any impeachment articles could reach the Senate floor for consideration -- unless there is a unanimous consent agreement, which is unlikely.

Resolution ready

A group of House Democrats, led by Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Ted Lieu of California and others, has already unveiled a privileged impeachment resolution.

The measure charges Trump with abusing the power of the presidency "by attempting to unlawfully overturn the results of the November 2020 Presidential election in the State of Georgia" and "to incite violence and orchestrate an attempted coup against our country."

The resolution contains two articles of impeachment related to abuse of power, the first of which cites Trump's Jan. 2 call asking Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn the state's election result. The second cites Trump's calls to supporters to travel to Washington "with the sole purpose of inciting violence and obstructing Congress in engaging in its constitutionally mandated legislative business of certifying the electoral college results."

The second article cited remarks Trump made to supporters at a rally outside the White House on Wednesday in which he said, ‘‘You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong." 

Under the Constitution, lawmakers could also act to prevent Trump from becoming president again in the future. That would prevent him from running in 2024, as Trump has signaled interest in doing.

Impeachment judgments can extend beyond removal from office to also include, "disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States." The resolution Democrats have drafted includes that line.

Other options

Pelosi left the door open to other options for Trump's removal, including an implied suggestion he should resign on his own before action is taken against him.

“If he wants to be unique and be doubly impeached, that’s kind of up to him and his Cabinet as to whether he should stay in office,” she said.

Another option Pelosi mentioned is Congress could establish a commission to consider Trump's removal, as allowed under the 25th Amendment. The amendment delegates such authority to "such other body as Congress may by law provide."

"Congress -- and this can be done quickly -- can establish a commission very fast," Pelosi said. Such a commission could possibly include former presidents, members of the Cabinet and people who would know something about the health of the president, she said.

The House and Senate would both have to pass a concurrent resolution to establish such a commission, so the current Senate schedule is an obstacle to this option as well. Pelosi seems to be ranking the commission option below impeachment given the interest from the Democratic caucus in that path.

"The best route, the most immediate route, would be the vice president to recognize the danger of the Donald Trump presidency and take this action, A," she said. "B, my members are very much interested, as my phone is exploding with [messages of], 'Impeach, impeach, impeach.'"

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.