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A Real Coup Would Be Easier Than The 25th Amendment

A coup would be tanks on the White House lawn and generals inside arresting the president and his subordinates. Using the 25th Amendment to remove a president is a process that's so cumbersome, it's far more difficult than a real coup.
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On the subject of Andrew McCabe, Republicans have found the magic word:

Senator Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, vowed on Sunday to investigate whether the top officials at the Justice Department and the F.B.I. plotted an “attempted bureaucratic coup” to remove President Trump from office, and said he would subpoena the former F.B.I. director and the deputy attorney general if necessary.

Mr. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, was reacting to an interview in which the former F.B.I. deputy director, Andrew G. McCabe, confirmed an earlier New York Times report that the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, had suggested wearing a wire in meetings with Mr. Trump and that Justice Department officials had discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendmentto remove Mr. Trump from office.

Alan Dershowitz called this "an attempt at a coup d'etat." Fox talking heads repeatedly called it a "coup" attempt, as did the rest of the right-wing media.

But what's being described wouldn't have been a coup. A coup would be tanks on the White House lawn and generals inside arresting the president and his subordinates. Using the 25th Amendment to remove a president is a process that's so cumbersome, and so full of choke points, that it might have been more difficult than a genuine coup.

Let's review Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. (I recommend doing this for your right-wing relatives when they start using the "c" word.)

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.

So it's not as if a handful of FBI agents could unilaterally declare the president unfit. It had to be the VP and most of "the principal officers of the executive departments" -- the Cabinet. These were Trump appointees. Fox News reports that James Baker, a former FBI lawyer, claimed that a couple of Cabinet members were already on board:


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“I was being told by some combination of Andy McCabe and Lisa Page, that, in a conversation with the Deputy Attorney General, he had stated that he -- this was what was related to me -- that he had at least two members of the president’s Cabinet who were ready to support, I guess you would call it, an action under the 25th Amendment,” Baker told the [House Oversight and Judiciary] committees [in closed-door testimony].

Two? Wow. There are fifteen Cabinet-level departments. The 25th Amendment says eight of them have to declare the president unfit to serve, plus the vice president.

But even if that happened, we'd have been far from done.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office...

So the president can just say he's fit to serve. He gets to veto this assertion of his unfitness. Then he's president again!

Unless...

... unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days 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.

Okay, the same folks who said he was unfit at first would have to insist they were right and the president is wrong. (Remember, we're talking about Trump appointees, acting at a time when angry Trump supporters would be howling in the streets for their heads.)

But let's imagine that they stuck with their original assertion. Then what?

Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Right -- the declaration that the president is unfit serve has to be upheld by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress. This is harder than impeachment, which requires only a simple majority in the House, followed by a two-thirds vote in the Senate. And when this plan was allegedly afoot, both houses of Congress were solidly Republican. How the hell were the alleged plotters going to get a two-thirds vote against Trump under those conditions?

Tanks on the White House lawn would probably have been easier.

Republished with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog

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