UW law professor explains history and usage of the 25th amendment

Calls for the Vice President to invoke the 25th Amendment continue to grow after chaotic scenes of violence and destruction played out at the halls of Congress on Wednesday. 

Those calls include several lawmakers in our state, along with people who saw the chaos play out on TV.

One of those people is Bill Burgnoli from Seattle. He's part of a group called "Backbone Campaign". On Thursday night, they hung a banner above the Interstate 5 overpass near North 50th. The banner read: "Remove Trump."

"I'm here to call upon Congress to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him from office, immediately," he said.

Many feel it's the President who incited the mob to destroy property and storm the Capitol building. The day after queries about the 25th amendment have increased.

"There's been a lot of interest over the 25th Amendment over the last 24 hours for sure," said Lisa Manheim, associate professor of law at the University of Washington's School of Law.

The history of the 25th Amendment goes back to the time after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, said Manheim. The amendment has two mechanisms at play, she said.

"The 25th Amendment has a mechanism for taking powers away from the President if the President himself wants those powers taken away. There's another mechanism that can take away the powers regardless of what the President wants," said Manheim.

The first "mechanism" has been used before. In 2007, President George W. Bush transferred power to Vice President Dick Cheney after Bush underwent a colonoscopy and was under anesthesia.

The second "mechanism" has never been invoked.

"In terms of logistics, it's very straightforward if you have the right people to do it," said Manheim. 

The right people need to include the Vice President in high-level Cabinet members.

"For example, the head of the Department of Justice, the head of the Department of Defense. If 8-out-of 15 of those high ranking officers with Vice President Pence, if they get together, they sign a piece of paper, they then just deliver it to the Speaker of the House and the head of the Senate," said Manheim. 

They would need to agree that the President is not capable of performing his or her duties. As it stands, Vice President Pence intends to oppose calls from Democrats and Republicans to invoke the 25th Amendment. 

Despite that several lawmakers continue to make their voices heard.

"The Vice President can invoke the 25th Amendment, and if the cabinet votes, he's gone. They should do it now," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York.

While others like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina,  who has cut ties with the President, have stopped short in supporting the 25th Amendment for him.

"I don't support an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment now. If something else happens, all options would be on the table," said Graham.

According to Manheim, the twist to the amendment is in Section 4 where there is a decision period from Congress to decide next steps. 

"During that waiting period, which is 21 days, if Congress doesn't act, then the President continues to not have powers," said Manheim. "Congress could just sit on it until inauguration, without acting at all, and the effect would be for the President to not have any powers of office."

And while many have strong feelings either way about the amendment, according to Manheim, it all boils down to just one person.

"As a legal matter it can only be invoked if the Vice President agrees that it should be invoked," she said.