I spoke with Matt Stieb at New York magazine about reports that members of Trump’s cabinet are said to be considering invoking Section Four of the 25th amendment. Here’s part of the interview:
Matt: When Congress first submitted the 25th Amendment to the states in 1965, was this the kind of event they had in mind?
Paul: The main focus of the amendment was to have something in place to guide in the event of a coma or another extreme physical disability making it impossible for the president to do the job. But it was also written in a general way that it could be used in a crisis. One of the things framers were thinking about was a president flipping out in a some way that was utterly unacceptable, some psychotic break or an idea so utterly deranged politically that something radical would have to be done. Section four has not been invoked since the amendment was adopted in 1967.
Matt: One potential obstacle to an invocation of the 25th Amendment is that Trump’s cabinet is really made up of the true believers at this point. There aren’t a lot of “adults in the room” left.
Paul: That is a practical problem certainly, but the events are so extreme that it’s not beyond the realm of responsibility. Pence has moved quite a bit in the last day or two, and I don’t think he would necessarily be averse to invoking the 25th. Given the makeup of the cabinet, that might be a heavy lift. But in this utterly extreme and extraordinary circumstance, Pence at least should be reminded he does have this power. That’s a speculative opinion, but I think he could actually do it.
Matt: How do you think it might affect his political prospects, assuming support of Trump after the Capitol riot does not become toxic within the party?
Paul: To speak frankly, so much of the media has been clamoring for this idea of a ‘decent Republican.’ I think he would be canonized for doing this: The Ultimate Statesman.
Matt: When this story was first published, it seemed to me like an interesting hypothetical, but far from political reality. Now there are reports that the 25th Amendment is in play in the cabinet. How do you feel about this rapid change?
Paul: My main emotion today is one of deep sadness, that this is a tragic day for our country. But one reason I wrote the article — it wasn’t some crazy, desert-island hypothetical. The Trump administration has been full of craziness, and it was very easy to imagine that something could happen in the last few weeks that could be unendurable by the political system. Today in some ways might have been, who knows. A lot of people who were soft Trump supporters may say “this is way too much.”
Also, the inauguration is 14 days away. We don’t know what’s going to happen over the next 14 days. People are saying this is the low point. It may not be.