Since Donald Trump assumed the presidency on January 20, 2017, crazed leftists have called on the Cabinet to remove the President from power supposedly because he is “mentally ill” and cannot discharge the duties of his office. The latest came from Joe Scarborough of MSNBC just this week.
Most Americans probably don’t realize that a President can also be removed from office legally in a process other than constitutional impeachment. The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, provides a second procedure. Congress passed it just two years after JFK’s tragic assassination.
One major issue was the possibility of a President who was unable to carry out his duties due to medical incapacity, such as a heart attack, stroke, or assassination attempt. What if Kennedy had survived the shooting but was so severely injured that he could no longer serve in office? Without constitutional changes, Congress would have had no other recourse but to impeach him, yet that could have caused a legal issue because impeachment could only be carried out if a President had committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.” And JFK certainly had not. Hence, the 25th Amendment.
But here is the issue for Trump and the leftists who want him out: The Cabinet cannot remove the President from power alone.
First, it requires the Vice President in addition to a majority of the Cabinet. Mike Pence would also have to agree to sign a letter to Congress that Trump was “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” The Vice President would then assume all presidential powers but not the presidency itself. In other words, Pence does not become President.
If Trump is not medically incapacitated, he can simply submit his own letter to Congress that “no inability exists.” When that happens, he resumes the powers of his office and the matter is over. That provision exists to guard against a coup.
The Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet can then, within four days, send a letter declaring an incapacity, which would seem to be an impasse.
But in any case, the 25th Amendment, specifically Section 4, is very clear: “Congress shall decide the issue.” Both Houses of Congress, by a two-thirds vote of each House, must then determine that the President is incapable of fulfilling the duties of the presidency and allow the Vice President to assume all presidential power.
So the Left should cool its heels about a 25th Amendment removal. It is far more complicated than they realize and completely unworkable and unrealistic.
Here is the 25th Amendment’s Section 4:
“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”
At this point, most leftists stop reading but there’s much more to the process:
“Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.”