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Invoking the 25Th Amendment Must Be a Last Resort

The anonymous Trump Administration “senior official” who penned a piece in Thursday’s New York Times said nothing new.

And there is the shame of this piece.

The Trump Administration has been a vortex of fire and fury, a cacophony of boasts and lies, a scandal of incompetence and fawning since January 21,2017.

Virtues – we know – are the flip side of faults. In my case – I do not suffer fools – politely or patiently.

Personally, the President Donald J Trump’s behavior disturbed me even before his election.

I’ve known and worked with more than a few multi-national company CEOs with egos and tempers. But none of them displayed the lack of self-control or self-awareness of our President.

In July,2017, I penned a blog that included illustrations of the President’s behavior — far out of the norm and so potentially fraught. My bottom-line even then — time to consider invoking the 25th Amendment.

Now we learn that some Trump Administration members were discussing the remedy as well.

But they decided it would – “provoke a Constitutional Crisis”. They were correct.

Removing a Sitting President Should Not Become a Norm

Invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Donald J. Trump from office would be a very serious step — create a precedent.

The Amendment – ratified in 1967 – was first discussed toward the end of Woodrow Wilson’s time in office when he was at least partially incapacitated by a stroke. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s declining health and death in office raised the issue again. Dwight Eisenhower’s heart attack was another data point as Congress pondered a process forward. The tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy was the final impetus needed.

Subsequent Presidents have used the Amendment during medical procedures in which they were sedated. The Vice President assumes the responsibility until the President can “sign back in”.

In 1973 when Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation resulted in the ascendance of Gerald Ford to Vice Presidency and subsequently the Presidency – the 25th Amendment succession provisions were followed.

The 25th Amendment has never been used to involuntarily remove a President from office.

There is no doubt majority of Americans – including members of both parties in Congress — do not want use of either Articles of Impeachment or the 25th Amendment to become “politics as usual”.

Unless the President is unable to do the job or has provably committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” – average citizens and politicians, alike, prefer to use the traditional expression of our disapproval — removing a President at the ballot box.

If Vice President Pence were to become convinced President Trump was incapacitated, he would initiate the 25th Amendment process by securing agreement from a simple majority of administration’s cabinet secretaries that the President could not perform the duties of his office.

Next, he would petition Congress to appoint him as the Acting President based on the President’s incapacity. Congress would hear testimony and vote. If two-thirds majority of both the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed, President Trump would be replaced by the Vice President.

The moment a request to remove President Trump reached Congress, some members would release a hue and cry claiming the request was an act of political retribution perpetrated by the “elite media” and the “political elite” – the “Hollywood types” — the “Resistance” – the (awful) “pink hats”.

And there in lies the risk. No matter how justified the use of the amendment in this instance, the Freedom Caucus, the “base” – the Grand Old Party of Trump (GOPT) — would claim it was “political”. The leadership of both parties fear most of all giving voters the impression they are allowing the far left or far right “base” to use politics to remove a President they could not beat at the polls.

Dissent Begins at the Ballot Box

But can a President who uses Twitter daily – many times a day – to underscore how impetus, dishonest, bellicose, belligerent, and banal he is be allowed the “nuclear football”?

Can a President subject to fits of temper and flights of fancy about his own accomplishments in office be allowed to continue careening from issue to issue without ever reaching resolution?

Can a President who refuses to tell his own Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense or Director of National Intelligence what he discussed with Russia’s Putin be trusted to conduct foreign policy – to keep our nation safe?

As fraught the potential precedent of invoking the 25th Amendment might be – isn’t it equally perilous to cheer Donald J. Trump on as he redefines the presidency in the model of “mad King George III?

The anonymous “senior official” correctly cautioned the greatest risk to our democracy is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility”.

It is not enough “senior official” to invoke the memory of Senator John McCain or to pray – between the lines of your op-ed — for a Mueller Miracle. It is time for you to do what John McCain would do if he were able.

You must come forward and confront head on the danger President Trump presents to the nation. You must force Vice President Pence to do what he knows is his responsibility to the country.

When the smoke clears, the American people will laud you for the courage to “put country first”!

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