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More than 1,900 political scientists call for Trump’s removal in open letter

More than 1,900 political scientists, including at least 20 UCLA professors, signed an open letter calling for President Donald Trump’s removal from office following the riot that took place at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. (Sakshi Joglekar/Daily Bruin staff)

By Saumya Gupta, Julia Shapero, and Rachel Durose

Jan. 8, 2021 2:10 p.m.

This post was updated on Jan. 10 at 4:50 p.m.

At least 20 UCLA professors, along with hundreds of political scientists, signed an open letter, calling for the removal of President Donald Trump from office.

The more than 1,900 signatories urge the United States Congress, Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to utilize the impeachment process or the 25th Amendment, following the riots that breached the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Section 4 of the 25th Amendment allows the vice president to assume power if the vice president and the majority of the presidential Cabinet deem the president unfit to lead. Section 4 of the 25th Amendment has never been invoked before.

Two political scientists from Dartmouth College wrote and circulated the letter in response to Wednesday’s riot in Washington, D.C., in which a mob of rioters donning Trump apparel stormed the building while Congress met to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 general election.

Four people died during the riots, including one woman who was shot by a U.S. Capitol Police officer. The riots came after Trump delivered a speech to supporters, reasserting unfounded claims that the election was stolen.

The signatories of the letter claimed that Trump’s actions represent a threat to democracy.

“He has rejected the peaceful transfer of power, encouraged state legislators to overturn election results in their states, pressured a state official to change election results, and now incited a violent mob that shut down the counting of electoral votes and stormed the U.S. Capitol,” the letter reads.

Some signatories also said they believe Trump is unwilling or unable to defend the Constitution based on his actions and should be removed from office immediately.

Mark Peterson, a professor of public policy, political science and law, said he signed the letter calling for Trump’s removal from office because of the growing concern about his performance as president.

“In some respects, the letter is a symbolic act, but there are times when symbolic acts are pretty important,” Peterson said.

He added that there have been concerns about how Trump has been performing in his role, especially since the election, and concerns about his adamant refusal to accept the election results.

Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld, an assistant professor of public policy at UCLA who signed the open letter, said the social media companies Twitter, Instagram and Facebook took appropriate action by suspending Trump’s ability to post on the platforms.

“Bullhorns are effective, and so they need to be taken away,” Steinert-Threlkeld said. “Let’s see, though, what Fox (News), Breitbart, (One America News Network) and Newsmax do though. As long as he has access to those, his danger is still out there.”

Peterson said Trump could be impeached before he leaves office, adding that Congress could choose to take action once he has left the presidency as well. He said convicting Trump after his presidency has ended would prevent him from running for federal office again.

Ethan Scheiner, a political science professor at UC Davis, said an impeachment process is more likely to happen than invoking the 25th Amendment because there is confusion on how the process to remove a president using the amendment would work and also because there are some Cabinet members who are sitting members, and it’s unclear if they can vote in the process. Scheiner, who signed the letter, added that it also depends on what those in the White House are seeing and hearing from Trump.

Miranda Yaver, a political scientist at UCLA and signatory on the open letter, said what happened in the Capitol on Wednesday was against democratic principles.

She said a peaceful transition of power is essential for democracy, but Trump mobilized his supporters to interfere with Congress’ certification of the electoral votes.

Richard Anderson, a political science professor at UCLA, said he doubts Congress or the vice president and Cabinet will remove Trump using the 25th Amendment, but added that many Republican politicians have begun to distance themselves from Trump. Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor and Trump supporter, is one of the Republican politicians who blamed the riots on the president and his son’s speech to the rioters earlier in the day.

“Now that (Trump) managed to lose, they’re taking advantage of the events yesterday to dissociate themselves from him in the hope of preserving the political base that he’s created, while at the same time, freeing themselves from him,” Anderson said.

Graeme Blair, an assistant political science professor at UCLA, said he believes that political scientists have a greater obligation than the general public to call attention to violations of the democracy they study.

“I think it is important for everyone, for all Americans to speak out in this time,” Blair said. “But for political scientists who study democracy in the U.S. and in other countries around the world, we have a duty to highlight when we think democratic values are being ignored and have some expertise in making that judgment.”

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Saumya Gupta | Assistant News editor
Gupta is the 2020-2021 assistant News editor for the national news and higher education beat. She was previously a contributor for the beat. She is also a third-year psychology student.
Gupta is the 2020-2021 assistant News editor for the national news and higher education beat. She was previously a contributor for the beat. She is also a third-year psychology student.
Julia Shapero | Assistant News editor
Shapero is a senior staff News reporter. She was previously an assistant News editor in the National News & Higher Education beat. Shapero is a fourth-year political science student who enjoys covering national and statewide news.
Shapero is a senior staff News reporter. She was previously an assistant News editor in the National News & Higher Education beat. Shapero is a fourth-year political science student who enjoys covering national and statewide news.
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