The Empty Threat of the 25th Amendment
The 25th Amendment is an empty threat to any sitting president because of the inherent flaws in the legal structure of the Amendment. The 25th amendment is a farce because it requires the concurrence of the members of the president’s own party to invoke it.
The first paragraph of Section Four of the 25th Amendment reads follows:
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.
Note the position of the word “and” immediately after “Vice President.” The position of the word “and” stipulates that the Vice President must agree with the decision of ‘a majority of the principal offices of the Executive Department.” If the Vice President does NOT agree, the declaration becomes null and void.
There are 15 principal departments of the Executive Branch: Stael, Treasury, Defense, justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. Every one of those 15 departmental secretaries was selected and appointed by Donald Trump, and confirmed by the Senate, which is controlled by Donald Trump’s party.
What are the odds that eight of those cabinet secretaries AND the Vice President of the United States would concur that Donald Trump is UNABLE to perform his function as president of the United States?
I maintain that the odds of this happening are zero, for several reasons.
The first reason is that, if there were any chance of this happening, it would have happened already.
The second reason is that the language of the law requires that Mr. Trump be UNABLE (rather than unfit) to perform the functions of the president. In order to meet that strict description, he would have to be comatose, incoherent, but not in the usual sense of his comical incoherence but rather clinically incoherent which means being unable to understand what is being said to him, and unable to speak coherently to others, or be otherwise unable to communicate.
The third reason is that there are a great many people around the world who would stipulate that Donald Trump is “unfit” to serve as president of the United States. Whether he is “unable” to perform that role is an entirely different kettle of fish, a condition for which no definition is offered by the 25th amendment.
The 25th Amendment is silent on the question of what the word “unable” actually means. It is silent on the quality of the president’s understanding of the issues coming before him, and ignores his aberrant behavior while in office, all of which address his fitness for the office, but do not address ability to function as president by performing the day to day functions required by the job.
In other words, Trump could be bat-shit crazy but as long as he is able to communicate more or less coherently, the condition that he is unable to function as president has not been met.
The 25th Amendment also requires the president’s own party to “pull the trigger” and force him out of office because the sitting vice president and the cabinet secretaries are always going to be from the president’s own party. Remember, the members of Trump’s candidate are all evangelically oriented conservative Republicans…and the reason they haven’t banded together to push Trump out of office is very simple: They like what he is doing. They agree with him…and they want him to complete his agenda.
What would happen, however, if the cabinet were to turn against Trump?
Nothing would happen as long as Vice President Pence sides with Trump because the language of the 25th Amendment clearly stipulates that the Vice President must concur with the decision of the majority of the cabinet members.
What if the Vice President were turn against the President?
Two things could – and would – happen.
The first thing that would happen would be that the president, or someone who actually knows how to type, would sit down and write a declaration affirming that he, the president, was indeed capable of performing the services required by his employment.
The moment the letter is received by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, the president immediately regains the full powers of his office….which will enable him to do the second thing that would happen the moment the cabinet tried to oust him from the White House: he would fire every member of the cabinet who voted to unseat him and immediately nominate loyalists as the acting Secretaries for those departments. (The 25th Amendment makes no provisions regarding this tactic.)
Even if the president did not take advantage of that loophole, the odds are still very much against his removal from office. The 25th Amendment allows the Vice President and the Cabinet to resubmit their declaration that the president is unable to perform his duties. This puts the problem into the laps of the members of the House and Senate, who have twenty-one days to decide whether to accept or reject the declaration of incompetence BY A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY VOTE OF BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS.
The Democratic Party does not have the votes required to uphold the Declaration of Incompetence, which means that the Republican party – and only the Republican party – has the ability to remove Donald Trump from the White House and the presidency.
This is why the 25th Amendment will never be invoked, because it can circumvented with the flick of a pen….and because the Republican party wants Trump to be exactly where he is and doing exactly what he is doing.
This is why we need to understand that Trump isn’t the issue. Donald Trump is merely a symptom, the latest skirmish in a 50 year war between mostly Democratic progressives and mostly Republican conservatives This is an all-out war between the Republican and Democratic Parties, and it is only that because in our political structure, the Democratic party is the only counteracting force available to us.
Summary: The 25th Amendment has no teeth and cannot be implemented against a sitting president as long has his party controls a majority in at least one house of Congress. Impeachment is a useless gesture because the Democratic Party doesn’t have the votes to convict in the Senate.
CONCLUSION: We are well and truly fucked, people. Stop expecting and demanding that Republicans come to their senses and behave appropriately. This is what they think is appropriate. If they didn’t think that way, they wouldn’t be Republicans anymore.
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