That option needs the direct involvement of Vice President Mike Pence and the support of a majority of the Cabinet. Pelosi has said she has given Pence 24 hours to invoke the 25th Amendment, which immediately removes a president from office (for at least 21 days), and that if he doesn’t do so, the House will move ahead with impeachment. Pence seems unwilling to take that step, however. In fact, when Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the incoming senate majority leader, called the vice president last week to discuss that option, Pence kept them on hold for 25 minutes and then refused to take their call. Moreover, one factor that makes the 25th Amendment more unlikely is that cabinet members who might vote to invoke that step, like Chao and DeVos, have resigned.
Unlikely as this option may seem, many people are urging President Trump to resign, asking that he put the country’s interest ahead of his own. Appearing on the Today show on Friday, former secretary of state Colin Powell said he wished Trump would “just do what Nixon did, and that’s step down. Somebody ought to go up there and tell him, ‘It’s over. The plane’s waiting for you—you’re out.’” He added, “He should be totally ashamed of himself, and he should take that shame and turn it into a resignation as quickly as possible.” He called Trump’s actions “disgusting.” But Trump may feel that resigning puts him in legal jeopardy unless he can wrest a promise from Pence to pardon him. And that leads to the next question.
The New York Times has reported that Trump has discussed with aides the extraordinary possibility of pardoning himself before leaving office. As the paper explained, it’s unclear whether he has the power to do so. “No president has pardoned himself, so the legitimacy of prospective self-clemency has never been tested in the justice system, and legal scholars are divided about whether the courts would recognize it,” the Times wrote. “But they agree a presidential self-pardon could create a dangerous new precedent for presidents to unilaterally declare they are above the law and to insulate themselves from being held accountable for any crimes they committed in office.”
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