Could President Trump be removed from office? A professor and a lawyer weigh in
"The reality is that this is more political banter than any real threat."
Thursday afternoon, House Speaker Pelosi called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from office.
The U.S. Constitution was ratified to include the 25th Amendment in 1967, four years after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Kennedy’s death made lawmakers realize that there was no official constitutional succession plan in place in the event that death or a disability affecting an acting president’s ability to do their job.
A U.S. president has never been removed from office because of the 25th Amendment. In order for the amendment to be invoked, the vice president and a majority of the president’s cabinet must declare to Congress that the current president is incapable of doing his job. The president has the ability to dispute such a claim. From there, the vice president has four days to declare the president unfit to lead and have Congress vote on whether the president can do his job. If two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Senate vote that the president is unable to do the job, the president is removed and the vice president is named as replacement.
While Speaker Pelosi and other lawmakers may wish to invoke the 25th Amendment, Vice President Pence is the only person with the authority to make that call.
“The vice president and the president are going to be of the same party, and the vice president is usually loyal to the president,” UNL law professor Eric Berger said. “In this case, Vice President Pence has been extremely loyal to President Trump throughout his presidency, so I still don’t know how likely it is [that Pence would
Even if Pence were to invoke the 25th Amendment, it is unlikely that President Trump would be removed given that Republicans have control of the Senate.
“If the vice president and the majority of the cabinet say, ‘The president is unfit,’ and the president says, ‘No, am fit,’ and then the ball goes to Congress, the scale in Congress tips in favor of the president,” Berger said.
Is it realistic that President Trump could be removed from office via the 25th Amendment before Jan. 20? Berry Law Firm attorney Christopher Ferdico says no.
“The reality is that this is more political banter than any real threat,” Ferdico said.
Aside from the fact that invoking the 25th Amendment would require substantial Republican support, Ferdico it would be a legal challenge for lawmakers to prove that President Trump has a disability inhibiting his ability to perform the duties of the presidency.
This is one reason why Speaker Pelosi has publicly threatened to impeach the president. In that scenario, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives would bring forth articles of impeachment against the president, and the Republican-controlled Senate would have to vote by a two-thirds supermajority to convict the president. Given the gridlock in Washington, the president’s removal from office via impeachment before Inauguration Day is possible, but quite unlikely, unless a large number of Senate Republicans suddenly change their stance.
“[Impeachment] can happen as fast as the political actors want it to happen,” Berger said.