Thinking the unthinkable

Politicians, corporate group urge officials to consider Trump's removal 'to preserve democracy'

Thinking the unthinkable
Pro-Trump protesters clash with police at a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 US presidential election results by the US Congress, at the US Capitol Building in Washington. Photo: Reuters

(ATF) The US introduced the 25th amendment to its constitution allowing for the replacement of the president after the assassination of JFK made it necessary to swear in a replacement.

But after the storming of the US Capitol building on Wednesday by a rightwing mob egged on by outgoing President Donald Trump, many politicians and leading business groups are proposing the unthinkable - using the amendment to force the Commander in Chief from office.

Such a move has never been taken. 

But with 14 days left of Trump’s presidency still remaining, and all hope of overturning the election he lost to Democrat Joe Biden in November evaporated, there are fears he may seek more desperate measures to press his cause.  

'Not mentally sound'

“President Trump revealed that he is not mentally sound and is unable to process and accept the results of the 2020 election,” Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee wrote to Vice President Mike Pence. “President Trump’s willingness to invite violence and social unrest to overturn the election results by force clearly meet this standard.”

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The amendment would permit the removal of Trump if Pence and a majority of the cabinet agree so. Such a move would be largely symbolic because it would take days to enact and weeks to implement, by which time Biden would have been sworn in at his January 20 inauguration.  

Nevertheless, the head of a major US business group that represents 14,000 companies including Exxon Mobil, Pfizer and Toyota Motor urged senior US officials to consider removing him from office.

National Association of Manufacturers Chief Executive Jay Timmons said Trump "incited violence in an attempt to retain power, and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy. ... Vice President (Mike) Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy."

Chaotic scenes

The mayhem at the Capitol forced Congress to temporarily postpone a session to certify Biden's victory. 

The chaotic scenes unfolded after Trump, who before the election refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost, addressed thousands of supporters near the White House, repeating unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him due to widespread fraud and irregularities. 

Other business groups issued strong statements but did not go as far as the manufacturers' group. Under the amendment’s Section 4, never invoked, the vice president and a majority of either Cabinet officials or "such other body as Congress may by law provide" may declare in writing that the president “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimond

Several Democratic lawmakers in Congress also urged Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump.

The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executives of some of America's biggest companies, said that "the chaos unfolding in the nation’s capital is the result of unlawful efforts to overturn the legitimate results of a democratic election”.

They called on Trump "and all relevant officials to put an end to the chaos and to facilitate the peaceful transition of power," the group said in a statement.

Come together

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said "those responsible for this insurrection should be held to account, and we must complete the transition to President-elect Biden’s administration."

JPMorgan Chase Chairman and Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said: "Our elected leaders have a responsibility to call for an end to the violence, accept the results, and, as our democracy has for hundreds of years, support the peaceful transition of power. Now is the time to come together to strengthen our exceptional union."

Blackstone Group Chief Executive Steve Schwarzman, a Trump ally, said in a statement: "The insurrection that followed the President’s remarks today is appalling and an affront to the democratic values we hold dear as Americans. I am shocked and horrified by this mob’s attempt to undermine our constitution."  

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in an internal message reported earlier by Axios and confirmed by a company official that "we need our political leaders to lead by example and put the nation first... We removed the recent video of President Trump's remarks expressing support for the people causing the violence. We are treating this situation as an emergency."   

'Wreaked havoc'

General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra said on Twitter that "the violence at the US Capitol does not reflect who we are as a nation. It’s imperative that we come together as a country and reinforce the values and ideals that unite us."

The head of the US Chamber of Commerce, a powerful business lobby based near the White House, said that "attacks against our nation’s Capitol Building and our democracy must end now." 

"The Congress of the United States must gather again this evening to conclude their Constitutional responsibility to accept the report of the Electoral College," Thomas Donohue, CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

Lawmakers reconvened shortly after 8pm to resume the election certification.

"To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today - you did not win," Pence said as the session resumed. "Let's get back to work.”

  • Reporting by Reuters 

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