WASHINGTON — Describing President Trump’s recent behavior as “completely bizarre and deranged,” a House Democrat says he is picking up fresh support for legislation creating a congressionally appointed panel that could declare the president psychologically unfit and remove him from office under the 25th Amendment.
While the proposed measure remains a definite long shot, the events of the past few days have produced a “surge” of interest in the 25th Amendment bill, which now has 65 co-sponsors, said freshman Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who introduced the bill, in an interview for the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery.”
“People around the president are saying that his behavior is completely unstable and erratic and unpredictable,” Raskin said. “And there are people who now are apparently boasting they are subverting the president‘s orders because they are so deranged. That strikes me as the kind of prima facie evidence that there is a very serious problem of capacity to successfully discharge the power and duties of office.”
The idea of invoking the 25th Amendment got new traction this week after an anonymous “senior official” in the Trump administration authored a New York Times op-ed asserting that in the early days of the administration there were “whispers within the Cabinet” about invoking the provision but that the potential rebels backed off for fear of precipitating “a constitutional crisis.”
Raskin first introduced his measure in April 2017 to address a little-noticed lapse by Congress in fully implementing the 25 Amendment. The amendment, ratified in 1967 to address questions of presidential succession, created new mechanisms to force the removal of a president on medical or psychiatric grounds. It is a completely separate process from impeachment of the president for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Under the 25th Amendment, if a majority of the Cabinet, along with the vice president, were to conclude in writing that the president is physically or mentally “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” he or she can be removed and replaced by the vice president. Were the president to challenge such a designation, Congress could still uphold the removal if two-thirds of both the House and Senate vote to do so.
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But Raskin, a former constitutional law professor who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, noticed that, in additional to empowering a majority of the Cabinet to make the initial designation of incapacity, the 25th Amendment authorizes “such other body as Congress may by law provide” to do so. Yet in the 51 years since the 25th Amendment took effect, Congress has never set up such a body.
Raskin’s bill would fill the void by creating an “Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity.” It would be a nonpartisan panel appointed by congressional leaders composed of four physicians, four psychiatrists and three others, such as former presidents or vice presidents, or other former senior U.S. officials. If directed by Congress through a concurrent resolution, the commission would even be empowered to medically examine the president “to determine whether the president is incapacitated, either mentally or physically.”
Raskin told “Skullduggery” that recent revelations — the New York Times op-ed, which also disclosed the existence of senior officials inside the administration thwarting the president’s initiatives because of concerns about his erratic behavior, and a new book by legendary reporter Bob Woodward detailing Trump’s seemingly irrational outbursts — have only underscored the need for Congress to act on his measure.
“When we first put this in, a lot of people were saying, ‘How dare you talk about the mental health [of the president] in public?’” Raskin said. “Which we weren’t actually doing. We were talking about incapacity, which is a different question. Now the whole country is saying, ‘Oh my God, what are we going to do?’”
He said that one of the more disturbing indications of presidential incapacity is Trump’s penchant for “picking fights with individual citizens; picking fights with leaders of foreign countries; name calling; the insulting, impetuous abuse of people; constant provocations leveled at other people. That strikes me as completely bizarre and deranged behavior.”
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