Saturday, December 3, 2016

How to Remove a President (Constitutional Methods)


The obvious question to ask in the context of the Trump disaster, is how do you remove a president who is a maniac, or who suffers from a personality disorder, or is a fanatic and who is expected to involve us in war and attempt to destroy the country hand-in-hand with the incredibly stupid faction that put him into power?

There are a variety of case studies from history, both recent and ancient, and we will review some of them here. Please be aware that each of these is contingent on that nations culture, its institutions, its laws and the specific situations at hand (e.g. an unpopular war, a famine, riots, police oppression, etc).

This post will discuss constitutional methods only. A second post will discuss some of the extra-constitutional methods.

I use the term “President” below as a synonym for other titles including “Chancellor”, “Premier”, “Prime Minister”, “Shah” and “First Secretary”.

1. The President is installed / removed on a technicality which may or may not be legal.

In 2000, the right-wing US Supreme Court forced the recount in Florida to be halted in order to install Bush Jr as president. Anyone who examines that situation comes away with the following impression: had the recount continued Al Gore would have won the election. In this way, by controlling the Supreme Court, the right wing was able to defeat the results of an election. Whether or not you believe that or not is irrelevant. A substantial number of Americans do believe it.

If in 2016, the Electoral College were to install Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump, it would be perfectly legal to the best of my knowledge and the Trump faction would go nuts. The Electoral College is an artifact from 200 years ago and is itself a technicality that many people do not find legitimate. I doubt this situation will occur.

2. The President / Tsar / whatever is responsible for (or inherits) a policy so unpopular that he/she resigns from office or declines to run for re-election.

There are many examples of this in history, a notable one being LBJ's decision not to run for re-election and is also probably the case of the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917.  In the latter case the situation in Russia was far more complicated and dire than simply an unpopular war.

3. The President loses a vote of confidence or is impeached and convicted by Congress.

This is more common in parliamentary governments than in our type of government. It requires a congress / parliament that is not controlled by the President's party and/or the President loses control of his own party. As the impeachment of Clinton showed, the fact of an impeachment does not have to be based on anything real and that it is quite possible to survive an impeachment when the charges are baseless and merely the irrational actions of an irresponsible Republican party.

Since the Republicans currently control both houses of Congress and is likely to appoint one of their goons to the Supreme Court, this is an unlikely scenario for the immediate future.  However much the mainstream Republicans hate Donald Trump, he is still technically a Republican and better than a stick-in-the-eye for their right wing, America-hating causes.

There is the entertaining possibility, however low probability, that the Republicans might impeach Trump if he did something egregious, as a way of putting a more compliant reactionary in charge, e.g. Pence.

4. The President commits a crime which is exposed and the resulting scandal causes him/her to resign.

In general for this scenario to work, the scandal has to be so egregious that it overwhelms the attempts of the administration to suppress it.  In this country it usually requires an “independent prosecutor” to be assigned, its report has to be damning, and the threat of impeachment has to be real.

This scenario also requires, or may require, such things as an internal security unit doing the right thing and trying to enforce the law, or a whistle blower who is aware of the crime coming forward, or a responsible press, and usually a combination of the above.

This is a likely scenario ultimately for Trump. But there are many reasons to think that it also might not work in his case. Trump has proven to be remarkably immune to borderline insane behavior already exhibited, the Republicans control both houses of Congress and would have to approve an independent prosecutor, and our internal security forces would have to do the right thing which in general is not a realistic expectation on our part.

5. The Constitution permits a president to be removed without impeachment.

There is a technique for removing the President if he/she is judged to be insane in the opinion of his/her own administration. I know very little about it but I think it is intended to prevent nuclear war in the short run while the government figures out what to do with a certified loony at the top. To the best of my knowledge, these provisions have never been used.

In the next post on the subject of removal, we will review some of the more entertaining but illegal methods of removal of the chief executive such as assassination.  

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