To many, the Capitol insurrection that took place last week has further proven that President Trump is unfit to remain in office. In the days since, numerous lawmakers have called upon Vice President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. But in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Pence said he won't invoke the 25th Amendment, claiming that doing so would set a "terrible precedent".
The 25th Amendment, in short, allows the vice president and the majority of the Cabinet, or another comparable body, to declare that the president is unfit or unable to perform his duties. Power then transfers over to the vice president. Now, having Pence as president isn't ideal because he's not all that different from Trump; he represents a lot of the same values, but perhaps with a more palatable veneer. But with Biden's inauguration around the corner, many figure that Pence himself cannot do much harm in a week.
On Tuesday, House lawmakers passed a resolution calling on Pence to use the 25th Amendment. Later that night, Pence issued his letter, rejecting their call. Part of Pence's argument against invoking the 25th Amendment involved claiming that it isn't meant as "a means of punishment or usurpation" but rather for when a president is medically unfit. Pence also wrote, "I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our Constitution. Last week, I did not yield to pressure to exert power beyond my constitutional authority to determine the outcome of the election, and I will not yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our nation."
In his letter, Pence is referencing Trump's attempts to have him intervene in the electoral vote count. Because the vice president is the president of the Senate, Pence oversaw the certification process for Biden's victory, and Trump wanted Pence to usurp that process to declare him president again. Trump even told Republicans at a rally last week that he hopes Pence "comes through for us."
However, Pence comparing Trump's attempts to overturn the election to House members wanting to remove a president who blatantly encouraged people to storm the Capitol is a straw man argument at best. As more details about the insurrection come out, the event has become more horrifying even than originally thought. For example, House Democrats have been hinting that the Capitol breach may have been an inside job, with Rep. Ayanna Pressley's (D-Mass.) chief of staff sharing that panic buttons had been removed from Pressley's office ahead of the Capitol siege. Combine that with the proud white supremacists and neo-Nazis who stormed the Capitol, and it's easy to see how Pence referring to efforts to impeach Trump as "political games" is a Republican, once again, playing up partisan politics to downplay factual events.
While Democrats were calling on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, many predicted he wouldn't. Pence has generally stood solidly behind Trump. Now, an impeachment vote will move ahead, meaning that Trump is on the cusp of being the first president to be impeached twice. And if he is impeached, Trump will face a trial in the Senate, which could bar him from ever holding federal office again.