Progressive lawmakers and advocacy groups on Thursday urged members of President Donald Trump's Cabinet considering resignation following Wednesday's insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol to remain in the administration and invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office.
"The vice president and Cabinet members must invoke the 25th Amendment NOW and remove Trump from office before he incites more violence and chaos."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
"A number of administration officials are resigning to protest Trump's horrific acts of sedition yesterday," noted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Twitter. "Not good enough! The vice president and Cabinet members must invoke the 25th Amendment NOW and remove Trump from office before he incites more violence and chaos."
Sanders' remarks came hours after Elaine Chao, Trump's transportation secretary, cited Wednesday's "traumatic and entirely avoidable" attack as she tendered her resignation, explaining the incident "has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside."
Chao, who is also the wife of soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), was the highest-ranking Trump administration official to resign in the wake of what many observers called a domestic terror attack. But she wasn't the only one.
NPR reports Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff to first lady Melania Trump; Sarah Matthews, a deputy press secretary; Mick Mulvaney, the special envoy to Northern Ireland; and Matt Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, are among those who are quitting over Wednesday's insurrection.
While such resignations may be dressed in a veneer of principle, many progressives say that if they want to make good, Trump officials should remain in his Cabinet and use the 25th Amendment—which allows for the dismissal of a president who is incapacitated, or unable or unwilling to perform their duties—to remove him from office. A group of nearly 100 Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence to "emphatically urge" him to invoke the constitutional remedy.
Trump cabinet secretaries resigning 14 days before the next president is inaugurated does not address these individuals’ complicity, aiding & abetting Trump over the past four years and does nothing to get Trump out of office. That is most important before more destruction.
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) January 7, 2021
Rather than taking the easy resign route, @VP Pence and the Trump cabinet should invoke the 25th amendment to save our country from this dangerous president.
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) January 7, 2021
"At this late a stage, resignations help little beyond serving as late attempts at self-preservation," argued Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). "If Sec. Chao objects to yesterday's events this deeply, she should be working the Cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment—not abdicating the seat that allows her to do so."
The advocacy group Public Citizen was even more blunt, calling Chao's resignation "the definition of cowardice."
"Chao could have stayed and pushed for the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office," the group tweeted. "Instead, she enabled Trump for four years and jumped ship when her husband's workplace was ransacked. Pathetic."
ATTENTION TRUMP'S CABINET: Resigning is not courageous, it's cowardly. Stay and invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) January 7, 2021
To those members of Trump's Cabinet who haven't left but are thinking about doing so, Robert Weissman and Lisa Gilbert, respectively Public Citizen president and vice president, sounded a gentler tone:
I am sure you all are profoundly and appropriately disturbed by what occurred yesterday at the Capitol... Many of you may now be considering resigning... While principled resignations would have been appropriate at any other moment in the administration's tenure, that is no longer this case.
Invoking the 25th Amendment in this way is without precedent and should only be done in the most extreme circumstances. But we are now living in those most extreme circumstances. Your country is relying on you to honor your duty to the Constitution and protect us all.
Pence, however, is reportedly unwilling to use his power to invoke the 25th Amendment, according to sources who spoke with Business Insider on Thursday. New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman confirmed the report.
Another option for holding Trump accountable for the riot he incited—impeachment—appears off the table for now. Despite Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) introducting articles of impeachment against Trump on Thursday for his "attempted coup against our country," Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives—which just 24 hours earlier had been under occupation by a Trumpist mob—saw fit to adjourn until the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.