Mr. Trump, they noted, is still the commander in chief, and unless he is removed, the military is bound to follow his lawful orders. While military officials can refuse to carry out orders they view as illegal, they cannot proactively remove the president from the chain of command. That would be a military coup, these officials said.
The Presidential Transition
The letter from Ms. Pelosi came as momentum for impeachment was rapidly growing on Friday among rank-and-file Democrats across the party’s ideological spectrum, and a handful of Republicans offered potential support.
Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, the No. 4 Democrat, said that if Vice President Mike Pence would not invoke the 25th Amendment to forcibly relieve Mr. Trump of his duties, House Democrats were prepared to act on impeachment by the middle of next week. But in a noon phone call, some others cautioned that Democrats needed to pause to consider the implications, and Ms. Pelosi told her colleagues she planned to speak to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. about the matter later on Friday afternoon.
During an appearance in Wilmington, Del., on Friday, Mr. Biden did not weigh in on plans to impeach Mr. Trump, saying, “What the Congress decides to do is for them to decide.”
But Mr. Biden had harsh words for Mr. Trump. “He has exceeded even my worst notions about him,” he said. “He’s been an embarrassment for the country.” And he added, “He’s not worthy to hold the office.”
An aide to Ms. Pelosi said that she still had not heard from Mr. Pence, despite putting intense public pressure on him to act. But Mr. Pence was said to be opposed to doing so, and she was making plans to move ahead.
Democrats were rushing to begin the expedited proceeding two days after the president rallied his supporters near the White House, urging them to go to the Capitol to protest his election defeat, then continuing to stoke their grievances as they stormed the edifice — with Mr. Pence and the entire Congress meeting inside to formalize Mr. Biden’s victory — in a rampage that left an officer and a member of the mob dead. (Three others died, including one woman who was crushed in the crowd, and two men who had medical emergencies on the Capitol grounds.)