It seems there is a call to invoke the 25th amendment and remove President Trump from office. I want to know why there would be any political advantage to this - why would they not let Trump leave office with the recent event a real black mark on his record instead of causing new political drama? If they decide to cause such a ruckus, it will distract people from the problem that just happened and the focus will start to turn more on them and the trouble they are making. So, what is the political motivation for this?

In addition, what would be the reason to invoke the 25th Amendment? Trump is not incapacitated. There does not seem to be a basis to this, unless it is always possible to remove the president like this, and any vice president can effectively start a coup.

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    Trump has the football, so wouldn't that be one motivation to act? And does that fit your definition of "political"? Jan 7, 2021 at 23:43
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    Note that the 25th amendment does not require Trump to be incapacitated, it merely requires the VP + cabinet to issue a "written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office". If there is disagreement, the issue is decided by Congress.
    – JBentley
    Jan 8, 2021 at 11:14
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    @Jontia Hence "effectively start a coup" rather than "start a coup". I believe OP's point is that the 25th amendment has a clear intent: that it only be used to remove incapacitated presidents. If it can (hypothetically) be used in scenarios where there is no incapacitation, in accordance with the letter but not the spirit, then OP is saying this is akin to a coup even though it may not actually be a coup.
    – JBentley
    Jan 8, 2021 at 14:14
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    Note: Trump and Pence were elected together on the same ticket, and it's widely understood that one of the VP's roles is to potentially take over for the President under certain circumstances, including (however unusually) the 25th Amendment. As such, VP Pence was literally elected to have this power. So long as Pence adheres to the intended operation of government (as heavily implied in Section 4 of the 25th Amendment), this isn't a coup or misbehavior in any sense. (If we reopen this question, I can write an answer.)
    – Nat
    Jan 8, 2021 at 16:10
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    @JBentley I imagine that congress knowingly chose the phrase "unable to discharge" rather than "incapacitated" intending to broaden the applicability of the law to someone who, for example, exercised bad judgment. But I have not read the debates.
    – phoog
    Jan 9, 2021 at 22:32

5 Answers 5


Why invoke the 25th (or impeachment) so close to the end of term?

  • to prevent the incumbent president from causing any further harm (in the eyes of those calling for it)
  • to make a point that the incumbent president's behavior has (again? finally?) crossed a (another?) line (in the eyes of those calling for it) in the hope that future presidents and those allied to them would refrain from the actions leading up to this

Why the 25th and not impeachment?

  • the 25th 'only' requires the VP and a majority of the principal officers of the executive departments to declare that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office
  • impeachment is a much longer & slower process which ultimately requires affirmative votes from a 2/3 supermajority of senators

So those calling for the 25th rather than impeachment hope that the VP and a majority of the principal officers are much more likely to speedily come to a decision to invoke the 25th, and they probably also believe that impeachment is much less likely to result in a conviction and removal of the incumbent from office (judging by the previous attempt).
They probably hope (particularly now that the new president-elect has been confirmed in the senate and that there is no longer any sliver of hope for a 2nd term for the incumbent) that his supporters won't bother making any more of a ruckus than they did on Wednesday Jan 6.

It's probably highly debatable though as to whether invoking the 25th is appropriate when the incumbent president appears simply unwilling to discharge the powers and duties of the office, rather than him being unable to do so...

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    It's PSE! Everything is debatable. :) What if Trump's perception of what is real is not accurate? Wouldn't that render him unable? Perhaps that's a tack they could take. Jan 7, 2021 at 23:59
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    @DonBranson By that reasoning, they could have removed him as soon as he took office ("biggest crowd ever at an inauguration").
    – gerrit
    Jan 8, 2021 at 8:17
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    @zibadawatimmy The difference is that invoking the 25th results in an immediate (even if potentially temporary) transfer of power, whereas impeachment does not. Therefore it does, in a sense and for a short period of time, "circumvent the Congressional roadblocks for impeachment" - potentially for long enough that Trump never regains power.
    – JBentley
    Jan 8, 2021 at 11:07
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    As a technical question, given the stream of resignations from the cabinet (and the improbability that new appointments will be made for jobs with such a short remaining duration) what exactly constitutes a "majority of principal officers?"
    – alephzero
    Jan 8, 2021 at 12:01
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    @zibadawatimmy I disagree that it is unclear. Note the specific choice of words. The VP declares and assumes the powers. If the P objects then he shall resume the powers unless the VP re-declares within 4 days. In that case, nothing is "resumed" in which case the "unless" means the VP retains the powers he "assumed". If Congress votes in favour of the declaration, then the VP shall continue to discharge the powers, otherwise the P shall resume. You can't continue something you didn't already have, thus we can infer that the VP is in charge throughout.
    – JBentley
    Jan 9, 2021 at 10:03

I want to know why there would be any political advantage to this

The advantage would be that they would present themselves as being opposed to an attempted coup. Depending on their constituency, that could help them in future elections.

why would they not let Trump leave office with the recent event a real black mark on his record instead of causing new political drama?

There are some that believe that attempting a coup should result in consequences, or, as you put it, "drama". In addition, he can do a lot in two weeks. He can go on a firing binge, issue mass pardons, attempt another coup, etc.

