(CNN)It was too little, too late, and may fail to save a presidency imploding at staggering speed under the weight of Donald Trump’s tragic flaws.
Late in the final act of his tumultuous administration, the President finally admitted the reality of his political demise Thursday, suddenly surrounded by threats of a historic second impeachment, calls for his resignation, a staff exodus, potential criminal liability and concern over his mental state.
In a scripted, stilted video, Trump condemned the mayhem unleashed by his supporters in the US Capitol and admitted unequivocally — more than two months after his election loss — that he will no longer be president in 12 days.
They can’t get away with lurching into an “address on national healing,” as the White House called his remarks, after spending two months subverting democracy by denying their election losses and spending four years shredding truth and inflaming cultural and racial divides for political gain.
There is also little doubt that Trump’s video message was a desperate attempt to salvage his fast-declining political position after a disastrous day filled with outrage about his conduct and growing concerns about whether he is psychologically fit for office.
‘A very flawed human being’
Advisers to Vice President Mike Pence have been fielding inquiries about whether he would lead the Cabinet in invoking the 25th Amendment to declare Trump unfit for office. Pence, however, is unlikely to pursue the option, CNN has reported, since it is a highly complicated constitutional maneuver that Trump could counter and that would take up most of the waning days until Biden is inaugurated on January 20.
But former White House chief of staff John Kelly told CNN’s Jake Tapper in a candid interview on Thursday that if he were still in the Cabinet he would advocate the President’s removal.
“He’s a very, very flawed human being,” Kelly told Tapper, after days in which the President’s demagoguery, autocratic instincts, lack of compassion, assaults on truth and vanity have driven the nation to a breaking point.
In another barely believable move in the fast-escalating implosion of the presidency, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, issued a statement revealing that they had called Pence to discuss the 25th Amendment but had not yet heard back.
Even the staunchly conservative editorial page of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal told Trump he should take personal responsibility and resign — a sign of his fracturing political power base.
Chances rise of end days’ impeachment
A second, unprecedented impeachment of a living president would normally be inconceivable. But in a way, such a scenario would be a fitting finale for the most lawless, turbulent presidency in history.
When House Democrats on Friday hold their first full-caucus call since the attack on the US Capitol, they’ll weigh the possibility of a swift vote on articles of impeachment against the President, sources told CNN.
The drama comes amid fury and trauma on Capitol Hill over Trump’s incitement of a mob that breached the Capitol for the first time since 1814 in rioting that left five people dead.
The events of the past two days have spurred bipartisan concerns about Trump’s increasingly vengeful mood and the damage he could wreak as he contemplates the end of his presidency and a transition to civilian life in which a flurry of legal challenges awaits.
In essence, the rationale for the impeachment effort would be a stunning conclusion that America — and the world — is in peril if he remains in office even for little more than a week. And there’s a long-term argument, since impeachment, if he were convicted, would bar Trump from holding public office in the future.
What, for example, could be more contrary to Trump’s oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States than inciting supporters who then sought to disrupt the lawful ceremony finalizing his successor’s election?
But a new impeachment push would face huge practical and political challenges with a high bar of convincing the country that ousting a President so close to the end of his term was in the national interest.
House Democrats — who previously impeached Trump over his pressure on Ukraine to interfere in the US election to damage Biden — would face claims from some Republicans that they are seeking to exact political revenge at the end of Trump’s term.
Then there are the logistical challenges built into compressing a process that normally takes months — includes long committee hearings, debates and a trial in the Senate — into a few days.
There is the question of whether a final-days impeachment — which would serve as a warning to future presidents about the limits of their power — would only deepen the venomous divides that have been ripped open by Trump’s presidency.
Biden is already facing multiple crises, including a murderous pandemic that has never been worse and on Thursday killed more than 4,000 Americans in one day — a record. The aftermath of an impeachment would likely make his all-but-impossible task of unifying the country even tougher.