Before Vice President Pence declined on Thursday to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump for sedition, and before we learned of the death of a Capitol Police officer (the fifth death following Wednesday’s riot), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appeared at her weekly news conference to incinerate Trump and his Republican enablers.

“The President of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America, the gleeful desecration of the U.S. Capitol, which is the temple of our American democracy. And the violence targeting Congress are horrors that will forever stay in our nation’s history,” she said. She added, “In calling for this seditious act, the president has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people. I join the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the vice president to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th amendment. If the Vice President or Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment.”

The speaker’s logic is solid. Ticking off the names of some of the Cabinet officials who should consider the 25th Amendment, she asked: “Are they ready to say in the next 13 days this dangerous man can do further harm to our country and assault on our democracy on the first branch of government?”

Unlike many in the House and Senate, Pelosi did not shy away from condemning Republicans who aided and abetted the insurrection: “Accountability is also needed for Republicans in Congress who promoted the extreme conspiracy theories that provoked the violence, encouraged the mob and who, after desecration of the Capitol, went back to the House floor and continued to push the falsehoods that underpinned this assault on our democracy,” she declared. “These Republicans abdicated their oath of office that was taken just three days prior to protect the American people and to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

She returned to the subject later during her remarks:

Perhaps somebody thought for a moment that [Trump] would be patriotic before he leaves office for just this once. So again, the fact that these people were incited . . . And you know what? Last night, I don’t know if you heard on the floor, but some of the Republicans and their enabling of the president’s bad behavior have said those were not Trumpites, they were antifa invading the Capitol disguised as Trumpites, right?
So we have a problem here with the enabling that is going on with the Republicans in the Congress as well, undermining the election again, enabling the president. And if they don’t recognize what yesterday was, a threshold was crossed of such magnitude that there is no way that this president should be allowed to make any decision, to rouse any troops of his Trumpites.

There are two issues here. First, Trump must be prevented from inciting further violence or causing constitutional mayhem, including any attempt to pardon the seditionists. It is not sufficient for him to make a video conceding that President-elect Joe Biden will take office. The problem is what happens until then. Second, the issue of accountability — constitutional and criminal — looms large. The Justice Department will be making arrests and prosecuting those who committed violence or encouraged it. The potential penalties for inciting a riot during which five people died are serious.

The same issue of accountability holds true of Congress. Pelosi is right: Republicans violated their oaths in the most serious way since House members took up arms against the United States in the Civil War. It must be a point of no return — a bright line that no member will ever cross again. If House and Senate leadership enact no penalties, it will happen again. Gross misconduct without consequences virtually guarantees recidivism.

Pelosi’s anger is entirely justified. She must now carry her powerful words to their logical conclusion. Impeach Trump. Both she and soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) must find a way to mete out punishment for the horrendous conduct we witnessed on Wednesday.

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