Jan 6, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Republicans consider drastic options to stop Trump

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

With 13 days left in President Trump's term, confidants and Republican officials are considering drastic steps to stop him.

The big picture: These measures include censure, impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment — a move, long dismissed as a liberal fantasy, in which Vice President Pence would step in if  Trump were found to be unable to perform his duties.

  • This talk is coming from current and former White House and GOP Hill aides, and Republican lobbyists and political consultants — all of whom have either embraced him or quietly tolerated him until now.
  • Senior State Department officials are encouraging 25th Amendment discussions along with other officials at the White House and other departments, according to two sources involved in the discussions.

The state of play: Republicans are furious with the president for what they see as fomenting an attack on American democracy, disgracing their party and invading the sanctity of their chambers on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

  • There's concern about whether the country can withstand another two weeks with Trump at the helm, and what additional chaos and division could be sowed.
  • There's also rage inside the GOP at Sens. Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and others whose plans to object to Biden's certification gave oxygen to Trump, the protests and the notion that Congress could be used to overturn the will of voters.

Behind the scenes: In recent days, there is a sense of futility among long-time confidants trying to get through to Trump.

  • He's simply not engaging with some, and while with others, he's talking but not listening. He doesn't want to hear that he lost the election to Biden, that Pence can't overturn the results, that he should help rather than hurt the Republican Party, or that he should tell his protesters to stand down.
  • Sources tell Jonathan that Trump has been ranting about Pence.

Be smart: There are many factors to consider before initiating any maneuver: Would it have the support to succeed? Would it chasten Trump or boomerang to make him even more of a folk hero? Would it boost or further damage the rest of the Republican Party?

  • A censure has little impact. Even if there were the bipartisan will for a second impeachment of Trump, there is not enough time remaining for a trial in the Senate.
  • The 25th Amendment route would require buy-in from Pence and a majority of Trump's Cabinet. But many of those Cabinet members also have been loyalists to the president and serve in acting capacities, so it's not clear that support or will exists.

The bottom line: No House or Senate Republican leaders are yet championing these ideas — and it's too soon to know whether those talking about them are just letting off steam after a shock to the democracy, or whether a critical mass exists to proceed.

Go deeper