Donald Trump’s self-diagnosis as a “very stable genius,” coming amid a defensive tweetstorm Saturday, is unlikely to change the minds of many opponents. But it does demonstrate the difficulty — if not folly — of discussions about having Trump unseated by virtue of the 25th Amendment. The fact that the president is capable of speaking for himself may render the 25th Amendment discussion moot.
Still, the discussion has only accelerated with the publication of the book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff in which he reports that White House aides had shared their concerns about the president’s preparedness and mental stability at the time he won the election.
Meanwhile, John Gartner, a Baltimore-based psychologist has launched a petition campaign via change.org seeking to muster support for using the amendment to force the president into retirement. And a Yale Medical School professor reportedly has met with Cabinet members and members of Congress to help in drafting legislation creating an oversight commission made up of doctors and others to monitor the president’s mental stability.
As noted in a Close to Home column in Sunday’s paper (“When the evidence about Trump’s mental state is too great to ignore”), Gartner’s Duty to Warn campaign will be the subject of a town hall meeting on Jan. 20 at the Glaser Center in downtown Santa Rosa.
Community discussions about the president’s policies and antics are always welcome. But attendees should be warned. This is issue is unlikely to go anywhere.
As the Close to Home author, Alissa Hirshfeld-Flores, a Santa Rosa marriage and family therapist and coordinator of the event, spelled out, the 25th Amendment allows for the removal of the president if the vice president and a majority of Cabinet members find that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” But the purpose of the amendment is not to oust a commander in chief whenever a segment of the populace finds his policies, practices and tweets so offensive as to be evidence of instability. The amendment was intended to spell out a clear course of action if the president is, as the amendment makes clear, physically incapable of doing the job.
The amendment was borne out of necessity and tragedy. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 left Washington with the realization that there was no recourse if a president falls into a coma or somehow is unable to function. Thus the 25th Amendment was created.
But it has yet to be used as a tool to remove a sitting, tweeting president. And it shouldn’t be.
Even if the vast majority of therapists in the nation conclude the president is unstable — a finding that may cross traditional ethical boundaries — it’s unlikely that the 25th Amendment would be used as a means for removing the president.
As already noted, it would require the active participation of the president’s own Cabinet as well as Vice President Mike Pence who would have to agree to assume the duties of president. Even then, the president would be allowed to resume office merely by sending a letter to Congressional leaders. If Pence and Cabinet members still protest, the issue at that point would be settled by the Republican-controlled Congress.