If they decide to cause such a ruckus, it will distract people from the problem that just happened and the focus will start to turn more on them and the trouble they are making.

No, carrying on like nothing happen will distract from the seriousness of this. I don't see how you think that taking action against something causes focus on it to decrease, and it's rather disturbing that you're trying to frame this as trouble they are making, when it is Trump that made the trouble. This is some serious blaming the victim propaganda.

Trump is not incapacitated.

Protecting the legislature from insurrection is a duty of the president. Trump failed to discharge the powers of his office to accomplish that. Are you quibbling about the word "unable", reasoning that the 25th Amendment does not apply when the president makes a deliberate choice to not fulfill his duties, rather than not having the ability to do so?

unless it is always possible to remove the president like this,

Yes, the 25th Amendment merely requires that the cabinet declare that the president is unfit. To make the issue of whether he actually is is not an element requires setting some person and/or body as arbiter of the issue, and the cabinet has been so set.

and any vice president can effectively start a coup.

It's not a coup. It is a transfer of power (and temporary one at that) according to the established rules. According to your logic, a parliament voting for someone other than the current Prime Minister is a "coup".


Many of the calls to invoke the 25th Amendment appear to do so as a matter of national security, not as one of political advantage. For instance, the Washington Post wrote in an editorial:

The president is unfit to remain in office for the next 14 days. Every second he retains the vast powers of the presidency is a threat to public order and national security.

A president has a great deal of power, not least of which is the role of commander in chief of the military. Those calling for the 25th Amendment in the waning days off the Trump presidency are worried that he will misuse that power, perhaps increasingly so as the date approaches, and will endanger the country. From that perspective, waiting two weeks is too risky.

As for whether the president is "incapacitated" as required by the Amendment, the lines are a little blurry. The hypothetical argument would be along the lines of "the president has lost touch with reality and is incapacitated despite the fact that he believes otherwise". It's true that this is a subjective measure, but it can only last for 21 days if the president disagrees and would be politically disastrous to the VP, and this is a check against it being used to steal power.

Brian C. Kalt, an expert on the 25th Amendment was quoted in a recent interview saying,

Section 4 really is meant for situations when the president is in a coma or otherwise unable to contest the action. When you’re in that situation, it works easily and quickly. If the president is unconscious, the 25th Amendment makes it easy to transfer power. If he’s not, the 25th Amendment makes it hard to transfer power.

To sum up, the 25th Amendment is being framed not as a political measure but rather a security one, but it remains questionable whether the current situation is a fit.

  • There are some inaccuracies in this answer. The amendment does not require the president to be incapacitated (in fact the word "incapacitated" does not appear at all in the amendment). The requirement is that the VP and the cabinet issue a declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. It is the act of the declaration that starts the process, not the president's status (or not) of being incapacitated. The process can also last more than 21 days. The maximum is 4 + 2 + 21 = 27 days (in this case, 25 because Congress is in session).
    – JBentley
    Jan 8, 2021 at 11:20

One point that hasn't been mentioned in other answers is that removing Trump from office before the end of his term, even if it's just a few days, would be a very serious black mark on his record and would most likely severely impact his chances of being elected again in 2024 if he decides to run, which seems likely at the moment.

If he was to be impeached again and convicted he would be banned from holding office again, but as other answers have highlighted the chances of this are slim. Removing him from office via the 25th amendment is the next best option, it wouldn't legally prevent him from holding office, but it would cement his legacy as (arguably) the worst president in US history (one of only 3 to be impeached, only one to be removed from office). This would surely make him a less attractive option in the 2024 election for anyone but his most hardcore supporters.


They're afraid Trump will manage to actually stay president. This may sound stupid and absurd to you, but it doesn't sound stupid at all to many. This is how regime changes happen and they're never recognized by most until after the new regime is fully settled.

I am not saying it's currently a certainty that if Trump is not removed immediately, he will become the dictator of USA, but I am saying that whenever this would be a certainty, it would be too late for anyone to do anything about it.

The politicians, mostly democrats, and some republicans are assessing the above risk and take a decision on the matter. If there's a majority, he'll be impeached and removed, otherwise, we'll live to see if this was just a scare. Ultimately, that's literally their job as politicians.

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    This is quite a bold claim which as you acknowledge may sound "stupid and absurd" to some. I think it therefore needs a citation to back it up. I.e. a reasonable source which shows that "they're afraid Trump will manage to actually stay president" (as opposed to this just being your speculation). I for one doubt that this is the motivation behind the calls for invoking the 25th amendment.
    – JBentley
    Jan 8, 2021 at 11:34
  • There is some hyperbole here. It only takes one bullet for "someone to do something about it".
    – alephzero
    Jan 8, 2021 at 11:59
  • @JBentley I am not sure which part you believe it needs a citation. The part where I say that there are sizeable groups that are convinced that either Trump should leave or stay. Or is only the part where I claim that the motivation is the fear that Trump may stay president?
    – Andrei
    Jan 8, 2021 at 13:06
  • I don't understand what you mean ... I wrote in the comment (in quote marks) which part I think needs a citation. I don't see anything about "sizeable groups that are convinced etc." so I'm not sure what you mean by that.
    – JBentley
    Jan 8, 2021 at 13:26

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