The American Conservative blog
February 18, 2019
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
That’s a natural reaction to the revelation of Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy FBI director, that top Justice Department officials, alarmed by Donald Trump’s firing of former Bureau director James Comey, explored a plan to invoke the 25th Amendment and kick the duly elected president out of office.
According to New York Times reporters Adam Goldman and Matthew Haag, McCabe made the statement in an NBC 60 Minutes interview to be aired on Sunday. He also reportedly said that McCabe wanted the so-called Russia collusion investigation to go after Trump for obstructing justice in firing Comey and for any instances they could turn up of his working in behalf of Russia.
The idea of invoking the 25th Amendment was discussed, it seems, at two meetings on May 16, 2017. According to McCabe, top law enforcement officials pondered how they might recruit Vice President Pence and a majority of cabinet members to declare in writing, to the Senate’s president pro tempore and the House speaker, that the president was “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” That would be enough, under the 25th Amendment, to install the vice president as acting president, pushing aside Trump.
But to understand what kind of constitutional crisis this would unleash and the precedent it would set, it’s necessary to ponder the rest of this section of the 25th Amendment. The text prescribes that, if the president, after being removed, transmits to the same congressional figures that he is indeed capable of discharging his duties, he shall once again be president after four days. But if the vice president and the cabinet majority reiterate their declaration within those four days that the guy can’t govern, Congress is charged with deciding the issue. It then takes a two-thirds vote of both houses to…