How could Trump weaken the First Amendment?

Fact check: can Trump now be removed from office?

Are the incidents at the Capitol a reason for impeachment?

That depends on the interpretation. But first to the facts: With the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters, the formal confirmation of Joe Biden's election victory was initially prevented, but this has now been made up for. Four people were killed and 52 people arrested during the violent entry by the demonstrators. A police officer who was injured in an argument with demonstrators on Wednesday and later collapsed has also died.

The Democrats in the US House of Representatives see this as an uproar that US President Donald Trump caused by inciting his supporters. David Cicilline, a member of the US House of Representatives, released a letter calling on Vice President Mike Pence to remove the president from office under the 25th Amendment to the constitution following the incidents.

Donald Trump had incited a riot and "tried to undermine our democracy," wrote the democratic members of the judiciary committee. The provocation to the riot is relevant: Trump called on his supporters: "We are going to the Capitol together to cheer on our honored Senators, and I will be with you," he said in a speech to supporters before the storming of the Capitol and reaffirmed that the presidential election was "the most corrupt election in US history" and that its supporters should therefore "never give up".

The legal basis for a possible impeachment of President Trump is the constitution of the United States of America. It is regulated in Article 2, Section 4 that a president can be removed from office "in the event of serious crimes or misdemeanors" (the so-called impeachment procedure). This can be initiated by the House of Representatives and decided by the Senate.

So the decisive legal question is: Is inciting a revolt against democratic institutions a serious crime? "There is an initial suspicion that someone here tried to damage democracy and to carry out a coup.

Normally this would have to be checked by the public prosecutor in a constitutional state, "Donal O'Sullivan, historian at California State University, told DW." But impeachment is a political process in the US and you can only go through with it if a majority agrees. "There is reason enough for a trial, says O'Sullivan, but he does not believe in its success.

Can the incidents be traced back to Trump?

There are direct links that lead to Trump. On the day the Capitol was stormed, Trump spoke to his supporters in front of the White House and declared himself the election winner again: "We won a landslide victory."

Wrong: The official election results clearly see Biden with 306 voters ahead of Trump (232). Trump also reiterated his claim that "the election fraud took place in all states" without providing any evidence. These claims, too, have been adequately refuted. For example, the US agency CISA, which is responsible for cybersecurity, stated that "the November 3rd elections were the safest in US history".

Both narratives are important to Trump's call at the end of his speech: his alleged election victory and the alleged fraud were the reasons for his call to move to the Capitol to give Republican MPs "the pride and courage to take our country back," said Trump, who urged his followers to be "strong". On Twitter, Trump further fueled the mood until the platform deleted some of his tweets and temporarily blocked his account.

Scene like from a Hollywood blockbuster: The Capitol under siege

Trump's statements immediately before the storming can therefore be seen as a call to march on the Capitol and to influence the MPs. The fact that Trump later called on Twitter to remain peaceful does not change that.

It is almost impossible for Donald Trump to assume political responsibility for the incidents and to step down as president of his own volition. That would not suit his political style. An early resignation from office would have to be enforced through a procedure.

What options does the 25th Amendment to the Constitution offer?

Among other things, the "25th Amendment" regulates how a president can be removed from office. The addition was created in 1965 after the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy -

actually for situations in which the president can no longer exercise his office due to illness.

Section four of the 25th Amendment regulates how the Vice President and a majority of the 15 Cabinet members can jointly declare the President incapacitated (details of the application of the article on the US Department of Justice website). To do this, those involved must send a letter to Congress and the House of Representatives, testifying that they consider the President to be "incapable of performing the powers and duties of his office".

"That would take away all power from Trump and the current vice-ruling president," Kenneth Manusama explains in an interview with DW. The expert on US constitutional law teaches at the Vrijen Universiteit Amsterdam. However, he indicates that Trump could defend himself with a letter to both chambers of Congress.

"Then the ball would be back at the Congress and there a two-thirds majority in both chambers will be decided." Until then, the cabinet could respond with a renewed certificate of Trump's incapacity to take office before a final decision in Congress has to be made within 21 days.

Is there enough time until January 20th for an impeachment?

It's going to be tight. Realizing an impeachment in less than two weeks is conceivable, but only under certain conditions. If you take the 25th additional article card, Trump could be removed from office immediately, but only temporarily, as described.

Politically, the tug-of-war between the Cabinet, President and Congress could cause further damage to US democracy and would probably drag on beyond January 20, the day Joe Biden was sworn in as the new US President.

