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 4:03 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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 537828

Reported Deaths: 7010
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1120831667
Ramsey46402845
Dakota40949413
Anoka37022412
Washington24118273
Stearns20436213
St. Louis16304294
Scott15379115
Wright14242124
Olmsted1254095
Sherburne1011078
Carver938642
Clay763489
Rice7373100
Blue Earth674440
Kandiyohi617079
Crow Wing586986
Chisago533848
Otter Tail529373
Benton515896
Mower445032
Winona434149
Douglas430270
Goodhue428271
Nobles395747
Morrison380358
McLeod378354
Beltrami364257
Polk358566
Isanti356859
Itasca356051
Steele344614
Becker341548
Lyon341048
Carlton321052
Freeborn318529
Pine304621
Nicollet297342
Brown288439
Mille Lacs268147
Todd264030
Le Sueur263722
Cass240326
Meeker226037
Waseca225320
Martin208429
Wabasha19793
Roseau192418
Dodge16774
Hubbard166841
Renville166743
Redwood162735
Houston161814
Cottonwood151320
Fillmore15009
Pennington148419
Chippewa143436
Faribault141019
Wadena139120
Sibley131210
Aitkin125836
Watonwan12419
Kanabec124021
Rock120618
Jackson112310
Yellow Medicine108018
Pipestone106925
Murray10119
Pope9816
Swift96918
Marshall83417
Stevens78910
Lake77719
Wilkin75212
Clearwater75014
Koochiching73611
Lac qui Parle72922
Big Stone5544
Lincoln5502
Grant5378
Norman5109
Mahnomen4888
Unassigned48278
Kittson43622
Red Lake3796
Traverse3585
Lake of the Woods2912
Cook1440

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 354126

Reported Deaths: 5789
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk55359596
Linn20099328
Scott18614234
Black Hawk15431306
Woodbury14733219
Johnson1379980
Dubuque12985202
Dallas1080196
Pottawattamie10574158
Story1021947
Warren546586
Clinton529789
Cerro Gordo517586
Webster506091
Sioux502173
Marshall476074
Muscatine452996
Des Moines438064
Wapello4237120
Buena Vista420740
Jasper406070
Plymouth393379
Lee366355
Marion353475
Jones291655
Henry285337
Bremer278060
Carroll277550
Crawford261539
Boone255731
Benton248755
Washington247849
Dickinson237443
Mahaska222449
Jackson216842
Kossuth211161
Clay207525
Tama206170
Delaware200239
Winneshiek191833
Page188720
Buchanan186631
Fayette182541
Cedar182223
Wright178335
Hardin178142
Hamilton176649
Harrison174473
Clayton165255
Butler161834
Mills156920
Cherokee156238
Floyd154242
Lyon153141
Poweshiek152033
Madison151719
Allamakee148951
Iowa144624
Hancock142234
Winnebago135131
Grundy134632
Cass133654
Calhoun133011
Jefferson130435
Emmet127040
Shelby126237
Appanoose125947
Louisa125848
Sac125619
Mitchell125241
Union123732
Chickasaw121815
Humboldt117826
Guthrie116528
Franklin112321
Palo Alto109322
Howard102522
Unassigned10010
Montgomery99437
Clarke97923
Keokuk94230
Monroe92728
Ida88233
Adair83932
Pocahontas83021
Monona80430
Davis79824
Greene76210
Lucas74822
Osceola73316
Worth6958
Taylor64812
Fremont60310
Decatur5889
Van Buren55318
Ringgold53322
Wayne51723
Audubon4909
Adams3264
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 39°
Mason City
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 37°
Albert Lea
Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 36°
Austin
Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 39°
Charles City
Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 38°
Drier conditions for the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events