The 14th Amendment is not an alternative to impeachment

All told, Congress has significant institutional experience, both historical and in present times, to carry out an impeachment that will earn widespread support. History buttresses legitimacy, which is crucial because removing a president from office has never been done before.

This is not the time to flex the Constitution, despite the need for urgency. Remember that creative approaches to the law played no small part in sparking the current crisis. The mob that descended on Washington assembled because Trump led them to believe that Pence, in his role as president of the Senate, could somehow decertify the Electoral College results and deliver a Trump victory. “If Mike Pence does the right thing,” Trump told the crowd on January 6, “we win the election.”

Trump’s theory not only contradicted the role outlined for the vice president in the Electoral Count Act of 1887, but also would have transformed the vice presidency into a formidable office with the final say over who became president. The first vice president, John Adams, who considered it “the most insignificant Office that ever the Invention of Man contrived or his Imagination conceived,” would have been shocked. He had great power and no one told him? Fortunately, as the New York Times has reported, Pence’s staff arranged to have a respected federal judge tweet out his understanding of the vice president’s limited role, an analysis that Pence immediately cited in his letter rejecting Trump’s suggestion that he intervene in the Electoral College count.