It is also uncertain to get the dismissal through a new impeachment procedure, because Trump was able to successfully fend off a procedure for impeachment in the Ukraine affair. And a two-thirds majority in the Senate would be necessary. The experts are divided on the question of whether this can be achieved in the remaining time until January 20th.

While O'Sullivan thinks this is "unlikely", Constitutional Expert Frank Bowman of the University of Missouri is convinced that the dismissal could even be completed within a day: "You could bring charges against him by noon tomorrow and then through the Run the Capitol Rotunda to the Senate and schedule the trial to begin tomorrow afternoon. "

Can Trump be prosecuted for the incidents?

Legal experts consider it possible that Trump will have to answer for incitement. "Incitement is the most likely to apply to this situation, because it includes inciting violence against the state. And that is exactly what happened in Congress," says legal expert Kenneth Manusama. Chapter 115 of federal law states that instigating a revolt against the state is a criminal act. Whoever incites, helps or even takes part in a revolt against the authority of the state, "should be punished according to this law", it says. A person convicted in this way may no longer hold an official office. An attempted coup can be punished with up to 20 years in prison.

Trump can only be prosecuted after he has resigned as president.

Currently, however, Trump cannot be prosecuted as he is officially immune to criminal prosecution. "Even if Trump were removed from office by the 25th Amendment, he should not be prosecuted because he would still be legally a president," explains Manusama. So Trump can only be prosecuted for his role in the January 6 riot after his term in office.

And even after that, Donal O'Sullivan of California State University believes Trump is unlikely to be jailed. Although various public prosecutors are already in the starting blocks for possible crimes in credit fraud and tax evasion, a conviction for an attempted coup is not realistic.

"Such a process is delicate. It should be noted that many of the demonstrators would then have been guilty. That would cause a chain of legal processes." And this could counteract the core goal of the new President Joe Biden: to unite the country again.

  • Trump supporters storm US Capitol

    Something is brewing

    The number of fanatical Trump supporters outside the U.S. Capitol grew throughout the day. First of all, the security forces manage to keep them at a distance.

  • Trump supporters storm US Capitol

    First clashes

    At the same time as the joint meeting of both chambers of congress, i.e. the Senate and the House of Representatives, at which the result of the election of Joe Biden as US President is to be officially confirmed, supporters of the elected Donald Trump gather in front of the Capitol. There are first clashes with police officers who are supposed to shield the Capitol.

  • Trump supporters storm US Capitol

    Too weak a cordon

    But the increasingly angry crowd wants to get to the Capitol. Policemen try to stop them. Some aggressive Trump supporters manage to get into the building.

  • Trump supporters storm US Capitol

    Storming the Capitol

    Some demonstrators manage to penetrate deep into the building: to the doors of the Senate.

  • Trump supporters storm US Capitol

    Defense of the last bastion

    Security guards try to keep the rioters at bay in the entrance hall. The politicians in the Senate are brought to safety through a second exit.

  • Trump supporters storm US Capitol

    One comes through

    Meanwhile, a Trump supporter manages to get past the security forces and storm the Senate. He jumps from the visitors' gallery into the plenary hall.

  • Trump supporters storm US Capitol

    Guns at the ready

    The same picture in the other wing of the Capitol. The second Chamber of Congress, the House of Representatives, is also the target of the intruders. Capitol Security officials stop them - guns drawn.

  • Trump supporters storm US Capitol

    Hostile takeover?

    Nevertheless, Trump supporters are penetrating ever deeper - also into the office corridors of the Capitol. There they spread around the desks of MPs.

  • Trump supporters storm US Capitol

    Out of control

    One of the intruders lets House Chairwoman Nancy Pelosi's lectern go with him and carries it through the Capitol. Nobody can stop him.

  • Trump supporters storm US Capitol

    Take cover

    The plenary chambers are cleared. Some seek refuge in the gallery of the House of Representatives. As one reporter reported, gas masks are being distributed - as protection against tear gas.

  • Trump supporters storm US Capitol

    Gas plumes on Capitol Hill

    The security forces have no choice but to use tear gas to break up the angry crowd.

  • Trump supporters storm US Capitol

    Large contingent ends chaos at the Capitol

    The police force is strengthened, the National Guard rushes to help and the mayor imposes a night curfew, which lasts until 6 a.m. So Washington slowly comes to rest in the evening.

    Author: Kristin Zeier