What You Really Want to Know:

It is without doubt the single most frequently asked question I’ve received since January 20, 2017: Can Donald Trump be successfully removed from the office of the President via the 25th Amendment? And the answer is yes and no, but only temporarily – and causing a constitutional crisis that would make the 2000 Presidential Election a sideshow compared to this Big Top Circus.

Under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, the Vice President and a majority of the members of the Cabinet could advise the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. And yes, this move would immediately remove him from office, but (a) it would immediately be challenged (a President who feels he is not disabled could in theory immediately send notice to the same officers declaring himself fit to serve), and (b) under such condition, it would buy a Vice President four days as Acting President if no further action were taken.

Now,, if within that four day period, the Vice President and a majority of the members of Cabinet again advise the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, things come to blows. Congress would be required to convene within two days of receiving the latter declaration from the Vice President and Cabinet, drop all other of the nation’s business, then essentially conduct a trial to decide if the President were capable of resuming his service. If, after this trial, the houses of Congress can’t decide by a two-thirds vote that the President is unable to resume serving?  He gets his job back. But on the other hand, if the House votes 435-0 and the Senate 100-0 that a President is not fit to resume his service? The President can merely submit another letter to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, declaring his fitness – at which point, the whole process is started all over again.

So… could Donald Trump be removed via Section 4 of the 25th Amendment?  Yes, he could.  Would it be likely to succeed?  Not to the point where the Congress would keep him from resuming office.  And even if that were to happen?  The President could simply start the whole process over again… and again… and again… bringing the business of the nation to a total halt in the process.

Text of the 25th Amendment

Section 1

In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Section 2

Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

Section 3

Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

Section 4

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.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days 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.  Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session.  If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

About Amendment25.com

This section of dpmcintire.com was originally compiled as Amendment25.com, a site providing information on the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Aware of the 25th Amendment since my middle school social studies class, I began studying the subject intensely on June 30, 2002; the result of a series of television interviews given by an alleged “subject matter expert” on the topic of presidential succession and disability.

In these interviews, this “expert” referred to George W. Bush’s invocation of Section 3 the preceding day as the first time its provisions had been implemented.  There was only one problem with this statement as I saw it:  my own, vivid recollection of the previous time it had been invoked, by President Ronald Reagan, back in 1985.

Ordering a copy of the book this so-called expert had written (I won’t reveal his name nor the title of his book here), in reading it I found that, despite having never really formally studied the 25th Amendment, I could identify at least a half dozen things which I knew were completely wrong.

So I took it upon myself to conduct my own research on presidential succession and disability.  Over the next year I read numerous other books on the subject, including the excellent “One Heartbeat Away” by Senator Birch Bayh, the architect of the 25th Amendment (and later, the 26th as well).

I also studied the history of presidential succession and disability, in an effort to get an overall perspective of how the 25th Amendment, and its supporting law, came to be.  I reviewed not only the Presidential Succession Acts of 1792, 1886 and 1947; I studied proposed laws on the subject which were never passed by Congress.

My chief interest in the whole subject being to prove the flaws in this “expert’s” information, rather than write a book countering his I chose to compile my research and place it online at Amendment25.com.

In the intervening years I was honored to learn that staff members at the National Archives in Washington were referring inquiries about the 25th Amendment to my site for more information; to this day I enjoy corresponding with people who have questions on the subject, or those who want to question my personal opinions on the topic.

Anyway, if you’re researching the subjects of presidential succession and disability, I hope this material is of use to you!