The top Democrats in Congress called for President Donald Trump's removal Thursday, a day after a mob spurred by the president overran the Capitol as lawmakers tallied President-elect Joe Biden's presidential win.
Both Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called on Vice President Mike Pence and Trump's Cabinet to remove the president from office by invoking the 25th Amendment. Both said they could move forward with impeachment if the vice president and secretaries do not act.
In a statement earlier Thursday, Schumer said Congress "should reconvene to impeach the president" if Pence and the Cabinet do not invoke the 25th Amendment. Pelosi said lawmakers "may be prepared" to take the step if executive branch officials do not try to remove him. She added that the move would have "overwhelming" support within her caucus.
Both Democratic leaders said Trump would endanger the country even in the two weeks he has left in office.
"Each and every one of those days is a threat to democracy," Schumer told reporters Thursday afternoon outside his New York City office. "The quickest and most effective way to remove this president from office is to invoke the 25th Amendment."
Schumer and Pelosi said Trump incited an "insurrection" against the country. The speaker added that "any day can be a horror show for America" as long as Trump remains in office.
Biden will become president on Jan. 20 after Trump for months spouted conspiracy theories that widespread election fraud cost him a second term in office. More lawmakers have warned that another two weeks of Trump's presidency could further erode American democracy or lead to more loss of life after four people died during the Capitol attack Wednesday.
More than 100 lawmakers have called for the president's removal through the 25th Amendment, impeachment or resignation, according to an NBC News tally. Only one of them — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — is a Republican.
Congress adjourned for at least the rest of the week after it counted Biden's electoral victory early Thursday. It is unclear if either chamber would return in time to vote to remove the president in the 13 days before the inauguration. While Schumer's Democrats will control the Senate in coming weeks after Senators-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia take office, Republicans will hold the chamber until they are sworn in.
Asked Thursday about the timing of possible impeachment proceedings, Pelosi said, "I don't know how quickly [Pence] might respond. We'll see."
Schumer told reporters he and Pelosi tried to reach Pence on the phone to urge him to remove Trump from office. He said the vice president's staff kept the Democrats on hold for 25 minutes, then told them he would not come to the phone.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not weighed in on whether to expel the president after the Capitol breach. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Schumer's statement.
Biden did not personally address the question of invoking the 25th Amendment before he introduced his Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland on Thursday. Biden transition spokesman Andrew Bates later told NBC News that the president-elect "will leave it to Vice President Pence, the Cabinet and the Congress to act as they see fit."
Under the 25th Amendment, Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of the Cabinet can remove Trump. The president could contest the move. Congress would then need to vote with a two-thirds majority to push him out of office.
Informal staff discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment have taken place in the White House, NBC News reported. It is unclear whether the talks have gone up to Cabinet secretaries or Pence.
John Kelly, Trump's former Homeland Security secretary and chief of staff, said Thursday he thinks the Cabinet "should meet and have a discussion" about removing Trump. However, he added, "I don't think it will happen."
The Democratic-held House impeached Trump in December 2019 in part because the president pushed Ukraine to investigate the Biden family during the presidential campaign. The GOP-controlled Senate voted against removing him from office last year. Among Republicans, only Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah voted to convict the president.
Pelosi threatened to make Trump the only president impeached twice.
"If he wants to be unique and be doubly impeached, that's kind of up to him and his Cabinet," she said Thursday.
House Democrats drafted articles of impeachment after the breach of the Capitol. In a statement after she drew up articles on Wednesday, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said Trump "should be impeached and removed from office for his open sedition" after what she called a "coup attempt."
It is unclear whether the Senate would have the two-thirds support needed to remove Trump from office now. Some of his GOP allies started to distance themselves from him after he helped to fuel the attack on the Capitol.
"All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on the Senate floor after the government regained control of the Capitol.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, he said he did not support Pence invoking the 25th Amendment "at this point." He added that "if something else happens, all options would be on the table."
— CNBC's Dan Mangan contributed to this report