Do it now. He's too dangerous to keep around another two weeks.
The president incited a violent insurrection today at the Capitol. On Twitter he’d been encouraging today’s protest for weeks, promising, among other things, that he would attend it. “We will not let them silence your voices,” he told the crowd at a rally around noon today on the Ellipse.
Our country will be destroyed, and we’re not going to stand for that…. We're going to walk down there, and I'll be there with you, we're going to walk down ... to the Capitol and we are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.
The crowd marched to the Capitol, pushed past police barriers, entered the building, entered the Senate chamber, interrupted the lawful counting of electoral ballots, (which, as Lawfare’s Ben Wittes pointed out, meets the legal definition of sedition), vandalized the Capitol, and vandalized news cameras. One woman was shot in the chest, and there were other reports of gunfire.
The mob entered the Capitol building around 2 p.m. Unbelievably, Trump, who did not “walk down there” with the crowd, also did not rush to the scene to tell everyone to please go home. He didn’t even do that on Twitter, even as various congressional Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy*, urged him to do so. “Call it off, Mr. President. We need you to call this off,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said in a CNN interview.
At 2:38 p.m. Trump tweeted that the crowd should “support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement” and, bizarrely, advised it to “stay peaceful,” even though it was already evident that the protest was not peaceful. At 3:13 p.m. Trump tweeted again that the protesters should “remain peaceful” Only at 4:17 p.m.—two hours after the takeover of the Capitol—did Trump ask everybody to go home, and even then he couched it in terms likely to rile up the mob further: “We had an election that was stolen from us…. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people.” Later, Twitter took down the video in which Trump said this “because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.”
We can’t let someone who behaves this way stay in office another two weeks. Before he did this, he was trying to strong-arm Vice President Mike Pence into breaking the law by tossing out electoral ballots, and before that he was trying to strong-arm Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, into giving him 11,780 more votes (“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have”) and threatening him with prosecution if he didn’t do so. That’s just in the last week! We can’t afford two weeks more of this.
I don’t know what the mechanism is. Perhaps the Cabinet can invoke the 25th amendment. None can be unaware that Trump’s mental health, never strong to begin with, has deteriorated steeply since Nov. 3. Alternatively, once the Senate counting of the ballots is completed, the House should move to impeach Trump, again. The evidence won’t be hard to assemble. It’s doubtful the Senate would move to convict, but it’s worth a try. Earlier today Mitch McConnell, not previously a man known for moral courage, said,
We are debating a step that has never been taken in American history. Whether Congress can overrule the voters and overturn a presidential election. I've served 36th years in the Senate, this will be the most important vote I'll ever cast.
Maybe, in a few days, it will be only McConnell’s second most important vote. I don’t imagine he fears two weeks more of Trump any less than the rest of us.
Update: Apparently the National Association of Manufacturers, that well-known leftist cabal, beat me to the punch:
The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power, and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy. Anyone indulging conspiracy theories to raise campaign dollars is complicit. Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy.
*Correction: An earlier version of this column referred to McCarthy, erroneously, as Speaker of the House, and then was corrected, erroneously, to call McCarthy House Majority Leader. What can I say. It was a rattling day for all of us. Backbencher extends its thanks to Mark Feeney, who has done his level best to keep the author from making a fool of himself going back more than 40 years.