Twenty-three House Democrats have publicly co-sponsored a bill that would create an oversight committee to facilitate ousting President Trump on the basis that he is unfit to carry out his presidential duties, as per Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. The legislation was proposed by freshman Congressman Jamie Raskin (D., Md.), who was a constitutional law professor at the American University Washington College of Law.
Raskin should know better. Among other things, the 25th Amendment was intended to fill the office of the (vice) presidency at times during which a (vice) president is unable to do his job (e.g. due to dementia, surgery, death, resignation, etc.). It was not intended to facilitate, as NBC News phrased it, “the ousting of the president.”
The amendment consists of four sections, which hold the following: 1) The vice president becomes the president if the latter is removed from office, resigns, or dies; 2) Should a vacancy in the office of the vice president arise, the president nominates a new vice president with confirmation of a majority of Congress; 3) The vice president may temporarily act as president if the latter provides written and signed documentation permitting this process; and 4) Should the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet find the president unfit or unable to carry out the duties of his office, the vice president may become president, but if the president declares his competency, the vice president and Cabinet may disagree, in which case Congress must reach a majority vote to remove the president.
The first three sections of this amendment have been employed before. President Bush employed the third clause when he underwent a colonoscopy; Vice President Lyndon Johnson assumed the role of president following Kennedy’s assassination; after President Nixon resigned following the Watergate scandal, Vice President Ford took over his office; and, following Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation, President Nixon appointed — and Congress approved — Gerald Ford as his replacement.
The fourth section, however, has not been invoked.
Raskin and the Democrats’ defense for this bill is that Trump’s active tweeting demonstrates that he is not focused on his presidential duties. But this is nonsense. Whatever one thinks of Trump’s tweets, his use of the bully pulpit cannot represent grounds to remove an office holder — especially on the grounds of mental incapacity.
This piece of legislation is as good as wallpaper. It is nothing more and nothing less than an attempt at a coup. That those who have dedicated their careers to studying and teaching constitutional law would involve themselves is a national shame.