Tonight’s op-ed in the New York Times has led a lot of people, including Donald Trump, to conclude that there’s now a coup underway against him. They’re citing the one passage in which the op-ed mentions that the cabinet was considering invoking the 25th Amendment against Trump early on. But it’s the rest of the letter that demonstrates the real “coup” playing out against Trump, and it’s rapidly about to become a self-fulfilling one.
The 25th Amendment is literally part of the Constitution, and it gives the vice president and cabinet the explicit right to remove the president from power. If the president disagrees, he takes it to Congress, who votes on it. This would represent a constitutional crisis for sure. But it would not be a coup, because that’s when you try to remove the president from power through unconstitutional means. So where is the real coup?
The rest of the op-ed reveals that one or (supposedly) more senior officials in the Trump administration are taking steps to trick or deceive Trump out of his presidential authority. The new Bob Woodward book dovetails with this, as it documents White House officials refusing to carry out Trump’s deranged military orders in the hope he’ll forget he gave the orders, and stealing documents off his desk in the hope he’ll forget about the decisions he’s already finalized.
These people have no constitutional right to do this to the President of the United States, and so they have in fact been carrying out a soft coup all along. Of course we’re glad they have been doing it, because it’s probably saved the nation from even worse damage as this plays out. It also makes clear that this guy has no business holding the office of President, and should have been removed via the 25th Amendment or impeachment a long time ago. But now it has another layer altogether.
In the hours since the op-ed was published, we’ve seen Donald Trump (falsely) accuse the author of “treason” while demanding that the New York Times “turn over” the author as a matter of “national security.” Trump’s people had no constitutional right to trick him out of his authority, but they haven’t broken any specific laws. Nonetheless, Trump is treating his own advisers like fugitives, or terrorists. This behavior is extraordinarily unconstitutional on Trump’s part.
Whichever cabinet members were previously talking about the 25th Amendment, you can bet they’re looking at Donald Trump’s reactions tonight, and they’re wondering if they should have invoked it after all. Trump’s behavior in response to this op-ed is only going to grow more abusive and deranged in the coming hours and days. That’s only going to further motivate the “coup” leaders in the White House to work harder to undermine him. It’ll force the cabinet to consider ousting him. And it’ll lend a whole new level of fierceness to the public demand that he be ousted, which is what’s really going to decide his downfall in the end.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report