Donald Trump’s Republican Party controls the House. Ever since Trump won the election, many people, for many different reasons, have been calling for his impeachment. The path to impeaching a president is long and twisted especially if the president’s party controls the House like in the current situation. In fact, the likelihood of that happening is close to none.
However, the 25th Amendment provides an alternative mechanism to remove a president from the White House when they are deemed unfit to serve. Although this is an obscure path, it has received increased attention since Donald Trump came into office.
There is a growing call to impeach Trump following some of his recent decisions some of which has been viewed as anti-progressive. Considering the role that the United States plays as a global watchdog, it is important that the president makes informed decisions.
The President of the United States holds a great deal of legal power. Without any consultation, he can decide to hand classified information to foreign leaders, fire the head of the country’s federal investigative agency or, without unconstrained authority, fire a nuclear warhead. The world fears the very real implications of these absolute powers if the president isn’t in the right frame of mind -total disaster.
So far, some of the decisions made by the president have been impulsive. He has also displayed in few instances, willingness to contradict himself or his aides. These incidents have opened him up to accusations of obstruction of justice and causing a rift in the relationship with key foreign allies. It is building to a climax where conservatives like David Brooks and Ross Douthat of the New York Times and George Will of the Washington Post are beginning to say it aloud -the president may not be mentally fit to govern.
What the 25th Amendment Means in Simple Terms
The 25th Amendment of the United States Constitution lays down a guideline of succeeding a president that dies in office, resigns or is removed by the act of Congress or by members of his cabinet. There have been two times in the history of America that the 25th Amendment was invoked: the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the resignation of Richard Nixon.
Buried within the 25th Amendment is an emergency method for removing a president. The details of the process are explained in the fourth section or article of the 25th Amendment. When the president is ruled mentally unfit for the White House, the vice president and the highest levels of government can intervene. Part of Article 4 states:
“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”
Source: Cornell Law School
The 25th Amendment’s Article 4 has never been used and it is unlikely that President Trump will be the first to “test” it. This is because Article 4 also empowers the president to fight back and delay his removal even when the vice president and their cabinet or Congress has decided that the president is unfit to for office.
The president can respond through a written declaration that he is fit for office. By doing so, the president will take back the office -even when it has been relinquished.
There is no clear definition of the word “unfit”. Hence, this is likely to spark controversy among mental health advocates. Still, if investigations found Trump to have a hand in Russia’s intervention in the election or witness a decline in public support, it could be enough to call in Article 4 of the 25th Amendment.
You might want to check out the full details of the 25th Amendment here.