Article 4 of the 25th amendment of the US Constitution:

Section 4. 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

provides for the replacement of a President even if the President is unable or unwilling to acknowledge his inability.

This section is usually discussed in terms of sudden presidential illness or injury.

However, the section as written does not use language such as "has become unable", or "is now unable". Rather, it simply says "is unable"

Could the VP and Cabinet say, in effect, "We've just come to the realization that the President is not able, and never has been able, to discharge the powers and duties of his office."?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because I feel it should be migrated to law.stackexchange.com Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 19:21
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    @SleepingGod it's a political question. Even if we assume that it is on topic at Law (which is debatable -- a court would not likely accept a challenge to a declaration under the amendment), that doesn't mean that it's off topic here.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 14:20
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    Opinion, so not an answer. Trump may not be a wellspring of diplomacy, but you'd have to show mental incapacity to put that into action. How has he demonstrated mental incapacity? Being an obnoxious boor doesn't count - most of NYC is like that. Arguably, Obama was a bit loopy in his last few years. If disagreeing with a president were grounds for declaring mental incapacity, no president would ever finish their term.
    – tj1000
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


Since this is a question of mental capacity, the answer is probably not. CBS News explored Ammendment 25, Artice IV in January

Things get tricky, however, when the president disagrees that he’s incapacitated, decides to fight to remain in office, and informs Congress that he’s fit to serve. In that case, assuming they want to pursue the matter, the vice president and the majority of the cabinet have four days to tell Congress that the president is indeed unwell, and can’t function in office.

Should that happen, Congress has 21 days after assembling to decide whether the president is well enough to discharge the duties of his office. A two-thirds majority in both houses is then required to remove the president and make the vice president the acting president.

This is complex, and for good reason: nobody wants a coup to take place under the guise of Constitutional government. But if Robinson and company are correct that Trump is “crazy,” it is plausible, although extraordinarily unlikely, that his own cabinet and vice president could give him the boot.

But proving the president is unstable would be enormously difficult. “How do you demonstrate someone is psychologically unsound?” Robert Gilbert, a professor at Northeastern University and an authority on the 25th Amendment, told CBS News.

This is a question with no clear answer in the Constitution, and could invite a nightmare scenario of dueling teams of psychiatrists testifying before Congress, and in front of the world, about a president’s fitness to serve.

A previous question about forcing a sitting President to undergo a mental evaluation discusses why an involuntary evaluation is exceedingly difficult. Without a mental health evaluation, it then becomes a VP/Cabinet vs The President contest, and it's pretty hard for the VP/Cabinet side to win.

Given the difficulties here, I would say that a President who is increasingly acting in a mentally incapacitated state is more likely to be Impeached than removed using Article 25.

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    It is extremely interesting how this was being explored with the President only having 6 days in office. Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 15:21

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