As the latest unhinged Twitter rant from Donald Trump rattled around Sunday in America — “millions of people voted illegally!” — some on social media helpfully posted a suggestion:
How to get rid of an incompetent Trump once he becomes president in 2017.
Oh, yes, Trump fans will claim it’s equally unhinged. But it sure is attractive to many Americans.
@YaelTAbouhalkah I bet you there's a whole lot of people digging out their copy of the Constitution to brush up on Sec. 4 of the 25th Amdmt.
— Michael Bersin (@MBersin) November 27, 2016
Take a look at the 25th Amendment, adopted in 1967. It outlines how presidents and vice presidents can be replaced. The most obvious is in Section 1, which states the vice president takes over for the president if he or she is removed from office, resigns or dies. The “removal” part could be the impeachment route that many Trump critics hope will happen.
But Section 4 offers another option, one that might sound hard to do but actually could occur:
“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.”
This reportedly is the only part of the 25th Amendment that has not been used at one time or another to put someone in power in place of the U.S. president.
Here’s more background on the practical importance of Section 4 when it was being debated in the mid-1960s after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
“But the seemingly most insoluble problem was that of presidential inability — Garfield lying in a coma for eighty days before succumbing to the effects of an assassin’s bullet, Wilson an invalid for the last eighteen months of his term, the result of a stroke–with its unanswered questions: who was to determine the existence of an inability, how was the matter to be handled if the President sought to continue, in what manner should the Vice President act, would he be acting President or President, what was to happen if the President recovered. Congress finally proposed this Amendment to the States in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination, with the Vice Presidency vacant and a President who had previously had a heart attack.”
In 2017, the question for Pence, the Cabinet and/or Congress would focus on how to determine that Trump is incapable of discharging the duties and powers of his office.
Sure, to his critics, Trump already does this every single day.
In the real world, Trump would resist any movement to replace him. And he could fight back, as Section 4 points out.
But on yet another dreary Sunday evening in Trumpland, Americans can dream, right?