Since President Trump took office, Democrats have accused him and his presidential campaign of colluding with Russian officials to win the White House. They then accused Trump of obstructing justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey. All of this was in an effort to try and remove Trump from the White House.
But because those allegations are almost completely unfounded, a group of two dozen congressional Democrats are now supporting an effort to remove Trump from the White House using the Constitution’s 25th Amendment.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) earlier this year introduced a bill that proposes to create a congressional “oversight” panel to investigate whether or not Trump is “incapacitated.” If the panel declares Trump mentally unable to carry out the duties of his office, then they can remove him from office.
— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) May 13, 2017
Except there’s only one caveat: they would need Vice President Mike Pence’s approval.
The 25th Amendment was ratified in 1967 in response to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and several other medical crises with prior presidents. The amendment establishes the presidential line-of-succession, procedures for filling a vice presidential vacancy and what to do when the president becomes “incapacitated.”
Section 4 of the 25th Amendment allows a majority of the president’s Cabinet, along with the vice president, to determine the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties,” then provide that determination in writing to Congress resulting in the president being dismissed from office. This is the only section of the 25th Amendment that has never been used.
But Raskin’s bill highlights some largely overlooked language in Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. In addition to a majority of the president’s Cabinet, the amendment also allows a majority of Congress to reach the same conclusion to remove the president — along with the vice president’s approval, still.
In either of these cases, once the president is determined to be “incapacitated,” the vice president immediately becomes acting president.
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Raskin’s bill would allow the four Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate to each choose a psychiatrist and another doctor. Then each party would add a former statesman — like a retired president or vice president.
The final group of 10 would meet and choose an 11th member, who would become the committee’s chairman.
Once the group is officially seated, the House and Senate could direct it through a joint resolution to conduct an actual examination of the president “to determine whether the president is incapacitated, either mentally or physically,” according to the Raskin bill.
In the case of Raskin’s plan, the Constitution holds that both houses of Congress would hold a vote within three weeks. If two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate agreed that the president couldn’t discharge his duties, he would be dismissed.
Because Section 4 of the 25th Amendment has never been used, it’s not clear what the process would actually look like or what kind of mental “incapacitation” makes the president unfit to perform the duties of his office.
But Raskin believes the nation is facing a crisis in regards to Trump’s mental health and believes the 25th Amendment provides the country with an “escape route.”
“In case of emergency, break glass,” he told Yahoo News on Friday. “If you look at the record of things that have happened since January, it is truly a bizarre litany of events and outbursts.”
As of Friday, two dozen Democrats have signed onto Raskin’s bill as co-sponsors, including former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Rep. John Conyer (D-Mich.), the longest tenured member of Congress. And after Trump’s controversial tweets on Thursday criticizing MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, Raskin says more Democrats signed on.
“I’ve had tons of inquiries, and lots of colleagues have been talking to me about it,” Raskin told Yahoo. “I’m convinced most Americans believe we are living in a very strange reality. The question is, what are the escape routes we have, and the 25th Amendment is one of them.”
So far, no Republicans have sponsored the legislation, considering an effort to remove Trump using the 25th Amendment is seen as a move motivated by political differences, not actual medical incapacitation.