Following last week’s deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, many are wondering whether President Donald Trump should be removed from office for inciting violence. It would be an unprecedented move given that his replacement, President-elect Joe Biden, is due to be inaugurated next week. While some Republicans are unlikely to support Trump’s removal from office, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House will proceed with legislation to impeach President Trump and will continue to push Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to force him out.
The Inquirer turned to two scholars with opposing viewpoints to debate: Should Trump be removed from office?
By David French
The scene at Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 was surreal. A violent mob, egged on by President Donald Trump, attacked a building that stands as an enduring symbol of America’s constitutional republic. But it was more than that: The mob also attacked two fundamental foundations of that republic: the election of a new president, and the peaceful transfer of power.
America has not seen such a hostile takeover since the War of 1812. And what happened wasn’t just foreseeable, it was foreseen. The president and many of his supporters have spent the two months since the election claiming it was stolen, relying on outrageous — and widely debunked — conspiracy theories to bolster their case. They’ve done this while speaking in apocalyptic terms about our nation’s future.
Responsible Republican officials, including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, have doggedly rebutted these conspiracy theories and fraud claims. In return, they’ve been intimidated and rewarded with death threats. The president’s legal challenges failed across the board, even when made before judges appointed by Trump himself.
A toxic stew of presidential lies, tirades by right-wing pundits, and congressional capitulation boiled over last Wednesday. Yet, even then, the president still stoked rage and division. He complained that Vice President Mike Pence failed to do his bidding and hand him the election. He could not call for calm and ask his supporters to disperse without repeating false claims about the election being stolen. In one of the lowest moments that day, he told the rioters who stormed the Capitol, “We love you.”
The terrible events of last Wednesday made crystal clear something that should have been plainly understood long before now: Trump is dangerous to our peace and security. The founders of this nation had precisely this kind of man in mind when they gave Congress the power to impeach and remove the nation’s chief executive.
The value of impeachment comes not merely in its punishment for past offenses, however much Trump deserves such punishment. It is also a protective measure against further danger. If he wanted, he could still attempt to direct the American military or law enforcement to keep him in power. And he could run again, which threatens to drag this country through yet another violent and divisive drama.
It’s true that less than two weeks remain in his term. But America’s enemies seek to weaken us and could well look to take advantage of the chaos. The president, addled and unhinged, is in no position to deal with such crises. How would he handle provocation from Russia, Iran, or North Korea? Would he listen to advisers? Would military leaders listen to him? We can’t risk finding out.
The president, through a spokesman, has committed to an orderly transfer of power. But impeachment would send an important message to future would-be Trumps as well as to the rest of the world. Republicans, especially, have an obligation to break with this man and this behavior for the good of the country, their historic reputations, and for the viability of a party that has shed any claim to grandness.
The House should impeach President Trump. The Senate should convict him and disqualify him from holding “any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.”
If those closest to the president in good faith find that he cannot discharge his duties, as all outward indications would suggest, then they have an obligation to act, and they can do so through processes outlined by the 25th Amendment, which permits the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to remove the president if they deem him “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
These measures require political courage, and courage is in short supply. But how much violence and chaos must our nation endure before we understand that cowardice has a cost? Trump has abused his office. He has violated the public trust. And now he has incited a violent attack on the Capitol and Congress. He must be removed.
By Emery McClendon
There’s no doubt Jan. 6 will be remembered as a dark day in American history. But was the breaching of the U.S. Capitol by angry Trump supporters grounds for removing the president from office — especially when he only has a few days left?
President Donald Trump is being blamed for inciting the “mob” that broke through barriers, destroyed property, and terrorized a joint session of Congress that was certifying the results of the Electoral College’s presidential vote. Vice President Mike Pence and assembled lawmakers were evacuated to a safe place as Capitol Police attempted to restore order.
Protesters refused to stand down, despite eventual pleas from Trump, President-elect Joe Biden, and others. A Capitol police officer and four protesters died; others were arrested or injured.
America is deeply divided. This political friction erupted over the disputed claims of a fraudulent and unfair election. The protesters came from a “Stop the Steal” rally held to draw attention to alleged election improprieties and to show support for Trump.
After the insurrection came the finger-pointing. Who’s to blame? Should it be attributed to the angry protesters, a biased media, overly partisan lawmakers, the vice president for not intervening, or the president himself for whipping up the protesters?
The push to blame someone for the ruckus now dominates the national discourse.
The demand to punish Trump is at a fever pitch. There are calls for the vice president and Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in order to remove the president from office. There are also calls for Congress to impeach Trump again — this time for failing to control his supporters and allegedly inciting them to violence.
But several questions come to mind. First off, did Trump actually incite the violence? Shouldn’t the so-called “mob” be responsible for their own actions? And does this incident fit the modus operandi of Trump supporters?
These are highly relevant questions to ask, especially after a year of violent protests of the Trump administration. In those cases, anti-government organizers were not held responsible for the actions of others despite their own violent rhetoric. Using that precedent, why blame Trump now for the U.S. Capitol protest?
And what purpose would be served by booting the president from office right now?
David A. Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, denounced the violence, but said it should “serve as a lesson about the dangers of intemperate language intended to advance political agendas.” Setting up Trump’s dismissal would be “confirming the deeply held belief of some supporters of the president that his opponents will stop at nothing to remove him from an office.” He noted that this “will only throw more fuel on the fire.”
Many of those concerned about election integrity worry that they have no voice, and Ridenour said “the objective ought to be to change these perceptions, not confirm them.”
It’s clear that other groups have resorted to violent acts to make their point. And there is no evidence of Trump supporters routinely looting or causing mayhem where they have gathered. Under this precedent, it would be unfair to place the blame on Trump.
Trump was elected by the American people to serve until Jan. 20. He should be allowed to complete that term. Others in public service have been accused of more serious offenses and have not been removed from office. Trump deserves the same respect and treatment.
In spite of the hatred many have for Trump, he leaves an unparalleled legacy that will last for a long time in the hearts and minds of people worldwide. The honorable thing would be to allow him to complete his term.
After all, Bill Clinton did!
Emery McClendon is a member of the Project 21 Black leadership network. He originally wrote this for InsideSources.com.