DemDaily: How to Get Rid of a President

May 11, 2017

 

The internet and airwaves are rife with calls for President Trump's impeachment, but what does that mean and is it possible?

There are essentially four ways of getting rid of a President: Impeachment and conviction by the US Congress, removal by the Cabinet, resignation or death in office.

"The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors."
-- Article II of the United States Constitution, Section 4 
 Impeachment
The House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach a president, but removal from office is contingent upon trial and convention by the United States Senate.

Johnson impeached for firing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton

Think of Impeachment by the House, which requires a majority vote, as an indictment in regular court proceedings. If passed, then it goes to the second stage of a trial before a judge and jury, which is the Senate's role, and requires a 2/3 vote of those present to convict and remove the president from office.

When an impeachment process involves a US President, the Chief Justice of the United States is required to preside during the Senate trial (usually the VP's job).

Only two US Presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson, in 1868, for violation of the Tenure in Office Act, and Bill Clinton, 1998, for perjury and obstruction of justice. In both cases the Senate failed to convict.

To date, no U.S. President has been removed from office by impeachment and conviction.

 

Nixon Resigned before House could Impeach

Resignation
While articles of impeachment were brought against President Richard Nixon by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974, Nixon resigned the Presidency before a vote could be taken by the full House.

Aside from that sole resignation, history records only eight others, all from death, that left the White House before their term was over: William Henry Harrison (1841), Zachary Taylor (1850), Abraham Lincoln (1865), James Garfield (1881), William McKinley (1901), Warren G. Harding (1923), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1945) and John F. Kennedy (1963).

The Cabinet
That leaves removal by The Cabinet. Originally intended for transfer of power to address illness in office, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution allows for a sitting vice president and a majority of the executive branch's cabinet to, upon agreement, transfer power out of the hands of a sitting president.

"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." -- 25th Amendment, Article 4

In all cases, the chain of succession to the Presidency is the same. Should something cause Mr. Trump to leave office before his term is out, the White House goes to:


Order of Succession to the President
(left, the right)

Vice President:  Mike Pence Secretary of Commerce:  Wilbur Ross
Speaker of the House of Representatives: Paul Ryan Secretary of Labor:  Alex Acosta
President pro tempore of the Senate: Orrin Hatch Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Tom Price
Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Ben Carson
Secretary of the Treasury: Steven Mnuchin Secretary of Transportation: Elaine Chao
Secretary of Defense: James Mattis Secretary of Energy: Rick Perry
Attorney General: Jeff Sessions Secretary of Education: Betsy DeVos
Secretary of the Interior: Ryan Zinke Secretary of Veterans Affairs: David Shulkin
Secretary of Agriculture: Sonny Perdue
Secretary of Homeland Security: John F. Kelly

A coup by the VP and Cabinet, who owe their positions to the President, is highly unlikely. Likewise, the chances of pushing an impeachment and conviction through the GOP-controlled House (238R/193D,4 Open) and Senate (52R/46D, 2 Ind), would be all but impossible.

The Answer: Elect a Democratic Congress in 2018. Are you motivated?

Have a good weekend!

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Sources: Wikipedia, US Constitution

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