Amid widespread protests and worrying signs of dysfunction in the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, millions across the United States are likely wondering how, or if, it's possible to oust the billionaire from the White House before the 2020 presidential election. While there have long been talks of impeachment hearings, a favorite theory this week for removing Trump from power involves the 25th amendment to the Constitution.
The amendment was approved in 1967, pushed into existence in the wake of the stunning 1963 death of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in Dallas. The Constitution had never officially laid out a succession plan that detailed how, exactly, a vice-president should take power should a president no longer be able to carry out his or her duties. Up until the amendment, vice presidents effectively took over because of a precedent set by Vice President John Tyler in 1841, according to the National Constitution Center. The 25th amendment clearly spelled out that a vice president took over if a president died, resigned or, importantly, was removed from office.
The amendment opened the door for removal if a president was deemed to be unfit for office, different from an impeachment hearing that typically centers around investigating if a president acted illegally while in office.
There are two options to remove a mentally unfit president, which were helpfully laid out step-by-step by Fusion. The first option requires a majority of the president's cabinet — positions such as secretary of state and secretary of defense — joining together with the vice president to declare the president is unfit. The second option requires the vice president to convince a majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate to decide the president is unfit. Both chambers of Congress then submit a letter stating such, which removes the president from power.
In both cases, the president can then submit a letter claiming he is fit for office, which then mandates a special session to vote on the issue. Once that special session is called, those trying to oust the president, in this case Trump, would have 21 days to convince a two-thirds majority of both Congressional chambers to vote to keep Trump out of the Oval Office.
While this might seem like a long shot, many are navigating toward it. Liberal "GQ" correspondent Keith Olbermann called it an instant impeachment, a sort-of "crazy-man clause." "For my money, he's nuts — couldn't pass a sanity test, open book," Olbermann said. "But of course, Section Four of the 25th Amendment here does not say 'nuts' — or impaired, or erratic or unbalanced or unhealthy or bipolar or narcissist or sociopath or psychopath. It only says 'that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.'"