Could The 25th Amendment Be Used To Remove Trump?
Democrats in Washington have started exploring a radical option: Using the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office. The amendment outlines a process by which Congress can remove a president who is incapable of carrying out his or her duties, and congressional Democrats have proposed a bill that would lay the groundwork for Trump's removal under the it. But can the 25th Amendment really be used to give Trump the boot?
In theory, yes. But there are two big caveats: First, the relevant provision of the 25th Amendment, Section 4, has never even come close to being used before, so how exactly the process might play out is anyone's guess. Second, using it to remove Trump would would require Republicans in both bodies of Congress, as well as Vice President Mike Pence, to sign on to the plan, and we're a long way away from that.
According to the text of the amendment, if "the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress" conclude that the president is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office," they may submit a letter declaring this to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the president pro tempore of the Senate (that is, the longest-serving U.S. Senator). If the president disputes this, Congress can remove the president from office with a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate.
Although there are some nuances to the process, what this basically means is that the president can be removed from office if two-thirds of Congress agree that he's "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."
That immediately brings us to the first roadblock Democrats would likely face if they tried to invoke the 25th to remove Trump: Congressional Republicans. While it's possible that Democrats could win control of both the House and the Senate in 2018, it's extremely unlikely that they'll win supermajorities in both chambers. That being the case, at least a handful of Republicans would have to sign on in order to get rid of Trump using the 25th Amendment. By and large, Republican members of Congress have stood by Trump despite his many controversies, and the prospect of them voting to remove him from office seems, at this point in time, far-fetched.
The bill being floated by congressional Democrats would establish an Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity, which would include four physicians, four psychiatrists, and three other individuals tasked with assessing the president's capacity to carry out his or her job. The commission would then have the power to conduct an examination of Trump (or any president) "to determine whether the president is incapacitated, either mentally or physically." It's unclear exactly how this would work, though. Congress has to make the final decision about whether to remove a president, and given that, the commission's findings would presumably have to be non-binding.
And that leads us to the the second problem with using the 25th to remove a president: It's simply never been done before. That makes it extraordinarily difficult to game out what the process might look like if it were actually triggered. Nevertheless, that will all be irrelevant until there's reason to believe that Washington Republicans are willing to abandon Trump and work with Democrats. So far, there's no evidence of that.