WASHINGTON — The top two Democrats in Congress — Sen. Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — called for President Donald Trump’s immediate removal on Thursday, warning that if his Cabinet did not invoke the 25th Amendment, lawmakers would pursue his impeachment in the waning days of his turbulent presidency.
A day after pro-Trump demonstrators stormed the U.S. Capitol building looking to disrupt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, more than three dozen congressional Democrats and one House Republican demanded Trump’s removal.
"By inciting sedition as he did yesterday, he must be removed for office," Pelosi (D-Calif.) said of Trump in a news conference. "While there’s only 13 days left, any day could be a horror show for America."
Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, speaking at a news conference in Manhattan, said he and Pelosi called Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday morning to urge him to convene the Cabinet and invoke the 25th Amendment. Schumer said they were kept on hold for 25 minutes, and were then told Pence could not take their call. Pence’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Trump "may only have 13 days left as president, but [Wednesday] demonstrated that each and every one of those days is a threat to democracy so long as he is in power," Schumer said, adding that if Pence "and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president, plain and simple."
Congressional Democrats quickly endorsed the calls for removal and impeachment, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), and Greg Meeks (D-St. Albans).
Despite the calls for immediate action, some Democrats conceded that it was unlikely that the Republican-controlled Senate would agree to reconvene and vote to impeach Trump before Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Democrats picked up two seats during Tuesday’s Georgia Senate runoff election, tipping control of the chamber in their favor, but that change won’t occur until Biden takes office.
Gillibrand, speaking to reporters, said "every option available from invoking the 25th Amendment to impeachment and removal, to criminal prosecution, should all be on the table."
Rice called for Trump’s removal on Wednesday evening, after spending nearly four hours in lockdown, huddled with other lawmakers as protestors paraded through the Capitol building smashing windows and ransacking offices.
"The President incited a domestic terror attack on the Capitol," Rice tweeted. "He is an imminent threat to our democracy and he needs to be removed from office immediately. The Cabinet must invoke the 25th Amendment."
Suozzi, in a statement Thursday, said he "will support any action against" Trump "that will hold him accountable for his irresponsible and reprehensible behavior. Whether it is the removal from office by his Cabinet utilizing the 25th Amendment, expedited impeachment, censure, or prosecution after he leaves office."
Meeks, the newly appointed chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement: "Whether by impeachment or by invocation of the 25th Amendment, Donald J. Trump must no longer be allowed to serve as leader of the free world."
However, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), a staunch Trump supporter, in a brief statement dismissed the calls for impeachment, noting that earlier in the day, Trump issued a statement promising an "orderly transition."
"As the President just stated, there will be a peaceful transition of power on January 20, 2021," Zeldin said in an email.
Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport), in a statement said, "Early Thursday morning, Congress completed its constitutional role and certified the results of the presidential election. As we heard today, the White House staff is working towards a peaceful transition of power in 13 days."
Garbarino's predecessor, former Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) rejected the calls for invoking the 25th Amendment or another impeachment.
"I would be hoping that nothing more is going to happen over the next 13 days," King said of Trump in a phone interview. "I think they should be talking to people in the White House, people around the president, to ensure there's some kind of control that is going to be there."
King said pursuing impeachment would be an "injustice" to Biden as he prepares to take office.
"That's going to be a cloud over him as he comes in," King said. "It's going to build up resentment against him from some quarters as well."
Biden, speaking from his Wilmington, Delaware transition headquarters, condemned the violence, calling Wednesday’s events "one of the darkest days" in the nation’s history. But he did not respond to questions shouted by reporters about the calls for Trump’s removal.
Biden spokesman Andrew Bates in a statement said Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris "are focused on their duty — preparing to take office on Jan. 20 — and will leave it to Vice President Pence, the cabinet and the Congress to act as they see fit."
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of (R-Illinois) was the sole congressional Republican to call for Trump’s ouster, calling him "unfit" and "unwell." Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Trump’s former Chief of Staff John Kelly also joined the calls for removal.
"I think the Cabinet should meet and discuss this, because the behavior yesterday and the weeks and months before that have just been outrageous from the president," Kelly told CNN.
"What happened on Capitol Hill yesterday is a direct result of his poisoning the minds of people with the lies and the frauds."
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, which has typically been pro-Trump during his time in office, also called on him to resign to "spare the U.S. another impeachment fight."
"He has refused to accept the basic bargain of democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose," the board wrote. "It is best for everyone, himself included, if he goes away quietly."
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany delivered a brief statement from the White House Briefing Room on Thursday, calling the violence at the Capitol building "reprehensible."
"Those who are working in this building are working to ensure an orderly transition of power," McEnany said. "Now it is time for America to unite, to come together to reject the violence that we have seen."
New York State Democratic chairman Jay S. Jacobs on Thursday demanded the resignations of Zeldin and the three other Republican New York representatives who objected to the certification of Biden’s election as president.
Jacobs said in a statement that Zeldin and Reps. Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island, Elise Stefanik of Schuylerville and Chris Jacobs of Orchard Park "have not only violated their oath of office, they have disgraced the districts and state that they represent."
He said in a phone call that it’s not because of political differences.
"This is more about the fact that they not only perpetuated a lie, a lie that they knew was a lie, but they aided and abetted in the insurrection that was incited by Donald Trump yesterday," Jacobs said.
Zeldin’s press aide said that if Democrats didn’t call for resignations of the Democratic lawmakers who objected to the electoral votes for Republican presidents, then "the call for the Congressional Republican to resign now is clearly coming from just another political hack."
State GOP chairman Nick Langworthy responded to Jacobs' statement, calling it "hollow, cheap, and opportunistic." He said Republican lawmakers "in no uncertain terms condemned the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol building."
With Tom Brune