US Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday said he did not support invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump just a week before the end of his term, saying such a move was not in the country’s “best interest” or consistent with the constitution in a decision likely to lead to Trump’s impeachment.
The vice president is crucial to the process because under the 25th Amendment, Pence and the majority of Trump’s cabinet would need to declare Trump unable to perform the duties of the presidency and install Pence as acting president.
“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution,” Pence wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, adding that he would not join the Democrats in “playing political games”.
Claire Finkelstein, the director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania, told Al Jazeera before the letter was released that the debate over the 25th Amendment was largely symbolic and Pence’s opposition to its use meant that Trump’s impeachment was “very likely”.
The House of Representatives is controlled by the Democrats.
“They have the votes to do it, they’ve done it before and now, if anything, the fervour and the upset with Donald Trump is much higher than it was over the Ukraine matter,” Finkelstein said.
“The real question is what will happen after the House impeaches him and what strategy the House should use with regards to impeachment.”
A number of Republicans, including Liz Cheney, who is the third highest ranking Republican in the House, have broken ranks to say they would vote in favour of Trump’s impeachment after his supporters stormed into Congress last week. Five people died in the violence, including a police officer and a Trump supporter who was shot.
The Senate trial could take place after Trump has left office and Biden is in the White House, Finkelstein added, noting that a successful impeachment could ensure Trump never be allowed to hold public office in the US again.
“It’s critical that the process not be rushed,” she said. “That we can hear witnesses, who can come to the floor of the Senate and testify, something that we were deprived of the last time around.