Not the 25th amendment

Contrary to Ross Douthat, the 25th Amendment is no solution to the problem of Trump. The simple problem is that it would require Vice President Pence to take the leading role, and Pence lacks the political power to pull it off. He must initiate the process by transmitting to Congress a “declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” signed by other executive branch officials. Moreover, he would “immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.” This would clearly look like a coup—to the world, to Americans, and, crucially, to Trump’s many remaining Republican supporters, whose support Pence would need as a vulnerable unelected president. It hardly needs to be added that Trump can obviously “discharge the powers and duties of his office”—he just does it very badly. On top of all this, the 25th Amendment—unlike impeachment—requires 2/3 in the House as well as in the Senate. A flimsy pretext along with enormous political hurdles that put all the focus on the one person who would most directly benefit from Trump’s removal—nothing could be a more perfect recipe for disaster.

Impeachment is a better option. A plausible obstruction of justice charge qualifies as a “high crime or misdemeanor,” and in any event impeachment is a political act, which requires no specific legal violation. That said, impeachment is premature, and is hardly worth discussing, until Republicans are ready to distance themselves from Trump.