MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

How To Impeach the President (Or Not)

It's more complicated than you think and one method involves a constitutional amendment invoked when presidents get colonscopies.

Want to get rid of the president?

There are two ways, basically.

First, find an impeachable offense. According to the Constitution an impeachable offense: treason, bribery, or "Other High Crimes and Misdemeanors." What counts for that last part? Nobody knows. Some people say it means bad things only people in high office can do—like misusing public assets, dereliction of duty, or having sex and then lying about it. Others say it's any crime or misdemeanor at all, even if it has nothing to do with a president's position or power. Did you steal a pen from work? Petty theft is a misdemeanor. You should no longer be president.

Once you get an impeachable offense, get a majority of House members to vote in favor of the motion and then go to trial in the Senate, with the chief justice of the Supreme Court presiding. After the highest-rated programming in C-SPAN history, the senators vote. If 67 senators find the president guilty, he's gone.

There is another way, however, without all that messy legal stuff.

The vice president and a majority of the cabinet can invoke the 25th amendment and present a written declaration to Congress that the president is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." So what does that mean? In the past it's been used for things like, "Hey, I'm getting a colonoscopy, can you cover for me for ,a few hours?" but now some people want it to mean "I just think this guy is an asshat." Regardless of the rationale, once those articles are invoked, the magic wand is waved and the president is immediately stripped of power. No trial, no witnesses, no evidence, no votes, just gone.

Of course, the president is going to say, "Hey, I'm totally fit for office, get out of my chair." But if the vice president won't budge, then it goes back to Congress, which will have three weeks to decide who gets to run things. This time though, you need two-thirds of the Senate and two-thirds of the House. Or maybe it's two-thirds of the total number of members of both the Senate and the House. Nobody really knows because it's never happened before and it'll probably end up going to the Supreme Court anyway.

Anyhoo, if enough of them agree that the president is an asshat or whatever, the vice president stays put and the president is never heard from again. Or, more likely, the former president goes on twitter and says this was an extra-judicial coup by Washington insiders and starts a new civil war. Only this time with bigger guns and planes and bombs and stuff.

So maybe we shouldn't decide to get rid of presidents just because we hate them and then afterwards figure out how to pretend it's the law.

About 2 minutes. Written and produced by Austin Bragg.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Like us on Facebook.

Follow us on Twitter.

Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

Click here to follow Reason on Instagram

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online