Impeachment over the 25th Amendment

The most efficient way to remove and convict former President Trump


Maya Markowicz/Talon

“Weighing the options” cartoon of a scale balancing the 25th Amendment and Impeachment.

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, a group of Trump supporters and far-right extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol in order to disrupt the Electoral College vote count while Congress was in session. The rioters managed to breach the Capitol, where they vandalized, occupied and ransacked parts of the building for several hours. Five people died, including one Capitol Police officer. 

At his “Save America March,” just hours before the invasion, Trump repeated false claims about how the election was “stolen,” despite there being no actual evidence of voter fraud.

Following the insurrection, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked then-Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment.

The 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution addresses what happens to the presidency if the president/vice president were to die or resign. Specifically, Section 4 applies when the majority of Cabinet members and the vice president determine that the president is unable to fulfill his duties and powers of the presidency. 

If the Vice President wanted to continue acting as president, two-thirds of both chambers of Congress need to vote in favor of it, which is highly unlikely as Democrats hold a slim majority in the House and Senate. Additionally, it is unclear whether the 25th Amendment lays out the specifications of whether or not a president can run for re-election.

However, Section 4 does not remove the president from office, like impeachment. It allows the president to remain in office, and possibly resume their presidential duties and powers if it isn’t resolved by Congress. Additionally, it wasn’t intended as a solution against a president who made an unpopular decision, or in this case, incited violence. 

The legislative record made it clear that a president could be “unable” based on a mental or physical condition. It is unclear whether Trump has a mental condition, as his own personal physician hasn’t diagnosed him. However, many doctors and psychologists have diagnosed him from afar and have drawn up petitions labeling him as “unfit for office,” a subjective claim. 

Impeachment, on the other hand, is more applicable to this situation, because it specifically charges a sitting president accused of committing crimes, felonies and/or misdemeanors. In addition, once the president is convicted and removed by both the House and the Senate, he or she cannot run for public office again, preventing Trump from running again in 2024. Impeachment also requires fewer votes — only a majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate, making it much easier to remove a president. 

On Jan. 13, exactly one week after the attack, the House voted 232 to 197 to impeach then-President Trump for “incitement of insurrection,” with ten Republican representatives joining the Democrats. Trump is the first president to be impeached twice. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that the Senate trial will begin the week of Feb. 8. It is unclear whether or not the trial will be successful. On Jan. 26, Republicans attempted to dismiss the charge as unconstitutional. With a 55-45 vote, five Republican senators joined Democrats in proceeding with the Senate trial, ending the effort to stop the impeachment process.