Thursday, October 12, 2017


There's 25th Amendment talk again:
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said the president’s behavior is growing increasingly “erratic” — and co-host Mika Brzezinski suggested his Cabinet may be preparing a constitutional challenge.

The “Morning Joe” host and his panelists reacted to the alarming Vanity Fair report that described the crisis within the White House, where aides say the president is “unraveling” in a job he’s not suited to hold....

Brzezinski pointed to the appointment of Kirstjen Nielsen, [John] Kelly’s longtime aide, to replace the now-chief of staff as Homeland Security secretary as evidence that the Cabinet may be readying a 25th Amendment challenge.

“That’s Cabinet-level, right?” Brzezinski said. “I don’t think Kelly’s leaving — I think he’s getting his troops in place to act.”
You probably know that Section 4 of the 25th Amendment gives "the Vice President and a majority of ... the principal officers of the executive departments" -- presumably the Cabinet -- the power to declare the president unfit for office. Until recently, I wouldn't have imagined that that was possible. But if Trump advisers are telling journalists that they "struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods," and that there are serious discussions about physically preventing Trump from launching a nuclear strike, then I guess it's conceivable. Still, it's hard to imagine the likes of Betsy DeVos and Scott Pruitt voting to oust the president.

The 25th Amendment says that the president can challenge his removal, which then can proceed only if two-thirds of the House and Senate agree. This process is actually harder than impeachment -- you just need a majority in the House to impeach (a two-thirds majority is need for a conviction and removal from office).

I used to believe that no congressional Republican would ever vote to get rid of Trump, but after Bob Corker's denunciation of the president, D.C. gossip says that a lot of Republicans are similarly aghast at Trump's behavior. Now I can imagine that a few Republicans would vote against him. But nineteen Republican senators, as well as dozens of GOP members of the House? Especially when Steve Bannon and the Mercers are framing their primary-every-GOP-incumbent-except-Cruz strategy as an effort to elect Trump loyalists?

To uphold a 25th Amendment removal, you'd need 290 votes in the House, which has only 194 Democrats. Are nearly a hundred Republicans going to vote against Trump?

And would this process win every Democratic vote? Joe Manchin is up for reelection in 2018 in West Virginia, where Morning Consult says that Trump has a 59.5% approval rating (35.7% disapprove). How's he going to vote? What about Heidi Heitkamp, who's up for reelection in 2018 in North Dakota, where Trump approval is 50.9% (43.9% disapprove)?

And notice that under the 25th Amendment, the vice president must agree to remove the president. Do we really believe that Mike Pence would earn the undying enmity of Trump diehards by voting to get rid of Trump and elevate himself to the presidency? Mike Pence -- the Trump bootlicker who dutifully flew to Indianapolis on Sunday and walked out on NFL game on the president's orders?

I used to believe that no Republican official would ever support Trump's removal from office. It's clear now that some would -- but not nearly enough.

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