The big moment from former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s interview on “60 Minutes” Sunday was that there were discussions within the Justice Department of trying to remove President Donald Trump from office after he fired former FBI Director James Comey.
The tool discussed to do that was the 25th Amendment — which allows a president to be replaced if he is unable to cannot carry out the duties of the office. According to McCabe, in May 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein broached the subject of the amendment being used against Trump.
“Discussion of the 25th Amendment was simply, Rod raised the issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other cabinet officials might support such an effort,” McCabe told “60 MInutes” correspondent Scott Pelley.
“I didn’t have much to contribute, to be perfectly honest, in that conversation. So I listened to what he had to say. But, to be fair, it was an unbelievably stressful time. I can’t even describe for you how many things must have been coursing through the deputy attorney general’s mind at that point. So it was really something that he kinda threw out in a very frenzied chaotic conversation about where we were and what we needed to do next.”
Now, pretty much everyone involved in this discussion has run away from it with profound alacrity, and even the liberal media is trying to downplay that this was ever a serious possibility — and for good reason.
It sounds an awful lot like a coup.
Nobody apparently bothered to tell Sen. Elizabeth Warren this, however. She still thinks it’s a fantastic idea.
According to the Nevada Independent, responding to a question about Rosenstein’s May 2017 worries about Trump’s “capacity and about his intent at that point in time,” Warren said she thought the invocation of the 25th Amendment wasn’t just OK.
Removing Trump could be a duty, she said.
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) February 19, 2019
“My point here is that if they believe that Donald Trump cannot fulfill the obligations of his office, then they have a constitutional responsibility to invoke the 25th Amendment,” Warren said Sunday after a campaign rally in Las Vegas, the Independent reported.
“Their loyalty under law is not to him personally. It is to the Constitution of the United States and to the people of United States.”
This isn’t the first time that Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, has raised the specter of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump. Last year, after the publication of the infamous anonymous “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration” column in The New York Times, she also floated the idea.
“If senior administration officials think the president of the United States is not able to do his job, then they should invoke the 25th Amendment,” Warren told CNN.
“The Constitution provides for a procedure whenever the vice president and senior officials think the president can’t do his job. It does not provide that senior officials go around the president — take documents off his desk, write anonymous Op-Eds” and that sort of thing.
“Every one of these officials have sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States,” she insisted. “It’s time for them to do their job.”
The problem with that is the 25th Amendment, adopted in 1965, wasn’t meant to be invoked when people around the president disagreed with his decisions.
It was intended for cases where a president very literally couldn’t carry out the duties of office — something akin to Woodrow Wilson after his 1919 stroke or, more hypothetically, if President Kennedy had survived being shot in Dallas but was rendered brain dead. It wasn’t meant to be used because Democrats want to think Trump is brain dead and therefore should be removed from office.
Furthermore, Warren was making her statement on Sunday at the worst possible time for Democrats — even as everyone else involved is, as previously mentioned, stumbling over themselves to back away from the idea.
“To clarify, at no time did Mr. McCabe participate in any extended discussions about the use of the 25th Amendment, nor is he aware of any such discussion,” McCabe spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz wrote in a statement after the “60 Minutes” segment. “He was present and participated in a discussion that included a comment by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein regarding the 25th Amendment.”
— Melissa Schwartz (@MSchwartz3) February 15, 2019
That Rosenstein had talked about the 25th Amendment was already known from a New York Times piece last year, which stated he had gone as far as to consider wearing a wire to get evidence on Trump.
But even then, Rosenstein already distanced himself from any talk of the 25th Amendment.
“The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” he said in a statement. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
Meanwhile in the media, in a commentary piece for CNN, Paul Sracic — the chairman of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Youngstown State University — said the idea of using the 25th Amendment against Trump was problematic from the start.
“I am among those who was shocked by the revelation, but not because I suspect a coup. Instead, it is frankly baffling to me why, if the report is true, two high ranking officials would think for even a moment that invoking the 25th Amendment was a plausible way to remove President Trump from office,” he wrote in a piece published Monday.
“Let’s start with the basics. When we say the ’25th Amendment,’ we mean section 4 of that amendment. Before the 25th Amendment was adopted, the Constitution offered no means to remove a president who had become disabled. So, for example, when President Woodrow Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke in 1919, there was no mechanism in place, short of impeachment, to replace him in office. Section 4 of the 25th Amendment remedies this problem by allowing the Vice-President to immediately take power from a President who is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.’
“Already you can see the problem,” he continued. “While McCabe stated that Rosenstein was counting votes among cabinet officials, section 4 has to be initiated by the Vice President. Why would anyone imagine that Mike Pence would go along with the plan? As far as I can tell, Vice President Pence has never given any indication that he thinks President Trump is unfit for office.”
The liberal website Vox also played down the real-life implications of McCabe’s statements.
“McCabe, perhaps alarmed by the coverage his comments were getting, had his spokesperson issue a statement trying to minimize them: ‘To clarify, at no time did Mr. McCabe participate in any extended discussions about the use of the 25th Amendment, nor is he aware of any such discussions,'” Andrew Prokop wrote in a piece published Monday.
“There has, however, been much speculation about McCabe’s own reasons for making this public in the first place. McCabe is said to have bitterly feuded with Rosenstein, and to believe that Rosenstein threw him under the bus regarding the leak investigation and his eventual firing. Some believe he’s trying to politically damage Rosenstein (who himself is on his way out).”
So the only person still embracing this idea is Liz Warren.
It’s good to see her grasp of the Constitution and of the moment is every bit as solid as her grasp on tax policy. And that’s the problem for the Democrats. She may play fine on the coasts, where liberal voters want Trump gone in any way possible.
They won’t be able to sell this kind of nonsense in the heartland.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.