US President Donald Trump.(REUTERS)
US President Donald Trump.(REUTERS)

Explainer: Can Trump be removed from office before his term ends on Jan. 20?

The chaotic scenes unfolded after Republican Trump, who has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, addressed thousands of protesters and repeated unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him.
By Reuters | Posted by Shivani Kumar
UPDATED ON JAN 07, 2021 09:30 AM IST

The storming of the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump on Wednesday has prompted calls by some lawmakers to remove him from office before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.

The chaotic scenes unfolded after Republican Trump, who has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, addressed thousands of protesters and repeated unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him.

There are two ways to remove a president from office: the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution and impeachment followed by a Senate conviction. In either scenario, Vice President Mike Pence would take over until Biden’s inauguration.

A source familiar with the effort said here have been some preliminary discussions among some Cabinet members and Trump allies about invoking the 25th Amendment.

What’s the purpose of the 25th Amendment?

The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967 and adopted in the wake of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, deals with presidential succession and disability.

Section 4 addresses situations where a president is unable to do the job but does not step down voluntarily.

The drafters of the 25th Amendment clearly intended for it to apply when a president is incapacitated by a physical or mental illness, experts say. Some scholars have also argued that it could also apply more broadly to a president who is dangerously unfit for office.

For the 25th Amendment to be invoked, Pence and the majority of Trump’s Cabinet would need to declare that Trump is unable to perform the duties of the presidency and remove him. Pence would take over, in that scenario.

Trump could subsequently declare that he is capable of resuming the job. If Pence and the majority of the Cabinet do not contest Trump’s determination, Trump regains power. If they dispute Trump’s declaration, the issue would then be decided by Congress, but Pence would continue to act as president until then.

A two-thirds majority of both Chambers would be needed to keep Trump sidelined. But the Democratic-controlled House could simply delay voting on the substantive dispute until Trump’s term ends, said Paul Campos, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Colorado.

Campos said the 25th Amendment would be an appropriate way to remove Trump from office and has the benefit of being quicker than impeachment.

“Pence could instantly become president, whereas impeachment and conviction could take at least a few days,” Campos said.

Can Trump be impeached and removed?

Yes.

A misconception about “impeachment” is that it refers to the removal of a president from office. In fact, impeachment refers only to the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress, bringing charges that a president engaged in a “high crime or misdemeanor” - similar to an indictment in a criminal case.

If a simple majority of the House’s 435 members approves bringing charges, known as “articles of impeachment,” the process moves to the Senate, the upper chamber, which holds a trial to determine the president’s guilt. The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict and remove a president.

Trump was previously impeached by the Democratic-led US House in December 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stemming from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son. Trump was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate in February 2020.

What “high crime and misdemeanor” could Trump be accused of?

Frank Bowman, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Missouri, said Trump “arguably fomented sedition,” or an attempted overthrowing of the US government.

But Bowman said Trump could also be impeached for a more general offence: disloyalty to the US Constitution and failing to uphold his oath of office. Congress has discretion in defining a high crime and misdemeanor and is not limited to actual criminal offences.

“The essential offence would be one against the Constitution - one of essentially trying to undermine the lawful results of a lawfully conducted election,” Bowman said.

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Although the TMC and the BJP, the main contenders in the bi-polar election, have been planning to hold rallies at the Brigade Grounds in Kolkata, it is the Left that managed to organise the first one. (PHOTO: CPI(M)),
Although the TMC and the BJP, the main contenders in the bi-polar election, have been planning to hold rallies at the Brigade Grounds in Kolkata, it is the Left that managed to organise the first one. (PHOTO: CPI(M)),

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Supporters during Left-Congress and Indian Secular Front (ISF) joint rally, ahead of West Bengal assembly polls, at Brigade Parade Ground, in Kolkata,(PTI)
Supporters during Left-Congress and Indian Secular Front (ISF) joint rally, ahead of West Bengal assembly polls, at Brigade Parade Ground, in Kolkata,(PTI)

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Bodoland People’s Front president Hagrama Mohilary, Assam Congress president Ripun Bora and other members of the anti-BJP ‘grand alliance’ in Guwahati on Sunday. (HT PHOTO)
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The ISF joining the Left-Congress alliance has given it an edge in the West Bengal election. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)(AP)
The ISF joining the Left-Congress alliance has given it an edge in the West Bengal election. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)(AP)

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PTI, Kolkata
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In the southern state ahead of its Assembly elections, Rahul Gandhi earlier interacted with the professors at St Xavier’s College in Tirunelveli.(ANI)
In the southern state ahead of its Assembly elections, Rahul Gandhi earlier interacted with the professors at St Xavier’s College in Tirunelveli.(ANI)

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 Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and CPI leader Binoy Viswam (left) during the coclusion of the southern leg of the LDF's Vikasana Munnetta Jataha in Thiruvananthapuram.(PTI)
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and CPI leader Binoy Viswam (left) during the coclusion of the southern leg of the LDF's Vikasana Munnetta Jataha in Thiruvananthapuram.(PTI)

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ANI
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Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel.(File photo)
Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel.(File photo)

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PTI
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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said he counted on the people's support to defeat the BJP.(ANI Photo)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said he counted on the people's support to defeat the BJP.(ANI Photo)

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Posted by Prashasti Singh | PTI, Tirunelveli
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Nine companies have been deployed in Madurai and its adjoining areas following the announcement of the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.(ANI/ Representative photo)
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ANI
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Babul Supriyo admitted that the post should not have gone from his official page, but said it was a trending meme. He did not create it.(PTI)
Babul Supriyo admitted that the post should not have gone from his official page, but said it was a trending meme. He did not create it.(PTI)

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Bodoland People's Front (BPF) leader Pramila Rani Brahma (ANI)
Bodoland People's Front (BPF) leader Pramila Rani Brahma (ANI)

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Union home minister Amit Shah in Karaikal, Puducherry (ANI)
Union home minister Amit Shah in Karaikal, Puducherry (ANI)

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The elections in four states and a union territory will take place in April-May.(AFP File Photo)
The elections in four states and a union territory will take place in April-May.(AFP File Photo)

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Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan addresses a rally during his 'Jan Arashirvad Yatra' in Jabalpur on October 25.(PTI Photo)
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan addresses a rally during his 'Jan Arashirvad Yatra' in Jabalpur on October 25.(PTI Photo)

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Elections are being held in 8,235 seats in local bodies in Gujarat. (PTI File photo )
Elections are being held in 8,235 seats in local bodies in Gujarat. (PTI File photo )

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PTI, Ahmedabad
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Elections are being held in 8,235 seats, where the BJP has fielded 8,161 candidates, the Congress-7,778, the Aam Aadmi Party-2,090, among others, said the SEC.
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