The presidency of
Donald Trump has proved to be an exceptional civics lesson, turning Trump’s enemies into experts on laws—Emoluments Clause, the Logan Act, the Hatch Act—that, two years ago, few apart from the Senate librarian could have identified. No obscure part of our code has awakened more fascination than Section 4 of the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967. As we all know, it allows for the president to be removed from office if the vice president, a majority of the Cabinet, and a majority of Congress decide he or she is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
Steve Bannon has told Trump it is a greater threat than impeachment, my colleague
Gabriel Sherman reports. And, in the last few weeks, it has become a common topic of conversation in Washington. In the wake of
Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury, much of the country has been dreaming aloud about Amendment XXV, Section 4, consulting iPhones for exact constitutional wording and debating the character of
This is the palace-coup amendment of the Constitution. Chances of it being deployed against Donald Trump in his present state are close to zero, for two reasons. The first is that it’s almost impossible to execute, and it will destroy those who get behind it, even if they succeed (to say nothing of if they fail). The second is that an official palace coup against Trump is barely necessary, at this point. In many ways, it has already happened.
Here’s when you make use of the 25th Amendment in a normal White House: the president has been obviously and suddenly incapacitated. Perhaps he (or she) has collapsed in public and failed to regain consciousness, or he has gone all Jack Torrance with an axe in the White House Rose Garden, or he is obsessively repeating “hold me, Rupert” every time a Fox host asks him a question. It’s a time when everyone in the country would understand why the vice president had to step in and take over, even if the president was resisting. Above all, it’d be a time when no subterfuge was required, because the emergency would be obvious.
Now is not such a time. An emergency can be genuine, but, politically speaking, it isn’t obvious unless the country is in near-unanimous agreement about it. We’re not in such agreement. Therefore, Cabinet officials would have to operate behind the scenes, in deep stealth. Logistically, in Washington, this is very, very hard. Government e-mails are not private, and private ones are tough to hide (and, officially, forbidden, which does matter at least a little). Cell-phone conversations have just about every intelligence service in the world trying to listen in, from London to Taipei. Meetings and schedules are tracked by journalists. Plus, everyone and everything in Washington leaks. You could sing alone in the shower and see an account of it in tomorrow’s Post. (To be sure, Pence could also break openly with the president and ask his colleagues, in public, “Who’s with me?” But that’s a bit unlikely, too.)
Even if Pence were to succeed in harnessing a group of Cabinet officials, or Cabinet officials were to form a conspiratorial majority and end by drafting Pence to take action, the coup leaders would have to accept that their careers were, effectively, done. In politics, loyalty remains a cardinal virtue, and the taint of involvement in a conspiracy against the chief would lead, fairly or not, to ostracism in Washington and elsewhere. The public wouldn’t renominate or re-elect Pence after he came to power in such a fashion, for fear of seeming to endorse such a precedent. Those who participated in the ouster would be hated by Trump’s loyalists for betraying the boss, and scorned by Trump’s enemies for having been caught up in this White House in the first place. The sinecures that reward former Cabinet officials would be scarce. Most people recoil instinctively from betrayal, even if the cause is justified.
Now let’s consider reason two. Who needs a palace coup? What can be easy for people to forget, because the White House is always a big deal, is this: Trump is a weak president. He has low approval ratings. He has little control over his own party. He has almost as little control over his own White House. His chief of staff,
John Kelly, has curbed his boss’s media diet, and Kelly also keeps a close watch on who gets to see the president and what gets said. Calls that once went through to the president now get blocked by the White House switchboard. Trump also spends less and less time in the office, according to Axios, often clocking in at 11 A.M. and out about five hours later. The rest of his day—what aides call “executive time”—is supposedly spent at home making calls and watching TV, which suggests that a lot of Americans are better prepared for the presidency than we’d known.
Trump says that he tweets because “it is the only way to fight a VERY dishonest and unfair ‘press,’ now often referred to as Fake News Media.” But he also does it to get around his own handlers, few of whom endorse his spontaneous ructions. Since Trump’s posts are increasingly getting treated like shells on the Western front—alarming but constant, and therefore to be ignored—they, too, underscore his diminishing power.
