CHICAGO (CBS) — Accusing President Donald Trump of inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol, after a mob of thousands stormed the building on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) became the first Republican to call for the president’s removal from office by invoking the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, joining several Illinois Democrats who also want Trump kicked out before his term expires in two weeks.
A total of 10 Illinois members of Congress were backing the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment as of late Thursday. So was U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois).
Although such a procedure could be executed swiftly, it could ultimately land at the feet of Congress if President Trump himself is not onboard.
“All indications are that the president has become unmoored not just from his duty, or even his oath, but from reality itself. It is for this reason that I call for the Vice President and members of the Cabinet to ensure the next few weeks are safe for the American people and that we have a sane captain of the ship,” Kinzinger said in a video posted on Twitter. “It’s time to invoke the 25th Amendment and to end this nightmare.”
It’s with a heavy heart I am calling for the sake of our Democracy that the 25th Amendment be invoked. My statement: pic.twitter.com/yVyQrYcjuD
— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) January 7, 2021
Kinzinger talked with CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov about his stance.
“I feel at peace with this call,” Kinzinger said.
Kozlov asked Kinzinger specifically why he thinks the 25th Amendment needs to be invoked.
“I think the 25th needs to be invoked for very specific reasons – which is, number one, we need somebody at the helm of government who’s competent. I think the president is, right now, unfit for that job,” he said, “and secondly, our enemies are watching.”
On Wednesday, rioters overtook the U.S. Capitol as members of Congress were voting to certify the election results. Dozens of lawmakers said President Trump himself incited the mob action – which is one reason north suburban U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Illinois) also backs removing the president from office.
“Having him if office puts the nation at grave domestic and national security risk,” Schneider said.
Schneider said that applies even for the period of 13 days that President Trump has left in office.
Sources tell CBS News some of President Trump’s own cabinet members have been whispering about whether to move forward with formal proceedings to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him from office less than two weeks before his term ends.
Vice President Mike Pence ignored questions about it last night. The 25th Amendment allows the Vice President to take over office should the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet determine the President is unable to carry out his duties.
Four people died during violent pro-Trump protests at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. One woman was shot inside the Capitol, and three others died after suffering “medical emergencies,” police said.
Mr. Trump has spent the last two months making baseless allegations of mass voter fraud that have been rejected by dozens of courts and Republican officials, including his former attorney general, William Barr.
The president had encouraged his supporters Wednesday to march on the Capitol to protest lawmakers’ actions to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory, and later appeared to excuse the violent occupation of the Capitol by the mob, which forced its way inside, clashed with police and ransacked offices.
“Sadly, yesterday it became evident that not only has the President abdicated his duty to protect the American people and the People’s House, he invoked and inflamed passions that only gave fuel to the insurrection that we saw here,” Kinzinger said. “When pressed to move and denounce the violence, he barely did so, while of course victimizing himself and seeming to give a wink and a nod to those doing it.”
A woman was shot by a plainclothes Capitol Police officer after breaching the Capitol and attempting to enter the House chamber, according to acting Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee. She was transported to a local hospital where she was later pronounced dead, Contee said. The shooting is being investigated by MPD’s internal affairs unit, which is responsible for investigating all officer-involved deaths in Washington, D.C., even those involving other agencies.
In addition to the shooting, one woman and two men died “around the Capitol grounds” after suffering “separate medical emergencies,” Contee said. Contee did not identify any of the deceased or provide further information on the medical issues that lead to their deaths.
The shooting occurred after violent supporters of President Trump breached the U.S. Capitol as a joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes and affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win was underway.
The Capitol complex was locked down and lawmakers were evacuated, halting the count after only two states had been completed. Troops from the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. National Guard were deployed to help quell the violence.
At least 14 members of the Metropolitan Police Department were injured, including one officer who was dragged into the crowd. Six firearms and two pipe bombs were recovered, as was a cooler of molotov cocktails.
Several hours after the initial breach, law enforcement announced the Capitol had been secured. Fifty-two people have been arrested as of Wednesday night, police said.
Members of Congress from both parties finishedlate Wednesday and affirmed Biden’s win.
“We will arise from this, but we cannot forget what led us here. The liars and conspiracy authors are already at it again this morning with false narratives about yesterday’s disaster. Here’s the truth: the President caused this, the President is unfit, and the President is unwell, and the President must now relinquish control of the executive branch voluntarily or involuntarily,” Kinzinger said.
