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IU Professor Doesn't Expect Trump To Be Removed From Office

Paul Helmke, director, Civic Leaders Center at IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Paul Helmke, director, Civic Leaders Center at IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Talk of invoking the 25th Amendment and impeachment to remove President Trump from office are swirling around Washington a day after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

The pro-Trump extremists marched to the Capitol following a rally near the Washington Monument where Trump again repeated his false claim the presidential election had been stolen from him.

They were able to stop the certification of Joe Biden as the next president for several hours. But after the building had been secured, lawmakers returned and completed the process.

Paul Helmke, the director of the Civic Leaders Center at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, likened the scene to revolutions in other countries.

“Not only was it a breach of the Capitol in an attempt to interfere with an important congressional action, but they were incited to do this by the President,” Helmke said.

Helmke, who teaches a class on protest and dissent at IU, said he could think of only one other incident that was remotely similar to what happened Wednesday in Washington, and that involved Eugene V. Debs in 1918 during World War I.

Debs, a Terre Haute-native who ran for president five times, gave a speech in Ohio where he called on people to resist the draft and oppose the war machine.

Debs was arrested under the Insurrection Act of 1918 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, from where he still actually ran for president. He was later pardoned by President Warren G. Harding.

“The words Trump is quote as saying yesterday were more inflammatory than anything that Eugene Debs said. “To stand in front of a crowd and to say, we've been fighting with our hands behind our back. We need to fight back, we need to go to the Capitol, you need to confront the elected officials. That's that's a pretty clear message.

“If a Black Panther were doing that in the ’60s, or if somebody were doing that during the anti-war marches, they would have been arrested immediately.”

But with less than two weeks until Biden is sworn in as president on Jan. 20, Helmke doesn’t think there is enough time to go through the processes of the 25th Amendment, which calls for the removal of a president by the vice president and a majority of the cabinet, or impeachment, which would be a second time for Trump.

“There's only 13 days left in this term, so I think part of the attitude is, ‘Can't we just get through the next two weeks?’ ” Helmke said. “And that's probably the most likely scenario, just to hope folks around him will keep a close eye on things and won't let anything go off kilter again.”

Still, it’s an episode that left Helmke, the former mayor of Fort Wayne, disheartened by what he saw.

“The whole situation is sad,” he said. “And I think it was encouraged not only by the president, but by those who in effect, said, ‘Oh, this election can still be challenged.’ What they were doing is they were challenging our democracy.”

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