All of this is a problem if you support Trump’s agenda. It’s a blessing if you oppose it, not least if you’re a Republican. The Republicans who have been especially active in Trump’s defense, such as Congressman
Devin Nunes (an ally of
Paul Ryan) and Senator
Lindsey Graham, are no fans of his populism. Graham, for instance, has long pushed for the legalization of unauthorized immigrants and once said Trump would poison conservatism for generations. Yet lately, Graham has been golfing with Trump and defending him on television, and he recently joined Senator
Chuck Grassley in referring
Christopher Steele, author of an infamous dossier linking Trump to Moscow, to the F.B.I. for criminal investigation. Such loyalty could be out of love for Trump. Or it could be out of an understanding that a beleaguered president in your debt isn’t a bad thing to have, especially if you’d like to derail his agenda in favor of your own.
In this sense, a palace coup may already be an episode in the rearview mirror—something that happened slowly and unofficially as Trump squandered his capital and aggravated every problem he faced. Today, with
Robert Mueller investigating the White House, most Republicans, less by design than by accident, may have Trump where they want him. “You’re very lucky,” Tom Hagan tells Senator Geary in The Godfather: Part II, as he explains that the “family” will help Geary avoid ruination. “All that’s left is our friendship.”
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Sean Spicer’s little white lie.The first truth-bending claim of the Trump administration came just a day after the inauguration, when
Sean Spicer introduced himself to the world by claiming that Trump’s inauguration had drawn the largest audience ever, despite several photos showing a rather sparse crowd. Within a month, Spicer, once a well-respected journeyman flack in D.C. media circles, had cemented his reputation as Trump’s own Baghdad Bob.Photo: Left, by Lucas Jackson/Pool/Getty Images; right, by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.
Trump’s first act of self-sabotage.Less than two weeks after he was inaugurated, Trump bungled a major campaign promise when he signed an executive order restricting travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. The order sparked protests across the country and threw border control into chaos as it struggled to implement . . . something. Federal courts immediately blocked the ban, declaring that it was an unconstitutional religious test meant to discriminate against Muslims, and pointed to Trump’s own comments as proof. The ban continues to wind its way through federal court, continually hamstrung thanks to the way Trump and then adviser
Steve Bannon mangled its initial rollout.Photo: By Stephanie Keith/Getty Images.
Kellyanne Conway’s quest for the perfect angle.Back when she was still known as Trump’s maternal handler, the White House adviser drew scrutiny for kneeling on an Oval Office couch as casually as if she owned the place (she does not). She told the press that she had done so to snap a photo of Trump and a group of visiting presidents of H.C.B.U.s, and that it seemed to be the best angle.Photo: By Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.
Donald Trump’s little side gig.The lawsuit against Trump University was the perfect allegory for a Trump presidency: the real-estate billionaire stood accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars from regular folks, promising that his financial know-how would make them wealthy overnight, and then leaving them with nothing. Back in March, Trump settled three separate lawsuits—two class-action suits and a fraud case—against the university for $25 million.Photo: By Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images.
Melania’s hurricane stilettos.Of course Melania Trump, former model and Upper East Side inhabitant, would think nothing of wearing stiletto heels while preparing to visit a hurricane disaster zone. But after the Internet slammed her for her tone-deaf fashion faux pas, a practice that goes back centuries, she emerged from Air Force One just hours later wearing a brand-new pair of white sneakers and what appeared to be a men’s button-up shirt.Photo: By Alex Wong/Getty Images.
Trump’s Twitter feuds, part 2.North Korea’s “three generations of punishment” law dictates that if a citizen commits a crime, they and their entire family will be sent to prison camps, and the next two generations of children will remain there. Somewhat similarly, Donald Trump declared that Steph Curry’s refusal to attend a White House ceremony acknowledging the Golden State Warriors N.B.A. Championship meant that the entire team’s invite was withdrawn. (When N.F.L. player
Tom Brady’s turn came for a White House invite, he sidestepped controversy by claiming an illness in the family.)Photo: By Maddie Meyer/Getty Images.
Tom Price’s nasty private-jet habit.Of all the Trump administration officials who habitually use taxpayer dollars to fund their private jet travel,
Tom Price, the former Health and Human Services secretary, was the only one let go because of it. Granted, his plane use was egregious compared to the other Cabinet members being investigated: whereas
Steve Mnuchin, and
Scott Pruitt racked up a few thousand dollars in dubious flights to their homes and to the occasional donor party, Price spent $400,0000 on flights to places like Nashville (where his son lives), Philadelphia (which is less than a two-hour train ride from D.C.), and St. Simons, a private island in Georgia where he and his wife happen to own a million-dollar property. Such graft somehow infuriated Trump, who told reporters that he was “not happy” with Price’s plane profligacy.
Source : https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/01/25th-amendment-coup-donald-trump-dementia