President Donald Trump must go.
And he will — in less than two weeks — without anyone lifting a finger.
But Wednesday’s shameful events have spurred calls for the president’s removal from office before Inauguration Day, either by another impeachment trial or by applying the 25th Amendment.
Under the 25th Amendment, the president can be removed from office by the vice president plus a majority of the Cabinet, or by the vice president and a body established by Congress, if they determine “he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
Either would be a fitting end to Trump’s tumultuous presidency, but not without a dangerous downside. Editorial board members are split about the wisest course of action. Some favor removal. Others think it’s too good for him.
Impeachment or the 25th would simply provide a platform for Trump to rail against a “deep state” bent on persecuting him. Some of his followers have shown no aptitude or desire to reject Trump’s delusional conspiracies.
Any attempt to remove Trump from office will either turn him into a martyr or embolden him to act in an even more unhinged way. Better to box him in, run out the clock and let him go out with a whimper.
But that will require Congress, his Cabinet, military leaders and others to make clear that he can only leave the office with the dignity of a completed term if he shuts up and does nothing. They’ll have to threaten him with quick and drastic action if he fails to color inside the lines. Call it a presidential “time out” that spares the nation the civil unrest that would surely transpire from removal.
Trump fomented an insurrection against the U.S. Congress to prevent a duly-elected president from taking office. He must be held to account, but in a way that maintains peace and order. Starting another impeachment proceeding would fan the flames. Worse, it would keep him relevant when the nation needs to move past his destructive presidency.
As for those he incited, every single person who stepped past the barricades in front of the U.S. Capitol needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Protesting is lawful. Civil disobedience has its place, but attempting to sack the nation’s capitol is domestic terrorism.
There are several major issues that will result from the anarchy that enveloped Capitol Hill, but the one grabbing headlines right now is the reckoning facing the Republican Party.
Republicans threw in with Donald Trump in 2016, deciding essentially to ride the tiger. Trump was, from the beginning, obviously a populist. He beat down other contenders in the primary by calling them names, threatening them, and saying anything at all that he thought would be to his immediate benefit.
Any serious Republican — and there are many, many serious Republicans, grown-ups, actual conservatives — had to recoil. Serious Republicans knew from the beginning that Trump only pretended to be an outsider — a tell-it-like-it-is regular guy. He’s actually an ultra-privileged narcissist who has used all the levers of power to his own benefit for decades.
He got what he wanted in business by suing, threatening and intimidating people on the other side of the negotiating table. He said whatever he needed to say — truth? lies? who cares! — to get what he wanted.
Republicans chose to put him in power, basically to avoid four years of Hillary Clinton. And then they chose to stand by him, time after time, as he made a mockery of the presidency and the norms of our republic.
They did so because they figured they would benefit politically, individually and as a party. They stood by him, even as it became clear in the past two months that he was borderline delusional, yammering on about a stolen election with no proof whatsoever. Some of them — including Colorado’s new 3rd Congressional District Rep. Lauren Boebert — went all the way into Wednesday trying to undo the election to keep him in power.
But Donald Trump was never really a conservative, not even really a Republican in the traditional sense. He is a populist who, in the end, turned the U.S. Congress into the scene of a chaotic banana republic coup attempt. As U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) put it eloquently Tuesday, conservatives stand by the Constitution.
It is now entirely clear to all those Republicans exactly where this dance with Donald Trump was leading — it was leading to thugs bashing in the windows of the U.S. Capitol.
So responsible Republicans who chose to take the ride now have to face the reckoning. They all have to answer the question: Where were you when Donald Trump was inciting a riot? And for that matter, where were you when he was laying the groundwork?
There’s no getting away from those questions.
They’ll be answered in time. For now, what to do with a sitting U.S. president who has not only refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, but has encouraged violence and division since he first launched his campaign?
The Wall Street Journal nailed it:
“As for Mr. Trump, to steal some famous words deployed in 1940 against Neville Chamberlain: ‘In the name of God, go.’”