UW law professor: Removing Trump through impeachment ‘would be challenging’

Jan 8, 2021, 3:06 PM
Trump impeachment, Capitol riot...
A mob pushes their into the Capitol. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

With calls to remove President Trump from office prior to Joe Biden’s inauguration growing, University of Washington constitutional law professor Hugh Spitzer weighed in on how that might play out on KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show.

Washington lawmakers join calls to remove President Trump from office

Shortly after Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol building, lawmakers in Congress began to call on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office. Meanwhile, Democrats in the House reportedly plan to introduce articles of impeachment as soon as Monday.

As for which of those two methods has the greatest likelihood of success, Spitzer believes the 25th Amendment would likely be the superior option given the limited amount of time before President-elect Joe Biden assumes power.

“If Vice President Pence wanted to do it, and if he had a majority of the members of the cabinet, I think probably within 12 or 24 hours he could line up the votes, send them off to Congress, and relieve President Trump of his duties,” he described.

That would require Pence to declare Trump “unable or incapable” of maintaining his duties as president, and then garner signatures from a majority of sitting cabinet members. With enough signatures, Trump would immediately be stripped of his authority, and Pence would assume power as acting president.

That said, sources within the White House indicate that Pence opposes calls to declare President Trump unfit for office and invoke the 25th Amendment.

As for impeachment, that would entail a much lengthier and more onerous process.

Opinion: WA Republicans share blame for Trump mob’s insurrection

“Impeachment would require that the House impeach the president like they did a year ago, and then the Senate would have to convict him by a two-thirds vote,” he noted. “There’s not a lot of time to do that. I think there’s something like 13 days left, so it’s probably pretty impracticable.”

There’s also the issue of whether the Senate could conceivably convict Trump for inciting Wednesday’s mob that stormed the Capitol.

“My understanding (is that) actually indicting and then charging and convicting him for his language that sort of incited these rioters would be would be challenging,” he pointed out. “Now, prosecutors do effectively bring charges and can get people convicted for these kinds of things. But they’re not easy, so we’re just going to have to wait and see.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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UW law professor: Removing Trump through impeachment ‘would be challenging’