A prominent conservative commentator and journalist said Wednesday that Vice President Mike Pence should be prepared to invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and wrest the presidency away from President Donald Trump should Trump's "craziness" escalate.
Bill Kristol, editor-in-chief of conservative magazine The Weekly Standard and a well-known conservative commentator who was one of the loudest voices of the #NeverTrump movement, took to Twitter to posit that Pence has already taken preparations for such a scenario. "Most of [Trump]'s craziness seems so far to have been confined to speech not deeds. But I trust [Pence] has asked his Counsel to prepare a draft document transferring power in accord with Sec. 4 of 25th Amendment in case it's suddenly needed, & that he's discussed this with [Chief of State John Kelly]," Kristol tweeted a little before 8 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Kristol's conjecture that Pence has undergone the necessary steps to take control of the presidency from Trump came on the heels of one of the president's most widely-discussed tweets in which he compared the size of his "nuclear button" to the one reportedly on the desk of North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. "North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.' Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" Trump tweeted Tuesday night.
Were Pence to carry out such a scenario, what would it look like? According to the National Constitution Center, the 25th Amendment, which was ratified in 1967, "seeks to answer a series of questions raised by the original Constitution’s treatment of presidential and vice-presidential vacancies and presidential disability."
Trump's presidency has brought increased conversation surrounding the section in the amendment, section four, which discusses proper protocol if it is deemed that the president is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." According to section four, the vice president, along with a majority of cabinet secretaries, may "transmit to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." In such an event, the vice president would immediately assume the powers of the presidency.
The president can reclaim his post by providing his own written declaration that no such inability exists. However, such an act by the president can be overridden by the vice president and a majority of the cabinet if within four days they submit, in writing, that the president is still "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." In such a situation, Congress would then decide the issue, with a two-thirds vote from each chamber required to officially remove the president from office.
The amendment has been invoked before, though never to permanently remove a sitting president from office, making such a scenario unlikely.