Congress filed an article of impeachment against outgoing President Donald Trump this week after the deadly attack on the Capitol on January 6.
In response to the insurrection, members of Congress and legal scholars took a close look at their options for removing Trump in his last remaining days in office, and potentially landed on including a rarely-used section of the 14th Amendment.
Section 3 of the 14th Amendment authorizes Congress to ban public officials from ever holding office again if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution.
The clause was written during the Reconstruction period of American history following the Civil War and abolishment of slavery.
However, Section 3 has never been used before, so some legal scholars are wondering how Congress might actually exercise their authority in the situation they face this week.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told ABC News that Congress is taking an “all-of-the-above approach,” when it comes to exploring their options to remove Trump.
“This is not either the 25th Amendment or impeachment or, you know, investigating our other avenues through the 14th Amendment,” she said.
“I do not believe that this is a question of deciding or debating between which of these avenues we should pursue. I believe we should take an all-of-the-above approach,” she added.
Civil War historian and Columbia University professor Stephanie McCurry said that the 14th Amendment was written in response to the South’s attempt to send former Confederate leaders into Congress.
“They fight a war over slavery and lose it –– 700,000 to 800,000 people dead. They lose in April of 1865, but by December 1865, they are sending back to Congress –– people like Alexander Stephens, the former vice president of the Confederacy,” McCurry explained.
“It’s unbelievable they thought they could do that. They are completely unrepentant and they are used to exercising power.”
Congress at the time was astonished by the South’s actions and refused to give Stephens and others a place among the nation’s elected representatives. They drafted up Section 3 and by 1868, it was ratified.
“[Section 3] doesn’t say anything about Confederates, it’s about anybody who commits this kind of thing,” Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War historian Eric Foner told ABC News.
“My view is that it would apply to President Trump and bar him for holding any officer either right now or in the future.”
Current members of Congress are citing Trump’s inflammatory messaging hours before the Capitol attack in which he told loyal supporters they would have to “show strength” in order to overturn the results of the November election during Congress' certification of electoral college votes.
On Tuesday (January 12), members of the House Rules Committee debated Trump’s removal via a live streamed conference call.
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