President Donald Trump's opposing forces have cited possible violations of the law and questionable foreign ties as reasons for impeachment, but two little-known provisions in the Constitution could remove Trump from office for his mental state.
Earlier this month, 33 health professionals signed a letter to The New York Times documenting the "grave emotional instability" of the commander in chief: "Mr. Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behavior suggest a profound inability to empathize. Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them (journalists, scientists)," the letter reads.
In February, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, said he and several Republican colleagues had concerns over Trump's mental state, citing his penchant for lying and his temperament.
It's those very qualities that could be a death knell for Trump's young administration.
Writing for Time magazine, Yale Law students Samuel Breidbart and Vinay Nayak say the president's mental state could remove him from office without impeachment, but rather two little-known provisions in the 25th Amendment.
Never-before invoked, Section 4 of the 25th Amendment permits the vice president and the cabinet to declare the president unfit to "discharge the powers and duties of his office" by submitting a letter to the second-highest ranking member of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives. Vice President Mike Pence would act in Trump's stead, were this provision successfully invoked.
However, barring instances of clear incapacitation "along the lines President Woodrow Wilson experienced after a stroke," Breidbart and Nayak wrote, it's unlikely Pence and fellow members of the administration would motion to remove Trump from office.
Instead, the authors say an even lesser-known provision may hold the key. It authorizes Congress to form a body to evaluate the president's fitness for office, without input from the Cabinet:
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.
While Congress has never employed this provision in the amendment's 50-year history, it requires relatively little oversight, thanks to intentionally vague phrasing.
Breidbart and Nayak say Congress would want to approach independent medical practitioners to assess the health of the president, including mental and physical, as personal physicians often maintain close relationships with their presidential patients.
Alternatively, Congress could form a panel with no medical expertise, or even one with its own members, as the 25th Amendment doesn't require a medical diagnosis or consultation.
In either case, it would require the vice president's approval and, in the event of a veto from Trump's desk, a supermajority to override in both houses.