Democrats in the United States are urging Vice President Mike Pence and members of the cabinet to remove Donald Trump from power under the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
This could be a mistake.
It would be constitutionally dubious. The Twenty-fifth Amendment allows a majority of the cabinet to replace a president who has become incapacitated. It wasn’t designed to topple a president who is still technically able to carry out his duties.
It can be argued Trump has proved himself “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” by inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol on Wednesday in an attempt to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election. But I can think of a dozen more examples of Trump’s behavior from the last year alone that proved his unfitness for office.
More worrisome than potentially setting a bad precedent is that a cabinet coup would add fuel to the fire of the stab-in-the-back myth Trump and his supporters are already writing. It could give the outgoing president just the pretext he needs to lead an insurgency against the next government of the United States.
The better route is impeachment in the House and a trial in the Senate.
Congress wouldn’t need to follow the template of past presidential impeachments. There is no constitutional requirement for hearings and debates. The House of Representatives could impeach Trump today.
The Senate would need to hold a trial, which could take longer. But the chamber can make its own rules. It could hold a one-day trial.
Impeachment and conviction would have two more advantages over invoking the Twenty-fifth Amendment:
- It would force Republican lawmakers to officially declare if they supported the president’s putsch or not.
- If the Senate convicts Trump, it could disqualify him from ever holding public office again.