President Donald Trump may have a shot at becoming the first president in American history to be impeached twice.
In a Thursday afternoon announcement, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) said Congress "may be prepared to move forward with impeachment" unless the president's cabinet moves quickly to remove him via the 25th Amendment. Pelosi said Trump committed "an act of sedition" by inciting a riot on Wednesday afternoon that led hundreds of the president's supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol.
"The president has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people," Pelosi said.
Earlier on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for Trump to be removed from office by the 25th Amendment, which includes a mechanism allowing a majority of the president's executive cabinet, with the support of the vice president, to remove a president from power. That part of the 25th Amendment has never been invoked.
It's not clear whether there would be time for Congress to impeach Trump for a second time before the president leaves office on January 20—to say nothing of the Senate trial necessary for removal from office. Both chambers of Congress recessed after finishing the final certification of the Electoral College votes in the early hours of Thursday morning and are not scheduled to reconvene until January 19.
But there are increasing calls for Trump to be removed from office via one constitutional mechanism or another—and not just from Democrats.
In a video posted to Twitter on Thursday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R–Ill.) called on the cabinet to "invoke the 25th Amendment and end this nightmare."
The National Association of Manufacturers on Wednesday became probably the first trade association in American history to call for the removal of a president. In a statement released yesterday, the group said Trump's actions amounted to "sedition and should be treated as such" and said Pence should "seriously consider" invoking the 25th Amendment.
Donald Trump needs to resign or be removed from office. America has endured enough.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 7, 2021
One major procedural difference between the use of the 25th Amendment and the possibility of impeachment is what it could mean for Trump's political future. If the House voted to impeach Trump and the Senate agreed to convict him, he could be barred from holding federal office again.
Unlike last year, when Trump was impeachment for a phone call in which he sought electoral assistance from Ukrainian leaders, the facts of the current situation are not in much doubt. "This need not be a lengthy process. The evidence of the president's actions are clear and available to all," writes Keith Whittington, a professor of politics at Princeton University. "The House does not need an elaborate inquiry. The Senate does not need a lengthy trial."
Even so, the timing makes it unlikely that Trump will be impeached or removed. It is far more likely that the cabinet will choose to stagger through the next two weeks with Vice President Mike Pence as the country's de facto leader and that Congress will, as usual, do nothing. Still, as Gene Healy, vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, wrote for Reason in 2017, Congress should be willing to invoke its impeachment power on a more regular basis.
Impeaching Trump for his general bad behavior and recklessness, Healy wrote, "wouldn't just remove a bad president from office; it would set a precedent that might keep future leaders in line."
That's still true—maybe even more true—today.