The 25th Amendment is trending on Twitter right now, for two reasons. One is that Donald Trump is publicly siding with Russia after the Kremlin hacked several U.S. agencies. The other is that Trump is vaguely threatening some kind of military coup, and while he knows he’s not within a million miles of having the muscle to pull it off, the mere fact that he’s making such a threat is grounds for immediate removal. But how does it happen?
There’s widespread confusion on this, but the 25th Amendment is very clear in that the sitting Vice President is the only person who can forcibly invoke it against the President. That means this is all, unfortunately, on Mike Pence. Even once he initiates it, a majority of the Trump cabinet would need to go along with it. No one knows if there are the cabinet votes to sustain it or not. But either way, only Pence can initiate such a vote.
There are no magic wand solutions for getting around this stipulation. It’s Mike Pence or bust. That said, Pence surely wants to believe that he has some kind of political future after this. He probably sees himself running for President in 2024. If he invokes the 25th Amendment against Donald Trump, he’ll lose the support of Trump voters. But if he doesn’t invoke it, he’ll lose the support of everyone else. Even Pence can do the math and see that Trump voters alone aren’t enough to win an election; Trump just lost by 7 million votes after relying on Trump voters.
So it’s incumbent upon us to make sure Mike Pence realizes that if he wants any shot at ever winning an election of any kind in the future, he needs to do the right thing now. There are ways to put political pressure on Pence, and we’ll surely see Democratic leaders begin applying that pressure in the coming hours and days. For instance, Congressman Ted Lieu is already calling on Pence to look at the 25th. Our job will be to support Democratic leaders’ efforts to convince Pence to invoke the 25th.
It’s worth pointing out that there is one other method of removing Donald Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could inform the House that he wants Trump impeached again, and once the House sends over articles of impeachment, McConnell could instruct Republican Senators to vote to convict and remove Trump. In fact McConnell could essentially force Trump to resign simply by threatening to do such a thing. But there is no indication that McConnell is willing to do this, which brings us back to Pence and the 25th Amendment.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report