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VERIFY: Can the Vice President invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump?

The vice president would need the support of over half the cabinet and would then need approval of two-thirds of both chambers of Congress.

Following a violent riot at the U.S. Capitol involving supporters of President Donald Trump, some politicians have called for the impeachment of the outgoing president. Others have called for Vice President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from power.

A vice president has never done that before, so what’s Pence’s authority here?

THE QUESTION

Can the Vice President invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president from power?

THE ANSWER

Yes, but he needs approval from half the president’s cabinet to do so. Then, in the situation where the president challenges the removal, he needs both chambers of Congress to approve it.

WHAT WE FOUND

The text of the 25th Amendment makes it clear that there are two ways to invoke the 25th Amendment: by the president’s request or by action of the vice president and the Cabinet.

It says, “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, 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, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

Essentially, that means the vice president and over half of the president’s cabinet must agree to remove the president from power and promote the vice president to acting president. Then, they must submit notice to Congress and then the vice president takes over.

But the process doesn’t end there. 

The president can challenge his removal, and then Congress gets several weeks to vote upon it. Two-thirds of both chambers must approve of the president’s removal for the vice president to remain acting president.

According to the Congressional Research Service, there have been only three instances in which the 25th Amendment has been invoked, and each time was by the president’s request. 

In 1985, President Reagan made George H.W. Bush Acting President in a letter prior to a surgery in which it was necessary for him to go under anesthesia. Reagan’s letter did not specifically mention the 25th Amendment by name.

President George W. Bush briefly gave up the reigns of the presidency in both 2002 and 2007 for routine colonoscopies that similarly required anesthetics. Bush returned to the presidency after two hours in both instances. Both times Bush specifically invoked the 25th Amendment.

Never has a vice president forced a president out of office through use of the 25th Amendment.

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