US Vice President Mike Pence has denied discussions to remove President Donald Trump from office took place, rejecting claims made in a New York Times opinion piece authored by an unidentified White House official.
The article published by the news outlet last week claimed members of Trump’s cabinet had discussed invoking a clause under the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution, which allows for a president to be removed if they are deemed unable to carry out their duties.
As second in command, Trump’s removal from office for any reason besides defeat in an election would result in Pence becoming president.
The vice president flatly denied he was part of the alleged conversations when asked by Face the Nation on CBS News in an interview broadcast on Saturday.
“Why would we be?” He responded, adding: “The truth of the matter is over the last eight years, despite what we heard from President Obama on Friday, this country was struggling, it was the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression.
“It seems to be just an obvious attempt to distract attention from this booming economy and President Trump’s record of success.”
Since the bombshell editorial was published by the New York Times, a raft of White House officials have come out to deny they wrote it.
Trump responded angrily on his Twitter account, calling the author “gutless” and demanding that the news outlet “turn him/her over” to the government for “National Security” purposes.
Pence echoed the sentiment in his interview with CBS, branding both the author and publisher “a disgrace”.
“I think the author of the anonymous editorial, and frankly The New York Times, should be ashamed.”
What is the 25th Amendment?
The 25th Amendment is a clause in the US Constitution, which was brought in after the assassination of former President John F Kennedy and deals primarily with the issue of presidential succession.
It was introduced by Kennedy’s successor and vice president, Lyndon B Johnson, and made sure a constitutional mechanism was in place to allow the vice president to take the office of president should an incumbent president die, resign, or be removed from office, for example through impeachment.
Until that point, there was no formal mechanism to determine who succeeds a president whose office becomes vacant during an electoral term.
The amendment also contains a section that allows the vice president, with the consent of the majority of the cabinet, to remove a president from office, if they are determined to be “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”.
Trump’s mental health is often cited by critics as a possible pretext for why he would be considered unable to carry out the duties of his role.
The New York Time editorial, authored by the anonymous Trump official, said discussions about the 25th Amendment had taken place within the cabinet “given the instability many witnessed”.