In the immediate wake of the Capitol riot, reports emerged that the White House cabinet was considering the 25th Amendment to remove Donald Trump from office. Through its fourth clause, the vice-president and a majority of the cabinet could declare Trump unfit for office, making Mike Pence the acting president for up to 21 days without congressional action — more than enough time to ensure that Trump would not serve out the remaining days before Joe Biden’s inauguration next Wednesday.
But after six days of reported considerations and back-and-forths between Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Pence wrote to her on Tuesday night to state he will not invoke the 25th Amendment:
Responding to Pelosi’s demand that he invoke the amendment or prepare for a second Trump impeachment, Pence wrote that he “will not yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our Nation.” He quoted Ecclesiastes 3 —the oft-cited “to everything there is a season” Bible passage — to suggest that now is a “time to heal” and called on Congress to “avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment.” (He also described lawmakers’ actions on January 6 as evidence that “unity is still possible in Congress,” despite 147 GOP representatives voting to overturn the election after reconvening from a break forced by an insurrection inspired in part by their objections in the first place.)
Pence’s decision comes as his personal relationship with the president appears to have fallen apart. Despite Pence’s relentless support for his boss ever since being named his running mate, Trump rebranded Pence as a target of his effort to overturn the election results. According to the New York Times, in the run-up to the vote on Wednesday he told Pence, “You can either go down in history as a patriot, or you can go down in history as a pussy.” Following the Capitol riot, in which the president reportedly reveled — as his VP and Republican colleagues sought shelter while insurrectionists shouted “hang Mike Pence” — Trump did not talk to his vice-president for days.
While the vice-president has described the second Trump impeachment as an act that would “further divide” the nation, the effort is now a bipartisan one. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly informed associates that he is open to impeachment. Liz Cheney, the third-highest Republican in the House, stated she would vote to impeach Trump.