Trump’s 25th Amendment “House of Cards” Gambit
Under the 25th Amendment, Trump could voluntarily and temporarily resign his post if unable to carry out his executive duties, or….the Vice President and Trump’s cabinet could convene a vote to put Pence in charge if they think the President is unable to discharge his duties.
It came as no surprise to Trump that he and Melania caught Covid-19. After all Trump had taken a political aversion to mask wearing, associating it with government shutdowns and a poor economy, both anathemas to his presidency. Earlier in the day he made comments about how world leaders who meet and greet the military all day were vulnerable to Covid-19. When Trump’s advisor, Hope Hicks tested positive, he was somewhat blasé about going into quarantine, almost expecting that he would be testing positive.
The Machiavellian in Trump knows that his election chances are on the ropes, even if best case scenarios put him in a dead heat with Biden in key electoral swing states. Given Trump’s age (74), heavy diet of KFC and Fox News, and inordinate amount of orange tanning, we can likely assume his health isn’t great, and his symptoms, as they were in the case of Boris Johnson, may worsen over the next two weeks.
During that time any number of national emergencies (more Covid, fires, riots/war) could break out, as we all know national and state emergencies are now the norm and not the exception. As the media continues to fixate on Trump’s health, Trump could drive attention away from the mishaps of his election campaign into a play-by-play of his daily Covid routine and experimental Covid cocktail ingestions. No matter the popular antipathy towards Trump, most Americans don’t want to see their president sick or incapacitated, and it won’t sit well with moderates if the media belittle Trump while he and the FLOTUS are gravely ill.
A serious Trump illness might soften the hearts of some American voters, and Trump badly needs sympathy. While the president may perpetually pride himself as the comeback kid, Trump is flirting with the 25th Amendment.
While Trump can voluntarily resign power and turn over daily duties to Pence under Section 3 and then voluntarily re-resume powers under that same section. If Covid-19 truly incapacitates Trump, under Section 4, the VP and his cabinet can vote to transfer powers to the VP in which case, Trump can’t simply voluntarily resume powers without it going to a 2/3 congressional vote in both houses of Congress.
Will Trump overcome Covid to emerge an even stronger candidate who has gained the sympathy of Americans? Or will he succumb to health problems that incapacitate the last days of his presidency? Stay tuned.