The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Some Republicans hedge their bets on removing Trump from office

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) posted a video on Jan. 7, 2021, the day after pro-Trump riots at the Capitol, saying, “It is time to invoke the 25th Amendment.” (Video: @RepKinzinger/Twitter)
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Three key figures lined up Thursday behind the idea of removing President Trump from office in the aftermath of an attempted insurrection on Capitol Hill. Two of them were the Democratic leaders of the Senate and House, Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Their statements combined indicate the broader party’s support for the move. The third was Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a frequent Trump critic who became the first Republican in Congress to make such a call.

Perhaps the most telling developments on this front Thursday afternoon, though, came from Republicans who wouldn’t commit to such a thing — but also declined to rule it out.

Trump’s removal remains unlikely — either by another impeachment process or by the 25th Amendment, both of which are being floated by advocates of his ouster. And that’s especially the case given that he has fewer than two weeks left in office. Critics, including some big-name Senate Republicans, have linked his rhetoric to the storming of the U.S. Capitol that occurred Wednesday, as Congress was accepting the results of the electoral college.

Removal would require the support of many congressional Republicans, in the case of impeachment, or a majority of members of Trump’s own Cabinet, in the case of the 25th Amendment. The latter is a step The Washington Post has reported was being seriously discussed late Wednesday by senior administration officials, in light of Trump’s rhetoric and volatility in his final days.

Neither is easy or to be taken lightly.

But Kinzinger isn’t the only Republican at least entertaining the idea.

In a news conference Thursday afternoon, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) twice said that he didn’t support such steps now, but the senator who in 2016 dismissed Trump as “crazy” notably attached caveats to that.

“I do not believe that’s appropriate,” Graham said, before adding in the same breath: “at this point.”

He was asked a similar question later on, and qualified his answer depending upon future events.

“Now, if something else happens, all options would be on the table,” he said.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who is newly elected, appeared on MSNBC around the same time and said of Trump’s comments about the election being “stolen”: “The rhetoric is a danger to our nation, it’s a danger to our party, it’s a danger to our citizens. We need to be sure all of us are condemning it.”

She was also asked if she would entertain either option for removing the president.

“Anything presented to me, I will look at the facts and make that decision,” Mace said.

Mace’s answer, in particular, could be chalked up to just trying to keep her powder dry. Her comments about Trump’s rhetoric being a “danger” aside, supporting removal from office would take things several steps further. She also said she wasn’t familiar with the specifics of the 25th Amendment.

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), though, joined her in leaving that option open, telling Spectrum News that he would defer to Cabinet officials if they opted for the 25th Amendment.

“I don’t know anything about the president’s mental state or any of that,” Stivers said. “The Cabinet decides on the 25th Amendment, and if the Cabinet decided to do that, I would not oppose it.”

He added: “If the Cabinet decided to do something on the 25th Amendment, they know what’s going on much better than I do, day-to-day, and where things stand.”

He added of impeachment, though, that he thought it would be “silly” because a full defense couldn’t be mounted in that time: “I do not believe that an impeachment can happen in 13 days.”

Again, he wasn’t committing to anything, but it’s notable that Stivers, who has been a member of GOP leadership, wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of the 25th Amendment out of hand, especially alongside what Graham said.

Graham is as studied a political hand as there is. He’s been in Washington a long time. As his convenient evolution on Trump has shown, he knows which way the wind blows and what to say in the moment to get what he wants.

Even if you accept these Republicans are acting in raw political ways — both in these comments and the increasing number of resignations we’ve seen in the administration since Wednesday — their perception of that raw political calculus seems to be shifting. And that comes even at a time in which Trump has made pains to try to ensure he’ll be a force in GOP politics for years to come.

It’s certainly a different situation than we found ourselves in a year ago, when just one Republican — Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) — voted to convict him and remove him from office.