In the early afternoon hours of December 23rd, 2020, President Trump held a meeting in the Oval Office with Vice President Mike Pence. The meeting lasted for just over an hour and, shortly thereafter, President Trump departed the White House to head to Florida for the holidays. What was said in that private shadowy meeting is unknown, but it’s not too difficult to speculate on the nature of what could have been so vital for Trump to have spent the hour prior to his vacation in a hastily convened and unscheduled meeting with the vice president. After all, the president had been almost maniacally focused for the past two months on absolutely nothing but overturning the results of the election.
Whatever was discussed between the two during that long meeting, and whether or not Trump spent that hour pressuring Mike Pence to engineer a coup, only the vice president knows, however, we do know that shortly after that meeting Trump became focused on the path to victory running through Mike Pence’s role as President of the Senate. Trump’s earlier efforts that included scores of court challenges in numerous states had failed. So had his seditious call with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State, the audio of which was recorded and publicly released. (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/03/us/politics/trump-raffensperger-georgia-call-transcript.html)
Aboard Air Force One, just after his meeting with Pence, Trump retweeted a message from one of his supporters—since deleted—stating that Pence had the power to unilaterally refuse to certify the electoral college results. At a rally in Georgia on January 3rd, Trump gave the following comments:
“I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you. I hope that our great vice president, our great vice president comes through for us. He’s a great guy, because if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much.”
Trump continuously pressured Pence to act during his more than 75-minute speech to his crowd of supporters, saying, “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.” He later stated it again: “Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn’t, it’s a sad day for our country.”
He also, of course, sent several implicit Tweets with the same desperate and extreme pressuring message:
Trump’s statements and the underlying threats, both implied and explicit, and likely the long meeting in the Oval Office clearly resulted in the vice president holding deep and ponderous meetings with his staff and attorneys. On January 6th, just moments before calling the joint session of congress to order to begin the certification process, Pence released this three-page letter to his fellow lawmakers: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/read-pences-full-letter-saying-he-cant-claim-unilateral-authority-to-reject-electoral-votes I’ve pulled a few of the relevant passages from the letter where Pence clearly implies that he was pressured by Trump to act unilaterally and illegally:
“Vesting the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide presidential contests would be entirely antithetical to that design. As a student of history who loves the Constitution and reveres its Framers, I do not believe that the Founders of our country intended to invest the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide which electoral votes should be counted during the Joint Session of Congress, and no Vice President in American history has ever asserted such authority…It is my considered judgement that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not…Four years ago, surrounded by my family, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, which ended with the words, “So help me God.” Today I want to assure the American people that I will keep the oath I made to them and I will keep the oath I made to the Almighty God. When the Joint Session of Congress convenes today, I will do my duty to see to it that we open the certificates of the Electors of the several states, we hear objections raised by Senators and Representatives, and we count the votes of the Electoral College for President and Vice President in a manner consistent with our Constitution, laws, and history. So Help Me God.”
What drives the Vice President of the United States to pen a letter such as this one, a letter no vice president in the history of our country has ever felt a need to write? Again, we can only speculate, but you’d have to be a complete moron to think that Pence’s motivation was anything but a response to the considerable pressure being applied from above.
Shortly after the Vice President gave his speech and opened proceedings and the letter to congress was made public, Trump tweeted the following:
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
Trump then, in a petulant, revenge-driven storm of anger and pettiness, proceeded to ban Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff, Marc Short from stepping foot into the West Wing. Twitter has since deleted the above Tweet, claiming that it was used to incite violence, namely the angry mob that stormed down Constitution Avenue and breached the Capitol—something that hasn’t been done since the British army managed it in 1814—in an attempt to halt the constitutional process and to forcibly interfere in our revered democracy, rioting and causing destruction that resulted in one rioter being trampled to death and another being killed by the Capitol Police.
And this death and destruction lies at the feet of the President of the United States, who urged this angry mob forward on their mission with a speech outside the White House minutes before.
“We are going to walk down…to the Capitol…You’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength, you have to be strong.”
Trump shoved these protestors—minions and puppets whom he has been inflaming for the last two months by plying them with lies about treachery, theft, and deceit in the election—down the street to the Capitol, inciting them into a mob and turning them into insurgents before their march toward their destiny with death and destruction.
Even afterwards, when Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and even the previously ardent Trump supporter, Lindsay Graham were hastily distancing themselves from the mayhem of this horror of a presidency, denouncing the actions of Trump and the mob, and world leaders were issuing statements of outrage and disgust, Trump still couldn’t find it in himself to show even a reflection of remorse. He gave a televised statement outside the White House urging the protestors to quit and to go home, ending it with a message that he feels their pain, that the election was fraudulent. “Go home. We love you. You’re very special. I know how you feel.” This was in stark contrast to his message to rioters from this summer whom he called “dangerous scum” and upon whom he urged the Justice Department to convict with mandatory sentences of ten years in prison. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sma-oAJv91o
Former presidents leant their voices in disgust of the deplorable mayhem orchestrated by their successor. Obama said, “History will rightly remember today’s violence at the Capitol, incited by a sitting president who has continued to baselessly lie about the outcome of a lawful election, as a moment of great dishonor and shame for our nation. But we’d be kidding ourselves if we treated it as a total surprise.”
George W. Bush, the only living former Republican president showed his disgust as well: “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic — not our democratic republic…I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement. The violent assault on the Capitol — and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress — was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes.”
Since his reckless and seditious actions, and the subsequent banning by Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram of his ability to post, Trump’s administration seems to be falling apart. Trump’s aide, Dan Scavino, had to send a message via Twitter from the president in the very early hours of this morning, a Tweet that wasn’t even sent from his public account, but rather from his personal account. White House staffers were caught off-guard, completely unaware of the statement that Trump had made through Scavino.
The President of the United States pressured his vice president to subvert our democracy and orchestrate an illegal coup to overturn the results of a fair and free election. When that didn’t work, he gathered an army of supporters, incited them into an angry mob, and sent them marching down Constitution Avenue in a seditious and riotous horde. These actions are treasonous and deplorable, and although the proof of Trump’s criminal malfeasance may not be enough for a court of law, the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming, and that is maddening and terrifying.
Luckily, the constitution doesn’t require proof in a court of law. Mike Pence needs only suspect Donald Trump of perpetrating these crimes. And Pence has the lawful authority vested by the Constitution to act on these suspicions.
The 25th amendment provides for the president to be removed from power. Although the 25th amendment has been invoked several times in the history of our country, most recently by George W. Bush on two occasions when he was undergoing a surgical procedure, section four of the amendment has never been invoked. Section four of the 25th amendment reads as follows:
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
Section four requires only that the vice president and the majority of the president’s cabinet (currently 15 members, pending resignations that are coming fast and furious as the inner circle flees the floundering ship) to agree that the president is unfit to lead. If Mike Pence can convince just eight cabinet members that Trump isn’t fit to serve the remainder of his term, they need only deliver a signed letter stating that to the President pro tempore of the Senate (currently Chuck Grassley) and the Speaker of the House (currently Nancy Pelosi), and the vice president is immediately vested with the power of the presidency.
Trump can fight it, but the Senate wouldn’t even have to hold a vote. They have 21 days to even assemble and vote on the matter, and by that time, Biden will have been inaugurated and Pence will have turned over the reins of power.
President Trump was the architect and orchestrator of one of the most notorious days in the history of our country. It’s time for Mike Pence and the Trump cabinet to step forward and take a stand. It’s time for them to say enough is enough.
It’s time to invoke section four of the twenty-fifth amendment.