In an unprecedented action, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that she has asked the Pentagon about steps to prevent an “unhinged” President Donald Trump from accessing nuclear weapons launch codes or starting wars amid growing call for him to quit or be removed from office.
Two members of his cabinet had reportedly begun informal consultations on ousting him using a constitutional provision with only 12 days left for him to leave office.
Pelosi’s call to the US military’s top general was revealed in a letter she wrote on Friday to fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives increasing pressure on Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to act.
She wrote, “This morning, I spoke to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike.”
It is significant that Pelosi bypassed the civilian leadership of the Defence Department and reached out to the career generals because of Trump politicising defence.
He fired Defence Secretary Mark Esper in November after the election.
Esper joined nine other former defence secretaries in writing an open letter asking the military not to any action that could lead to overturning the result of the election.
The department does not have a defence secretary confirmed by the Senate but is headed by an acting secretary, Christopher Miller.
She had earlier served notice on Pence that he should start constitutional action to remove Trump from office or she would start impeachment proceedings.
Several media have reported quoting unnamed sources that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have held informal consultations on invoking Article 25 of the Constitution to get Trump out of the White House.
Under Article 25 of the Constitution, the vice president and a majority of the cabinet can declare the president unfit to continue in his office and remove him.
Democratic Party Senate leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Party House member Adam Kinzinger have joined Pelosi in asking for action under Article 25.
A second member of Trump’s cabinet, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has resigned saying, “I believe we each have a moral obligation to exercise good judgment.”
Another cabinet member Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao had also quit.
She is the wife of Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party leader in the Senate, who has also criticised Trump’s conduct saying his questioning of the election result could send democracy into a “death spiral”.
Questions have been raised after the attack on Congress by Trump’s supporters on Wednesday after he told them at a rally on Wednesday to go to Congress, which was to meet in a joint session to ratify the election of Joe Biden as president and Kamala Harris as vice president.
A protester and a police officer were killed when the protesters stormed the Capitol, the building that houses Congress.
Short of calling for Trump’s removal, several Republic Party leaders have condemned his role in the attack on the Capitol.
“He lit the flame,” Senator Liz Cheney said on Fox News TV, “The president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob.”
Pelosi said in her letter, “The situation of this unhinged President could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy.”