Are there any ways that a sitting US President could be dismissed from office automatically, without a lengthy process by Congress?

(Besides the trivial one: death?)

Perhaps some qualifications that if lost, the dismissal is automatic?

(Note this isn't about qualifications for eligibility to be on the ballot or about the election process, this is for someone already elected or appointed via succession.)

  • 1
    Consent. He may resign.
    – Distic
    Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 11:13

4 Answers 4


The 25th amendment covers changing presidents other than by election.

The main points:

He can resign.

He can step aside temporarily by formally saying he can't do it. When he is able to again he can come back.

The vice president with either the majority of the cabinet or a congressionally appointed committee (not currently existing) can remove him by deciding he is unable to perform. If he contests that decision congress votes on it.

For everything else there is impeachment with votes in both houses of congress. Even if it was found he was a space alien it wouldn't automatically remove him. Neither the courts nor the military have a legal process to remove him.

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    The amendment cited refers to a president who is "unable", not unfit...
    – DJohnM
    Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 17:18
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    That is interesting, since the space alien fails the "naturally born" rule Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 19:38
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    @Frank Cedeno: Not necessarily. His/her/its alien parents may have come to Earth, and he was born/hatched/whatever in the US, making him/her/it a natural born citizen. (Though if you think the Obama "birthers" are bad. just imagine endless legal arguments if the alien president was hatched from an egg... )
    – jamesqf
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 21:34
  • @FrankCedeno /jamesqf I mean that judiciary has not removed anyone from office so far as I know, so they would need to make it up as they went along, which worked for reviewing laws, and probably wouldn't meet too much opposition disposing Kang, but you never know.
    – user9389
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 21:53

For a sitting president, the only "automatic" disqualification is death.

Everything else requires action by the President or other parties.

Section 1 of the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution has the relevant text:

In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Taking those in reverse order:

  • Resignation clearly is a voluntary act by the president.
  • Death is obvious, I assume a doctor would make this official.
  • Removal is slightly more complicated, let's examine this one in more detail.

The obvious mechanism for removal of a sitting US President is impeachment, a process covered by other excellent answers here. In short, the US House of Representatives votes on "Articles of Impeachment" against the president (by simple majority), and the US Senate holds a "trial" to examine the evidence and render a verdict. A 2/3rds majority vote is required to remove the President.

The only other proposed mechanism for removal is via Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. This section has never been invoked, but allows the Vice President along with other administration officials to send a written declaration to Congress declaring the President "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office". Even this, though, seems to imply a temporary removal, not a permanent one; the Vice President merely becomes acting President during this time.

EDIT: Even if it was discovered, after taking office, that the President didn't actually satisfy some of the constitutional criteria for the office (turns out they were actually younger than 35 when elected, or they weren't actually a natural born citizen, for example), there is no automatic mechanism for removal or disqualification, they would have to be impeached to be removed.

  • "and this must be renewed by Congress every 21 days." Only if the President keeps claiming to be fit, and the cabinet keeps saying he's unfit. If the President does nothing, then no Congressional action is necessary.
    – user102008
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 2:42
  • @user102008 Looks like you might be right, although this section has never been tested.
    – BradC
    Commented Dec 14, 2017 at 3:40

There aren't any official "qualifications" for president short of minimum-age and citizenship.

There are, however, some arguments that the 25th amendment enables the removal of a sitting president if they are deemed 'unfit':

The amendment states that if, for whatever reason, the vice president and a majority of sitting Cabinet secretaries decide that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” they can simply put that down in writing and send it to two people — the speaker of the House and the Senate’s president pro tem.

Then the vice president would immediately become “Acting President,” and take over all the president’s powers.

  • 2
    "Some arguments"? The amendment says as much explicitly and plainly. Why would anyone need to argue about it?
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 8:36
  • @phoog we're always arguing how to interpret laws. :/
    – user1530
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 14:54

The PotUS is required to by a natural born citizen. The citizenship of the president could (in principle) be lost subject to the terms of § 349 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. The president automatically loses US citizenship if they:

  1. obtain citizenship of another country,
  2. take an oath of allegiance to another country,
  3. serve as an officer in a country at war with the USA,
  4. join the government of a foreign country,
  5. renounce their citizenship in a foreign country,
  6. renounce their citizenship in the USA (while the USA is at war), or
  7. are convicted of treason.

Any of these acts, if undertaken voluntarily would remove the citizenship of the President and so make them ineligible.

Such circumstances would be bizarre. The president would have resigned or been impeached long before they were found serving as a foreign officer at war with the USA, or were convicted of treason.

  • 3
    Not quite...note that those clauses in 349 require intent. In other words, they are potential ways to lose citizenship, but only if the intent can be proven that the goal was to fully renounce US citizenship. For example, a US born US Citizen can gain citizenship of another country and not lose their US Citizenship.
    – user1530
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 18:35
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    @blip which means that the president would remain in office at least until some official ruled explicitly that he had lost his US citizenship. Even then, congress or the cabinet would probably want to pursue one of the constitutional procedures for relieving him of his duties. So there would be no "automatic" dismissal.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 8:41

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