WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she has spoken to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about preventing US President Donald Trump from initiating military actions or a nuclear strike.
Pelosi said in a statement to colleagues that she spoke with Gen. Mark Milley “to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike.”
She said the situation of “this unhinged President could not be more dangerous.”
Pelosi ws meeting with the House Democratic caucus Friday to consider impeachment proceedings against the president.
Pelosi later told House Democrats in a conference call that Milley reassured her that there are steps in place to prevent Trump from firing nuclear weapons.
The president has sole authority in the US government to order the launch of a nuclear weapon. But if a military commander were to determine, on advice of his lawyers, that such an order was illegal, then the order could be refused.
US President Donald Trump speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Wednesday, April 1, 2020, in Washington, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, listens. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)It would be illegal to launch a nuclear attack for no reason or as a disproportionate response to a military provocation.
The person described Friday’s conference call on condition of anonymity because the call was limited to House Democrats.
She and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer have called on Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to to force Trump from office. It’s a process for removing the president and installing the vice president to take over.
Trump is set to leave Jan. 20 when Democrat Joe Biden is to be inaugurated.
Democrats are discussing whether to act quickly to impeach Trump as soon as next week if his Cabinet doesn’t first try to remove him after he encouraged loyalists who ransacked the Capitol in a siege that has left five people dead.
The articles are expected to be introduced on Monday, with a vote as soon as Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the planning and granted anonymity to discuss it.
If Trump, whose term ends Jan. 20, were to be impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, he could be prevented from running again in 2024 or ever holding the presidency again. Trump would be the only president to be twice impeached.
House Democrats planned a caucus meeting at noon Friday, the first since Wednesday’s harrowing events at the Capitol, and could take up articles of impeachment against Trump as early as the week ahead. Pelosi discussed the prospect of impeachment with her leadership team Thursday night, hours after announcing the House was willing to act if Pence and other administration officials did not invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment — the forceful removal of Trump from power by his own Cabinet.
The final days of Trump’s presidency are spinning toward a chaotic end as he holes up at the White House, abandoned by aides, leading Republicans and Cabinet members. He is set to leave office when Democrat Joe Biden is sworn in, but top officials are gravely warning of the damage that he still could cause on his way out.
Rep. Adam Schiff, who led Trump’s impeachment in 2019, said in a statement Friday that Trump “lit the fuse which exploded on Wednesday at the Capitol.”
Schiff, D-Calif., said that “every day that he remains in office, he is a danger to the Republic.”
Five people are now dead from the violent melee, including a Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick. Pelosi said in a statement Friday that Sicknick’s death “reminds us of our obligation to those we serve: to protect our country from all threats foreign and domestic.”
She said those responsible for the officer’s death “must be brought to justice.”
Though Trump has less than two weeks in his term, lawmakers and even some in his administration began discussing options for his removal Wednesday afternoon as Trump first encouraged rally-goers near the White House to march on the Capitol, then refused to forcefully condemn the assault and appeared to excuse it.
Most Democrats, and many Republicans, put the blame squarely on Trump after hundreds of protesters bearing Trump flags and clothing broke into the Capitol and caused destruction and mass evacuations. The president had urged his supporters to protest as Congress was counting the electoral votes that confirmed Biden’s win.
Pelosi said “a threshold was crossed of such magnitude” that Trump should not be allowed to make any decisions.
Three Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee began Thursday to circulate articles of impeachment. Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Ted Lieu of California wrote in the articles that Trump “willfully made statements that encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — imminent lawless action at the Capitol.”
The House impeached Trump in 2019, but the Republican-led Senate acquitted him in early 2020.
Pence has not publicly addressed the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment, but that possibility may have faded after two Cabinet members resigned Thursday in protest after Trump egged on protesters who then mounted the deadly assault on the Capitol.
Yet senior Trump administration officials did raise the long-shot possibility as the chaos unfolded at the Capitol. Officials across the government went so far as to study up on the procedures for declaring Trump “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
No member of the Cabinet has publicly expressed support for the move, which would make Pence the acting president. But several were believed to be sympathetic to the notion, believing Trump is too volatile in his waning days.
While the House could quickly vote to impeach Trump, it is extremely unlikely that Congress could remove the president in the next 13 days. The Senate would have to receive the articles and then hold a trial and vote on them.
And even if it did so, the Republican Senate would be unlikely to vote to convict. But in one measure of the uncomfortable position that Trump’s goading of the mob had placed Republican lawmakers, there was a noteworthy lack of GOP statements attacking Democrats’ calls for his removal.