Donald Trump still has 11 days in office.
Article II of the Constitution vests full executive power in the president, including the post of commander in chief of the armed forces. Since World War II, this has included the power to use nuclear arms—“the president’s weapons,” as nukes are called in the defense community—without contradiction or countermanding.
Read: The real Cuban missile crisis
No special exception limits the actions of lame-duck presidents. Trump will have the full panoply of his powers right up until noon on January 20. After the storming of the U.S. Capitol, even these final few days are too much of a risk to endure.
Trump is an unstable and desperate man who has incited violence against the government of the United States. He cannot be trusted with the keys to Armageddon, and so he must be removed by any legal and constitutional means available.
Since the insurrection on Wednesday, Trump has tried in his diffident and childlike way to calm the waters with a weak statement acknowledging Joe Biden’s win, an acceptance Trump apparently sees as a gracious willingness to compromise after his initial seditious insistence on fighting to the end. This change in tone, however, was merely Trump following his usual pattern, in which he says something horrifying, panics his staff—and his lawyers—and then is pushed out in front of the cameras to say he didn’t really mean any of it, while he winks and indicates that he meant every word of it.
And sure enough, just hours after his grudging act of contrition, Trump was back on Twitter with an all-caps exhortation to his followers to take him both seriously and literally. “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN,” he tapped out furiously, “will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
David A. Graham: This is a coup
And in case anyone was in doubt about yet another “new tone” or “presidential pivot,” Trump added one more tweet: “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.” (On Friday evening, Twitter permanently suspended the president’s account.) As my colleague David Frum has noted, Trump has finally ended the unbroken streak of peaceful transitions of power in the United States.
Mere spite, however, is not enough reason to remove Trump. He is willing to instigate violence against his own citizens and the other branches of government, an emotional condition that is an obvious case for invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. Unfortunately, Vice President Mike Pence has resisted this move so resolutely that he refused to answer a call from the speaker of the House and the Senate minority leader.
Congressional Republicans, for their part, are resisting calls to remove Trump, arguing instead that we should all just clench our teeth and tough it out. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, has called for impeachment if Trump does not resign. But she has also told her caucus that she has spoken with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to “discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike.”