He’s, um, not going to do that.
Yes, Pence is pissed at Trump for his incitement of a riot. And for the fact that Trump turned his ever-loyal vice president into a scapegoat for not trying to overturn the election results. And for, at least potentially, destroying his own political career. (It’s no surprise the two haven’t spoken in days.)
But there’s no way that Pence is going to invoke the 25th Amendment — at least right now.
1) Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, the part that deals with how to remove a president (with a majority of the Cabinet and the vice president) has never been invoked since it was put into law in 1967. (Other parts of the 25th Amendment have been used — it’s how Vice President Gerald Ford assumed power following the resignation of President Richard Nixon.) Pence isn’t going to make that sort of history unless he feels as though he absolutely has to. And he’s not there yet.
2) It’s not at all clear that a majority of the remaining Trump Cabinet members would support removal — even if Pence pushes it. The resignations of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao last week in protest of Trump’s role in the Capitol riot actually makes it less likely that a majority of the Cabinet would back Trump’s removal. While, according to sources cited by CNN, there are several Cabinet officials trying to build momentum among their colleagues to force a Cabinet meeting with Trump so they can confront him, even that is a far cry from those same officials being willing to support a 25th Amendment removal. At the moment, there are zero Cabinet officials who have gone public with their support for such a move.3) Trump is only president for nine more days. Pence — and much of the rest of the Republican Party — is really hoping that the worst is behind them when it comes to Trump. De-platformed from Twitter and Facebook late last week, Trump’s ability to drive news cycles (not to mention foment violence) has been significantly reduced. Pence has to be hoping that Trump is chastened enough by the events of last week (and the condemnations of the President that swiftly followed) that he will lie low for the next week. Of course, Trump doesn’t appear to be chastened in the least, which is why Pence continues to keep the 25th Amendment option in his back pocket.
Remember that at this time last week, Pence still thought his four-year project — subjugating himself to Trump in hopes of inheriting the outgoing President’s political base in 2024 — was on track. Now the vice president is being forced to grapple with an entirely new political reality that includes his one-time benefactor not only turning from him but in fact blaming him for not changing the results of the election.
My educated guess is that Pence doesn’t want to antagonize Trump any more than he has to over the coming days.
Which means that if Trump stays quiet — or at least doesn’t do something as or more dangerous than inciting a riot at one of the government’s most visible symbols — Pence will let all of the 25th Amendment talk stay purely in the realm of the hypothetical. Although it’s not at all clear doing so will salvage his relationship with Trump.