The Twenty-Fifth Amendment and Mental Illness

There is a fantasy making the rounds that the Twenty-Fifth Amendment will be invoked to remove the President from office because he is “unable” to discharge his duties.  This is just one of the many silly attempts to find a constitutional silver bullet to avoid the reality that there will be four years of this Administration (rogue electors, Emoluments Clause, impeachment, etc.).

Still, I came across an interesting article by Robert Gilbert that was published in 2010 by Fordham Law Review.  He pointed out, which I didn’t know, that at least two Presidents suffered from severe depression in office due to personal tragedies.  One was Franklin Pierce, whose son was killed in a train accident shortly before the Inauguration. The other was Calvin Coolidge, whose son died from a freakish staph infection after playing tennis at the White House.  Indeed, Coolidge’s passivity in office may have had less to do with ideology and more to do with grief and disinterest in work after his son’s death. In neither case, of course, was there a constitutional mechanism available for the President to step aside temporarily or be permanently relieved of his duties (short of impeachment). Even now, one can see that a comparable situation would present some really challenging problems that are different from the standard thought that a president could be physically disabled.

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4 Responses

  1. Bob Lawless says:

    Nixon’s final days in office serve as another possible example. The truth behind his supposedly despondent mental state is not entirely clear, but as a thought experiment, let’s suppose the worst stories are true. Would that have been grounds to invoke the 25th Amendment? I don’t have a good answer to that.

  2. Joe says:

    People thought Trump being elected was a “fantasy” [surely he had no chance!] along with various other things.

  3. Fred Garvin says:

    While I agree about the the silliness of the attempts to derail DJT from taking office prior to his swearing in (rogue electors and the like), why do you lump the Emoluments Clause into those?

    President Trump has some (unavoidable, most likely) business dealings and foreign interests that seem to land squarely in the realm of issues that the “Titles of nobility” section was added to address. Just because they’re difficult to avoid does not negate the fact that they seem to fit the language of that part of the Constitution.

    The only way to square those would be for DJT to completely liquidate his holdings (to people that are NOT his family and that are taking on roles in the Executive Branch) as others in the past have; If he’s unwilling to do so, that calls into question his priorities, at least to this observer.

    • Fred Garvin says:

      For an example of other ethical and moral conflicts of interest resulting from DJT’s continued involvement with his eponymous company , see today’s news about Vornado, which pays the Trump Organization millions of dollars a year as a result of its large contracts with the Federal Gov’t.

      Vornado is seeking more business with the Feds, and it’s not hard to see the folks in the GSA thinking that they’d better give preferential treatment to the President’s company.