What Is the 25th Amendment? Anonymous NYT Op-Ed Reports Trump Cabinet Whispering About Invoking Rule

In a scathing anonymous op-ed written by a senior official inside the Trump administration, the author wrote that the president's cabinet has whispered about invoking the 25th Amendment, which would jumpstart the lengthy process of removing Donald Trump from the Oval Office.

"Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president," the author wrote in the piece, which was published on Wednesday by The New York Times.

The source goes on to write that "no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until—one way or another—it's over."

The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that if the people in the president's innermost circle, the cabinet, believe that the commander-in-chief is unfit to hold office something can be quickly done to legally remove them from office.

The amendment, proposed by Congress and ratified by the states after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, details the procedure for replacing a president or vice president in the event of death, resignation, removal or incapacitation.

The amendment can be carried out whenever the vice president and a majority of the sitting cabinet members decide that the president is declared "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."

The members would then put their call for the president's removal in writing and submit it to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate's president pro tempore, who is an officer elected by the chamber to represent the vice president in case of his absence.

If the president is found to be unfit to rule, the vice president would immediately step in and assume the duties of commander-in-chief.

Trump 25th Amendment
President Donald Trump speaks to the press before a meeting with Republican Congressional leaders at the White House in Washington, D.C., on September 5. An anonymously published op-ed by a senior White House official claims the president's cabinet was whispering about invoking the 25th amendment. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The president can fight back if their vice president and cabinet were to use the 25th Amendment against them if he can prove that he is able to carry out his duties, such as in the scenario that they recover from an illness or injury that temporarily destabilized them.

But, the vice president and cabinet can refute their claim, and if that is the case then the issue is left up to Congress to settle. A two-thirds majority is needed in both the House and the Senate for the president to regain his executive powers.

The first time these procedures were used after their ratification in 1967 was by President Richard Nixon to nominate Gerald Ford to fill the vacancy left by Vice President Spiro Agnew's resignation.

The amendment was used again shortly after, but this time to fill the vacancy left in the Oval Office after the resignation of Nixon due to the Watergate scandals.