Demands grew late Wednesday to invoke the 25th Amendment to immediately remove President Trump from office after he cheered supporters who assaulted the U.S. Capitol and chased Congress out of the building.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee asked Vice President Mike Pence to begin the process, saying he had a duty “for the sake of our democracy” to take the reins from the president.
Several news outlets reported informal discussions among officials in Mr. Trump’s own Cabinet had also begun.
And indications were that some major decisions were already being made without his input.
The Defense Department issued a striking statement Wednesday indicating that it had discussed deployment of the National Guard to Washington while consulting Mr. Pence and congressional leaders, but without Mr. Trump’s approval.
The 25th Amendment allows for removal of a president in case of a disability, though legal experts have debated whether it can be used for political purposes or to derail an unpopular chief executive.
The Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said Mr. Trump’s behavior Wednesday “revealed that he is not mentally sound and is still unable to process and accept the results of the 2020 election.”
“President Trump’s willingness to incite violence and social unrest to overturn the election results by force clearly meet this standard,” the Democrats, led by Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Ted Lieu of California, wrote to Mr. Pence.
Also signing that letter was committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, who led the impeachment effort against Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump delivered a vociferous denunciation of Congress and even Mr. Pence to thousands of supporters gathered near the Capitol around noon on Wednesday. An hour later, a mob with Trump flags and hats stormed the Capitol, pushing through police barricades and invading the building, breaching the Senate chamber and forcing an armed standoff with police at the doors of the House chamber.
The president, while calling for peace, took to Twitter to reassert the same claims about the election that had riled up his supporters in the first place.
Rep. Jimmy Gonzalez, California Democrat, said every minute Mr. Trump remains in office “represents a clear and present danger to our country.”
“I don’t use the term ‘treasonous’ lightly, but today, as my House colleagues and I sheltered in place from domestic terrorists who laid siege to the United States Capitol, I knew there was no other way to characterize Donald Trump and his role in this shocking act of insurrection,” he said.
Congress on Thursday morning was able to certify President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s victory.
Mr. Trump has just two weeks left in office.
But after Wednesday, the prospect of those two weeks has lawmakers pondering what other incidents might occur.
Some members of Congress have vowed to attempt impeachment. Impeachment could also ban him from holding future office.
That process is cumbersome, though, and it’s unlikely it could be mounted in the time left, particularly as the Senate works on preparing to hold hearings to confirm Mr. Biden’s incoming Cabinet.
One section of the 25th Amendment allows a president to declare his own temporary disability, as has happened in cases where the chief executive has undergone medical procedures.
But in cases in which a president won’t invoke it, the amendment includes an option for the vice president, acting with a majority of Cabinet officers, to declare the president unfit for duty.
Mr. Trump can refute that claim, but if the vice president and Cabinet insist the infirmity persists, the issue is tossed over to Congress. It would take a two-thirds vote in each chamber to overcome the president’s objections and relieve him — the same threshold as an impeachment conviction in the Senate.