What the Heck is the 25th Amendment, and Can it Really Help Us Get Rid of Donald Trump?
Oh, Donald Trump. You have given us so many sleepless nights, and so many unpleasant civics lessons. Like who knew that it was just a tradition for presidential candidates to show their tax returns to the American people? I, like many of you, thought a law required it. Maddeningly, it turns out we were wrong.
One of the latest scandals to come out of the White House involves the 25th Amendment. Rumor has it that Rod Rosenstein had a plan to use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. (Rosenstein says he never had such a plan, but who knows.) His plan involved convincing some of Trump's cabinet members that Trump was too crazy to finish his term as president. Then they were all going to gang up on Trump and use the procedures in the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. (By the way, the president's cabinet is a group of mostly dudes the president hires to advise him about stuff.)
And how would the 25th Amendment let members of Trump's cabinet to force him out?
The 25th Amendment is all about what happens in different situations when the president can't serve out his term. Section 4 talks about what would happen if the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet decide that the president is unable to "discharge the powers and duties of his office". (That's a fancy way of saying the president can't do his job.) If that were to happen, then the Vice President and the members of the cabinet would send a written declaration to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Those are the top bananas in both sections of Congress.) Then the president would get a chance to defend himself in writing, and send a note to Congress saying that he really can finish his term. (I'm sure Trump would send a tweet.) But in the end, if Congress wants to take a vote to remove him anyway, they can.
Some people the 25th Amendment only applies when the president is too sick or injured to do his job. They would say that the 25th Amendment can't be used to get rid of a president who is too crazy to finish his term, because the dudes who wrote the Constitution never imagined that we would have a situation like that on our hands.
I would say two things about the intent of the dudes who wrote the 25th Amendment. 1. I think they knew plenty about crazy leaders. And frankly, I think all of us who have worked for crazy bosses know plenty about them, too. It is not so far fetched that something like the procedures in the 25th Amendment could be used to get rid of a crazy president. 2. Who cares what they were thinking? The Constitution is a living, breathing document that we have to live with. I say we should use any and all Constitutional remedies that we have, and interpret it however it makes most sense for us today.
So where does that leave us? Can the 25th Amendment really help us get rid of Trump? Sadly, probably not. One of the requirements is that the Vice President join with the majority of the cabinet members in saying that they want to remove the president. And I don't see Mike Pence doing that any time soon. Have you seen the way Pence looks at Trump? All gooey eyed, like a 13 year old girl with a crush? It's weird, and a little gross, but does not seem to indicate that Pence would be willing to cooperate in an effort to unseat Donald Trump. Unless it's all a weird cover for some white hot rage, and Pence really was the author of that anonymous op-ed piece in the New York Times. If that's true, then maybe we have a shot.
If Pence and Trump's cabinet really did use the 25th Amendment to try to get rid of Trump, it would be the first time in our nation's history that the 25th Amendment would be used to try to get rid of a president. But Trump is the worst president we have ever had, so people have been thinking creatively about ways to get rid of him. And I guess there's a first time for everything.