Regardless of how you cast your ballot in 2016, I think all of us, Democrat and Republican alike, can admit that President Trump has been controversial.
Ever since that fateful moment when former President Barack Obama said that Trump would never be president, the real estate tycoon has surprised the media and the public at every turn, climbing through the Republican primaries and securing the presidency in an electoral upset we’ll be talking about for centuries.
People who can’t stand #45 have been calling for his impeachment since Day 1, but how realistic is it, in theory? Can we really fire a president if enough people don’t like him?
How The People Fire The President
When the United States was first founded, the Constitution had two ways to get rid of a sitting president. The first and most obvious: people could vote him out of office after four years. Second, the House of Representatives could impeach the president for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and then the Senate could remove him from office.
American presidents have been voted out of office numerous times, the most recent examples being President George H.W. Bush and President Jimmy Carter, who failed to secure second terms.
Impeachment has happened just twice to President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and President Bill Clinton in 1998. Neither man was removed from office by the Senate, which requires a two-thirds vote.
However, in 1967, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution was passed to clarify the presidential succession and, incidentally, to provide a third way to expel a president from office.
The Third, Lesser-Known Way Of Firing The POTUS
In impeachment talks, you’ve probably heard the 25th amendment thrown in as a possible way to constitutionally ouster the president. But what is the 25th amendment, and how does it work?
The 25th Amendment was passed after the chaos that ensued following the assassination of John F. Kennedy to clarify the presidential succession. Basically, the vice president becomes president if the sitting president, for whatever reason, leaves office (including death).
Two other provisions deal with choosing a new POTUS if the if the president is somehow incapacitated. For instance, if he is undergoing medical treatment, such as when President Reagan was shot in 1981.
The provision of the 25th Amendment that many find interesting is the one that allows the vice president and the majority of the cabinet to remove the president if he becomes permanently unable to fulfill the duties of the office.
The president could be in a coma from a stroke or accident.
He could be judged to be insane by a mental health professional.
The Way Article Four Works
Article Four of the 25th Amendment states that the vice president can convene a meeting of the cabinet and declare to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House that the president is unable to perform the duties of the office. At that point, the president is removed, and the vice president assumes the presidency.
However, the sitting president has one get-out-of-jail-free card.
The now-former president can appeal the decision and claim that he is able to perform the duties of the office.
Then he gets to be president again unless the vice president and the majority of the cabinet again assert that the president is incapable. After that, the matter has to be decided by a two-thirds vote of the Congress while the vice president is the acting president.
If Congress cannot muster the votes, then the original president is the president again and things become a little awkward at the White House.
It’s important to note here that Article Four has never actually been invoked, and even if it was, it’s not a cheap and easy way to get rid of an unpopular president.