What is the 25th Amendment, when it has been invoked and is it likely to affect Donald Trump?

In the hours that followed on from an armed group of rioters storming the U.S Capitol on 6th January, to disrupt the certification of the presidential election, news began to circulate that senior administration officials were considering invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Donald Trump from office before his term expires on 20th January.

Among the many officials that were calling for this to be done were Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

She submitted a letter to her colleagues in Congress that stated: “…this resolution calls on the vice president to convene and mobilize the Cabinet to activate the 25th Amendment to declare the president incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the vice president would immediately exercise powers as acting president.”

Another call came from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

He released a statement that read: “What happened at the U.S. Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president. This president should not hold office one day longer.

“The quickest and most effective way – it can be done today – to remove this president from office would be for the vice president to immediately invoke the 25th amendment.

If the vice president and the cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president.”


What actually is the 25th Amendment?

The 25th Amendment provides procedures for replacing the president or vice president in the event of death, removal, resignation or incapacitation.

If the president is removed from office under any of these circumstances stated then the vice president shall become president.

 It was passed by Congress on 6th July 1965 and ratified by the states on 10th February 1967.

Lyndon B Johnson being sworn in as president after the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963.

The need for a succession amendment became clear when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November 1963, and there was confusion about whether Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson had also been injured, and if so, who would succeed them in their roles.

On 1st January 1965, less than two years after Kennedy was killed, joint resolutions were introduced in the Senate and the House recommending a succession amendment.

By April, they had both approved their own versions and a committee was formed to resolve their differences.

President John F Kennedy with his wife Jacqui in the motor cavalcade in Dallas minutes before his assassination.

Prior to the 25th Amendment, presidential succession procedures did exist, however they were vague and did not cover every possible scenario.

It was also unclear what would happen if the president or vice president became temporarily incapacitated.

The 25th Amendment was established to address these concerns.


Has it ever been invoked?

President George W. Bush (left), Vice President Dick Cheney (center) and The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld (right), U.S. Secretary of Defense , walk out of the Pentagon on the way to the Farewell Ceremony for the defense secretary, Dec. 15, 2006. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen) (Released)

There have been various sections of the 25th Amendment invoked in the past, and has been used mostly in medical circumstances.

One recent example was on 29th June 2002 when President George W. Bush invoked section 3 of the 25th Amendment before going under anaesthesia for a colonoscopy and briefly made Vice President Dick Cheney the acting President.

He did the same again in 2007 for another colonoscopy.   


Is Trump likely to be removed from office this way?

Back to today and still the 25th Amendment exists to protect the democratically- elected president and the line of succession. It is very difficult to unseat a president without proven just cause and majority consensus.

It is yet unknown if President Trump, and generally unlikely that Vice President Mike Pence will heed the calls and if so, be able to gain enough support in the closing window of time that Donald Trump has left in office.

Evidence would have to be absolute and clear to prove that the president is not mentally fit to serve.

Many do not believe it is a possibility.

However, impeachment charges have, as of yesterday, been placed upon President Trump, so with just over a week remaining in office, we may still see his removal one way or another.

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