Invoking the 14th Amendment would hold Trump accountable

By | January 13, 2021

Max Burns writes:

There’s a better way to stop President Donald Trump than impeachment and the 25th Amendment — and it’s one that even has some Republican support. Though rarely used and often overlooked, the 14th Amendment could be the key to preventing a president who contributed to a domestic terrorist attack from ever receiving a position of public office again.

The president of the United States meets all the criteria for being permanently barred from public office under even a rigid originalist reading of the third section of the 14th Amendment, ratified after the Civil War as a way to expel public officials who sided with Confederate insurrectionists over the union. The 14th Amendment’s text plainly states that “no person shall … hold any office, civil or military,” who, “having previously taken an oath … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid and comfort to the enemies thereof.”

The benefit of the 14th Amendment over impeachment is that it allows Democrats to hold Trump accountable without the need to gather a bipartisan supermajority of senators, which lawmakers say is unlikely because Republican obstruction has defined nearly every effort to bind Trump to the rule of law. It also bypasses the challenge of invoking the 25th Amendment, which requires the support of Vice President Mike Pence. The main drawback — the 14th Amendment’s lack of a removal clause — could be remedied through well-deserved impeachment, though Trump’s departure in a week will make this issue moot.

Invoking the 14th Amendment could well garner more Republican support. On Monday evening, GOP Rep. Tom Reed of New York published an op-ed in The New York Times making his case for avoiding impeachment. “Work with us on constitutionally viable alternatives,” Reed pleaded. Those include “censure, criminal proceedings, and actions under the 14th Amendment.”

It’s fair to be skeptical of Reed, especially in light of most GOP leaders’ dogged unwillingness to admit an inkling of responsibility for a crisis of their own making. But there’s an underlying point that should be carefully considered: The 14th Amendment was crafted in times of division not entirely unlike our own. [Continue reading…]

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