Most Democratic members of the Illinois congressional delegation also have publicly called for Trump to be removed from office, either through invoking the 25th Amendment or by impeachment.
Schneider said earlier Thursday that President Trump failed to step up and defend the nation after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, “leaving not only the Congress in danger, but also the system of laws that this nation is so firmly and necessarily founded upon. I fear that to enable nearly two more weeks of such lawlessness would be to risk the future of our great democracy.”
“Today, America witnessed a mob, not of patriots, but rather rioters, looters, and domestic terrorists motivated by the incitement of the President of the United States, Donald Trump,” Schneider said in a statement. “If Mr. Trump will not step up to the task of leading our nation as President, then he should immediately step down. If he will neither lead nor step down, then he has proven himself ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,’ and it is therefore necessary that the Vice President immediately invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley also called on the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment.
“This is the most efficient, urgent step we can take to remove Donald Trump from office,” he wrote in a Twitter post.
The cabinet must invoke the 25th amendment. This is the most efficient, urgent step we can take to remove Donald Trump from office.
— Mike Quigley (@RepMikeQuigley) January 7, 2021
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly said she supports calls for Trump to be impeached and removed from office.
“We cannot risk another day of his treasonous attempts to overthrow our democracy,” she posted on Twitter.
U.S. Reps. Chuy Garcia, Danny Davis, Marie Newman, Bill Foster, Lauren Underwood, Cheri Bustos, and Sean Casten also have called for Trump to be kicked out of office one way or another.
Underwood said Trump incited a “violent, treasonous attack on the United States Congress.”
“By his own admission, he sought to overturn an election and the will of the American people. Our democracy is at stake, and we cannot wait until Inauguration Day to see him removed from office. It must be immediate,” she said in a statement.
Calling the storming of the Capitol a “coup attempt” incited by the President, Casten said Wednesday “will go down as one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history.”
“In America, safe, secure, fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy. Yet for weeks, the President and his allies in Congress knowingly peddled disinformation and refused to accept the results of a legitimate election—even after 61 defeats in court. We must not only stand up to this treasonous President and his insurrectionist mob, but to the elected officials who helped incite yesterday’s violence and see them stripped of their power to continue their assault on our democracy,” Casten said in a statement. “Donald Trump presents a grave threat to the continuity of our government, and our democracy. He must be removed from office immediately, and I am calling on the House to impeach, and for Vice President Pence, in parallel to initiate removal via the 25th Amendment.”
Duckworth late Thursday also released a statement calling for President Trump to be removed, noting that she had voted to impeach the president last year.
“I voted to convict and remove Trump from office because I believed any Commander in Chief willing to abuse his power posed an unacceptable threat to our Republic. Unfortunately, those fears were validated yesterday as Trump incited a violent mob that sought to block the American people’s elected representatives from fulfilling a critical constitutional responsibility,” Duckworth said in the statement. “It’s clear Donald Trump is a threat to our nation and he should be removed from office as soon as possible. The Cabinet should immediately invoke the 25th Amendment, but if they fail to do so then Congress must immediately begin impeachment proceedings to safeguard our Republic.”
Under the 25th Amendment, Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of cabinet members would have to agree the president is unfit and unable to carry out his duties. That can happen quickly – but there’s a catch.
“It only stops on that first part if the president agrees to step down,” said North Central College Associate Professor Suzanne Chod, a constitutional expert.
If the president does not agree, Chod said he resumes power until the vice president and cabinet members again transmit that he is unable to discharge his duties.
Then, Congress would have to vote to remove the president by a two-thirds majority.
Considering the election objections voiced in chambers Wednesday, and the fact that a Republican, Mitch McConnell, is still the Senate Majority Leader, Chod said such a thing is not likely to happen.
“The likelihood that two thirds of the Congress would, let’s say in this case, support Vice President Pence and the majority of the Cabinet to relieve the president of his duties is very unlikely,” she said.
Kinzinger points out the 25th Amendment invocation could also be reversed.
There are other lawmakers, including members of the Illinois delegation, who support impeachment. However, because of the requirements – including a Senate trial – that is not likely a viable option.
CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov contributed to this report.
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