Talk of unseating Donald Trump from the presidency erupted shortly after his shocking electoral victory: Democratic representatives called for his impeachment on the floor of Congress just four months into his tenure in the White House.
But the 25th Amendment provides another pathway for the president’s removal—and lawmakers want to use it.
Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, from California, introduced legislation on Friday calling on Vice President Mike Pence and the White House Cabinet to ask for the president’s resignation, questioning Trump’s mental stability after a bizarre series of press conferences this week in which he repeatedly defended a group of violent white supremacists who wreaked havoc Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“Trump has exhibited an alarming pattern of behavior and speech causing concern that a mental disorder may have rendered him unfit and unable to fulfill his constitutional duties,” Lofgren wrote in the bill provided to Vox on Friday morning. It goes on to encourage Pence and Trump’s Cabinet “to quickly secure the services of medical and psychiatric professionals to examine the president to assist in their deliberations under the 25th Amendment to determine whether the president suffers from mental disorder or other injury that impairs his abilities and prevents him from discharging his constitutional duties.”
The 25th Amendment, created in 1967 and used six times since, gives the vice president of the United States and eight Cabinet members the authority to remove the president from the Oval Office if he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It’s typically implemented when a president is undergoing a medical procedure and was utilized three times for the colonoscopies of former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
The amendment was also used three times under former President Richard Nixon—once, to officiate the nomination of Vice President Gerald Ford on November 27, 1973, to avoid a Democratic replacement to the Republican commander in chief.
But Friday’s bill is the first of its kind urging a sitting vice president to work to remove a president from office because of an alleged mental illness, and it may just be the first in a series of Democratic calls to employ the 25th Amendment.
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Other lawmakers have begun criticizing the president’s temperament following his statements on the racism and intolerance in Charlottesville, including California Democratic Representative Jackie Speier, who slammed Trump on his favorite social media platform after his controversial press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“POTUS is showing signs of erratic behavior and mental instability that place the country in grave danger,” Speier tweeted. “Time to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
The bill isn’t likely to go far: Several Republicans on Capitol Hill have lambasted Trump for his “dog-whistling” comments made throughout the week, but the vast majority are still willing to work with him on passing his conservative agenda.
Still, as the president’s approval ratings continue to free-fall, as support for his impeachment remains higher than his popularity, even the GOP may soon look for an easier way to unseat Trump than the exhaustive impeachment process.
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