What the 25th amendment could mean for Trump

CNN's John Avlon takes a look at the history of the 25th amendment of the Constitution, after an unnamed senior Trump administration official claimed in a New York Times op-ed that there were whispers within President Trump's Cabinet to invoke the amendment to remove him from office.

Posted: Sep 7, 2018 3:48 PM
Updated: Sep 7, 2018 4:17 PM

People are again talking about using the 25th Amendment as a means to remove President Donald Trump from office and they're doing it more seriously.

Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, said Thursday it's time to employ the US government's equivalent of a bomb blast door to get rid of Trump.

"If senior administration officials think the President of the United States is not able to do his job, then they should invoke the 25th Amendment," Warren told CNN. "The Constitution provides for a procedure whenever the Vice President and senior officials think the President can't do his job. It does not provide that senior officials go around the President -- take documents off his desk, write anonymous op-eds. ... Everyone of these officials have sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States. It's time for them to do their job."

Her call follows the revelation by an anonymous senior administration official in The New York Times that early in his presidency, some officials actually discussed it.

We already knew that Steve Bannon, Trump's former top strategist, was at one point convinced his Cabinet would mutiny and depose him using the 25th Amendment.

But this bears repeating for the third time: We still feel a very, very long way away from the kind of political momentum it would require.

Why?

Just look at who is publicly calling for its use: Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts.

Who is not publicly calling for the 25th Amendment? Any serious Republicans with power. Even the anonymous senior administration official said the 25th Amendment was discussed and rejected early in Trump's presidency.

"Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it's over," wrote the official. That does not sound like a serious effort, according to the official, whoever he or she is.

Speaking of, nearly every Trump Cabinet member has denied writing the op-ed. The piece describes officials subtly steering the ship of state around Trump, not trying to throw him overboard.

It's a majority of those Cabinet officials, under the 25th Amendment, who would have to vote, twice, to kick Trump out of office. Then supermajorities in the House and Senate would have to follow suit in short order.

What would it take to employ the 25th Amendment? As we've written before, there are a few scenarios that leap to mind (and read these articles by Brian Kalt and David Pozen for some more context) in which the 25th Amendment could be invoked:

  • The President was completely and totally incapacitated after a freak medical accident.
  • The President goes missing, walks off the job or is kidnapped.

In either of these examples, the President would be unable to dispute the action of his Cabinet, so invoking the amendment would just take the Cabinet writing to Congress.

What about something like avoidable, imminent nuclear war? It's hard to imagine all of this happening quickly enough to be effective. You'd almost need his subordinates to willfully break the law and ignore his order to launch a nuclear attack -- or be prepared to -- to delay action in the heat of the moment. There could be precedent for that, by the way. Richard Nixon's defense secretary James Schlesinger later said that in the final days of the Nixon presidency, staffers had been instructed to check with him or then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger before launching an attack.

Speaking of Nixon, impeachment, the serious idea of which also seems far-fetched at this point with regard to Trump, is written into the Constitution as a more appropriate avenue to remove a President.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 514171

Reported Deaths: 10285
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34920557
DeSoto33270432
Hinds32652642
Jackson24876391
Rankin22516404
Lee16366245
Madison14932283
Jones14129247
Forrest13785260
Lauderdale12279324
Lowndes11314193
Lamar10663140
Pearl River9720244
Lafayette8855143
Hancock7839132
Washington7553169
Oktibbeha7216138
Monroe7036179
Pontotoc7003109
Warren6872178
Panola6768135
Neshoba6732210
Marshall6686142
Bolivar6451151
Union640898
Pike5933156
Alcorn5887107
Lincoln5533136
George510380
Prentiss505385
Tippah492783
Itawamba4857107
Scott478199
Adams4771125
Tate4765117
Leflore4736144
Copiah457095
Yazoo456692
Simpson4554117
Wayne443172
Covington434695
Sunflower4315106
Marion4279112
Coahoma4238109
Leake414090
Newton395782
Tishomingo384894
Grenada3777109
Stone365766
Jasper340866
Attala338790
Winston317892
Chickasaw316167
Clay312578
Clarke301295
Calhoun285949
Holmes271889
Smith269452
Yalobusha244247
Tallahatchie232053
Greene224749
Walthall221866
Lawrence219141
Perry213456
Amite209857
Webster206248
Noxubee188743
Montgomery181857
Carroll174941
Jefferson Davis173843
Tunica163339
Benton153139
Kemper145041
Choctaw136727
Claiborne134439
Humphreys132139
Franklin126029
Quitman107628
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson96934
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845761

Reported Deaths: 16119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161862004
Mobile742411381
Madison53315732
Shelby38351369
Baldwin38104589
Tuscaloosa36052641
Montgomery34492781
Lee25590263
Calhoun22598518
Morgan22459406
Etowah20026518
Marshall18790316
Houston17741425
St. Clair16904358
Limestone16153219
Cullman16067303
Elmore15912294
Lauderdale14991306
Talladega14209299
DeKalb12985269
Walker12067380
Blount10729192
Autauga10526157
Jackson10170194
Coffee9425192
Colbert9341208
Dale9024192
Tallapoosa7273201
Russell708865
Chilton7042170
Escambia6956143
Covington6943195
Franklin6338108
Chambers5785142
Marion5413130
Dallas5295209
Pike5123109
Clarke484886
Lawrence4831129
Winston4780110
Geneva4643136
Bibb434594
Barbour369980
Butler3439100
Marengo342393
Monroe337466
Randolph334867
Pickens333988
Fayette330085
Henry320766
Hale318489
Cherokee318363
Crenshaw260777
Washington256952
Cleburne254560
Lamar251953
Clay251169
Macon245064
Conecuh193162
Coosa185547
Lowndes178268
Wilcox177638
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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