To avoid a historically unprecedented second impeachment, less than two weeks before he's Constitutionally scheduled to depart the White House, Trump needs to resign immediately, says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The San Francisco Democrat who remains the third most powerful figure in Washington penned a letter to her Republican colleagues on Friday, invoking the resignation of Richard Nixon in August 1974, and saying that they should press the president to resign in order to avoid further embarrassment and shame for the party. Otherwise, a second, fast-tracked impeachment will likely take place next week.
"Today, following the president’s dangerous and seditious acts, Republicans in Congress need to follow that example and call on Trump to depart his office — immediately," Pelosi wrote, per the New York Times. "If the president does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action."
Pelosi's letter follows a 36-hour period in which there was wide discussion of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office on the grounds of his diminished psychological capacity to lead. Vice President Mike Pence, who would be pivotal in invoking the amendment, signaled Thursday that he was not comfortable doing so. (Though a confidant of Pence told USA Today that Pence has "never been as angry" as he was with Trump yesterday.)
The process of removal under the 25th Amendment would likely take at least several weeks, but one strategy being discussed appeared to be one in which Pence would assume the duties of president in an acting capacity, and Congress could then let the clock run out on Trump's tenure until January 20 whilst going through the motions of finalizing the removal.
But Pelosi's Friday letter points to another strategy that helps avoid political fallout for House Democrats, particularly those in swing districts who have large constituencies of Trump supporters. Republicans, sensing their own wave of fallout after Wednesday's chaos, may be able to coerce Trump to resign willingly, the way Nixon-era Republicans did, to avoid another impeachment.
And given the presence of 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl in the Capitol Friday at Pelosi's side, it appears that Pelosi will be making her case on national television on Sunday if something doesn't happen before then.
As the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board wrote Thursday in a remarkable about-face on Trump, "This week’s actions are a far greater dereliction of duty than his ham-handed Ukrainian interventions in 2019... But impeachment so late in the term won’t be easy or without rancor... It would pour political fuel on Wednesday’s dying embers."
Pelosi seemed to be echoing the editorial, which further said, "If Mr. Trump wants to avoid a second impeachment, his best path would be to take personal responsibility and resign. This would be the cleanest solution since it would immediately turn presidential duties over to Mr. Pence. And it would give Mr. Trump agency, a la Richard Nixon, over his own fate."
Political scribes and pundits have long contended that Trump would rather be burned alive than be branded a "quitter," which is why his resignation was deemed beyond unlikely during the impeachment process last year. But at the time, the political winds were on his side, and that has finally, finally changed. Still, dozens of House Republicans did his bidding Wednesday and voted to reject Electoral College results in the election despite no evidence of the voter fraud Trump has been crowing about since long before the election even happened, drilling it into supporters' brains like a mantra in the manner of a skilled charlatan.
Will he finally resign rather than save himself further ignominy? We'll see.