The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


Fit to be president?


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, President Trump and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak during a meeting at the White House. (Russian Foreign Ministry/AFP via Getty Images)

Now this [from The Post]:

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said that Trump's disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information Trump relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said that Trump's decision to do so risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump's meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and National Security Agency.

At least we can all rest assured that President Trump was acting in pursuit of some well-thought-out strategy. Or else, completely on momentary impulse. Whatever.

Is there no end to this? Are the responsible Republicans—and this is, for better or for worse, their show—going to "step up," as the sports announcers would say?

Here, just so we all have it handy, is Sec. 4 of the 25th Amendment:

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.

It is the only section of the 25th Amendment that has never been invoked. I don't believe that Congress has "by law provide[d]" a different body to participate in this decision other than the "principal officers of the executive departments." [If I'm wrong about that, please send me a correction].

[Dean Falvy at, and Andrew Prokop at, have very helpful guides to section 4 of the 25th Amendment, and how it might be invoked here. The Justice Department also has a helpful 1985 memo on the operation of the amendment, posted here.]

Here's a sentence I never thought I'd write: I'm looking forward to the day Mike Pence becomes president.