Photo Courtesy of Official Constitution Archives
Line of Succession
February 22, 2019
Since Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe said in an interview on “60 Minutes” Sunday that certain members of the Justice Department have been floating around the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment, the news has been abuzz with talks of how likely it is for President Trump to be removed from office under this provision.
Although it is technically possible for this to happen under the 25th amendment, it is completely separate from the process of impeachment and removal from office by the Senate. This has only been used three times, all of which were invoked by Presidents to give power to their Vice President while they underwent surgery.
In fact, the very function of the 25th amendment was implemented after the assassination of John F. Kennedy to establish a formal line of succession in the event of a president falling ill, dying, resigning, or being removed from office through other means.
However, if the Vice President and a majority of cabinet members send a letter to the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore in the senate and state that the President is unfit for office, the Vice President will take the position of Acting President immediately.
Once this happens, the President can then send a declaration to Congress that he is not unfit to carry out the responsibilities of President. If this happens, then two thirds of Congress must vote on whether or not to keep the Vice President in the position of Acting President within 21 days. If this is not achieved, the President regains his position in office.
Since this whole process takes not only two thirds of both houses, but also the Vice President, and a majority of cabinet secretaries, it is by definition more difficult to invoke than impeachment, followed by removal from office by the Senate.
By comparison, to remove a President from office through Congress, the House of Representatives can impeach them with a simple majority, which has only happened twice. Then, two thirds of the Senate must vote to remove an impeached president from office’; something that has yet to happen in the entire history of the United States.
While it might require fewer votes to remove a president through impeachment and the Senate, the Constitution states that this can only happen if they are convicted of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” In contrast, the 25th amendment only requires the President be deemed “unfit for office.”
It is still only speculation at best on whether or not President Trump has committed any crimes worthy of such responses, but with the Mueller investigation expected to end soon, lawmakers will have to decide if there is sufficient evidence to pursue either of these avenues of removing the President.