At this point, nine months into the Donald Trump presidency, we shouldn’t really be surprised by anything that happens. And, yet, stories like Trump being completely unaware of the 25th Amendment still manage to instill us with shock and awe.
This latest revelation about Donald Trump comes from Gabriel Sherman’s latest dispatch for Vanity Fair in which it sounds like every day in the White House is a long version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day for Trump: a grumpy-ass little boy walking around and yelling, “I hate everything!”
But the best nugget comes at the end when Sherman reports Steve Bannon tried to warn Trump “that the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment.”
First of all, the 25th Amendment is what provides for the proper line of succession in case the president is removed from office (either by death or impeachment or some other manner), so it’s kind of stunning Trump did not know this.
But, as Sherman notes, Bannon was specifically referring to Part 4 of the amendment.
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
In other words, the vice president and members of the president’s cabinet can remove the president from office if they think he’s unable to the perform the duties of the office.
The amendment is fairly new as far as amendments go, having been ratified in 1967 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy made clear the need to have things formally organized.
Prior to that, there had been a handful of times in which the lack of a clear line of succession and rules on the president’s capacity to perform his duties created some drama, perhaps most notably when Woodrow Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke in 1919 that resulted in his wife making the presidential decisions behind closed doors.
The odds of the cabinet actually booting Trump are slim but one can’t help but look at the high profile feud Trump has already had with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and “Moron-gate” with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, not to mention the series of high-profile departures from Trump’s staff.
Maybe that’s why, according to Sherman, Bannon reportedly said he gave Trump a 30 percent chance of actually making it out of his first term.
Bannon’s alleged comment is probably just blowing smoke, but there’s already an awful lot of “smoke” around this presidency. It’s just a matter of time before someone finds the fire.