Remove Trump Immediately
We at the Mischiefs of Faction join our colleagues in political science in calling for the immediate and constitutional removal of Donald Trump from office.
We hasten to note that we are all committed to unbiased research and education and that we are reticent to endorse candidates or advocate the appointment or removal of government officials. However, as this week’s actions at the U.S. Capitol and elsewhere make clear, this is not a matter of preferring one party or candidate or another, but rather of protecting American democracy from a very clear, present, and ongoing danger.
It was one thing for Trump to claim that his election loss last November was fraudulent; he claims this about every contest he loses. It was one thing for Republican elected officials and conservative news personalities to baselessly echo the President’s false assertions about the election; they have done this about a great many of Trump’s statements.
But on the morning of January 6, Donald Trump addressed a long-planned gathering of his supporters near the White House, declaring that he would never concede the election, calling on them to show “strength” and to march on the Capitol as members of Congress were counting Electoral Votes, and pressuring the President of the United States Senate to act outside his prescribed Constitutional role and overturn the presidential election two weeks before his term ends. He told attendees he would walk with them as they marched.
The person inciting insurrections can not also be the person in charge of federal law enforcement. This is how democracies die.
Trump’s supporters followed his instructions, marching to the Capitol in vast numbers, overwhelming Capitol Police, breaching the building, occupying members’ offices and legislative chambers, causing widespread destruction of property, and resulting in at least four deaths, all while carrying the flag of an enemy nation. Reports also indicate that President Trump initially blocked the Defense Department from sending the National Guard to protect the safety of members of Congress and the Vice President. This was an insurrection. It was an attempted coup. The end of yesterday’s occupation of the Capitol should not give us relief. And until its participants, leaders, and collaborators are brought to justice, the insurrection is ongoing.
We recognize that there are less than two weeks remaining in Donald Trump’s term. However, he has demonstrated that he can not be trusted with the office, and he will continue to perceive personal advantage in promoting insurrection. The person inciting insurrections can not also be the person in charge of federal law enforcement. This is how democracies die. To boot, one government watchdog group has already downgraded the US to a status that is below the threshold for democracy. Trump cannot be trusted to step down peacefully on January 20th.
There are two constitutional and peaceful ways to remove him from office, either of which we support. One would be via the impeachment and removal process, by which a majority of the House would impeach (again) and two-thirds of the Senate would vote to convict and remove. The Constitution is vague on the explicit processes for running this procedure and it could certainly be done within a day should a sufficient portion of the Congress support doing so.
The other method would be via the 25th Amendment, by which a majority of the Cabinet would vote to remove Trump. This amendment was certainly not intended for the removal of a conscious president. Trump could appeal the decision and it would require two-thirds of both chambers of Congress to sustain his removal. However, given the short remainder of Trump’s term, it would potentially be possible to postpone this appeal until January 20th, or to invoke the 25th while Congress proceeds with impeachment and removal.
We do not make claims about the feasibility of these solutions. To be sure, no president has been removed by them previously. But these are not ordinary times. The President instigated an assault--a literal, physical assault--on the U.S. Congress and on the American electoral system. For the system to simply try to run out the clock is insufficient and would tell future would-be authoritarians that there is no price to pay for insurrection.
Moreover, if those who participated in the insurrection avoid consequences, then there is no reason to expect it will not be repeated. To be clear, without punishment, we will likely see more of what we saw on Wednesday. In addition, if elected officials who condoned the insurrection face no accountability, the government will have blessed its own demise. In this way, the insurrection remains an active threat to the nation.
Democracies maintain rights and freedoms for their citizens through publicly accountable institutions. The US will remain on insecure ground until our institutions are reinforced and those who violate the rules and norms of democracy are held accountable through elections or legal action.