Trump, Impeachment & 25th Amendment -- Removing the President: What Not to Worry About

President Donald Trump speaks about the presidential election results in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, November 5, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Other writers at NRO have been making many of the important constitutional and prudential arguments for and against acting to remove President Trump from office before his term expires. Here I just want to dispense with one argument that really shouldn’t figure in our thinking: that we should be worried about making it too easy to oust a president. Jim Geraghty, though advocating Trump’s impeachment and removal, provides an example of this phantom worry when he cautions against invoking the 25th Amendment: “We wouldn’t want the bar for removing a duly-elected president from office to be lowered to ‘he’s acting weird.’”

The procedural barriers to removing a president using either the impeachment process or the 25th Amendment are extremely high. That’s why, even though impeachment has been part of the Constitution from the start, it has only been successfully used once to drive a president from office (when Nixon resigned to avoid being booted out by it). Impeachment-and-removal, again, requires a majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate. To remove a president under the 25th Amendment over his objection requires surmounting even higher hurdles. It takes the consent of two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate, the vice president, and a majority of the Cabinet.

These procedural safeguards mean there is no reason to worry that removing a president for frivolous reasons is ever going to be possible, let alone become routine. Our political culture doesn’t need to guard a norm against removing presidents too easily — and that’s true whether or not one judges that Trump should be left to serve the remaining days of his term.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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