House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to say Friday whether extraordinary constitutional measures should be invoked to remove President Donald Trump from office, saying, “that’s not for us to decide,” even as she throws her weight behind a new bill to give Congress a role in determining whether the President of the United States must be forced out of office because he’s incapable of doing his job.
The move, which comes after Trump’s recent coronavirus diagnosis, would establish a process to effectively give Congress a say in removing a president from office under the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, which allows for a president to be removed from office if a majority of Cabinet members and the vice president consider him unable to carry out his duties. Section four of the 25th Amendment also says that if a majority of a body established by law, along with the vice president, declare in writing that if the president is disabled and unable to do his job, the vice president immediately becomes the acting president.
The bill, Democrats say, will create that body to help determine the fitness of the President. The proposal was formally introduced Friday by Pelosi and Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland. At a news conference announcing the measure, Pelosi insisted that the legislation would apply to future presidents, rather than Trump, but argued that his recent health challenges underscore the need for such a process.
“This is not about President Trump. He will face the judgment of the voters, but he shows the need for us to create a process for future presidents,” Pelosi said, later adding, “This legislation applies to future presidents, but we are reminded of the necessity of action by the health of the current president.”
The measure stands virtually no chance of becoming law. But it is designed to heighten the attention on Trump’s condition after his doctors have provided limited information about his recovery from coronavirus.
The push by House Democrats comes after Pelosi has, in a series of recent comments, questioned whether Trump can do his job given his drug regimen, including the use of a steroid.
On Thursday, she said that Trump appears to be “in an altered state right now” and told Bloomberg TV that “there may be some impairment of judgment.”
Asked if she has questions about the President’s capability to serve in the office right now, Pelosi said, “What I said about the President was that we don’t know if somebody who – I’ve not said this, I’ve quoted others to say there are those who say that when you’re on steroids and/or if you have Covid-19 or both that there may be some impairment of judgment, but again that’s for the doctors and the scientists to determine.”
The comments prompted an angry retort from Trump, who retweeted several messages suggesting that Pelosi is trying to mount a coup. Trump ultimately responded to Pelosi: “Crazy Nancy is the one who should be under observation. They don’t call her Crazy for nothing!”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the efforts by House Democrats as “absurd” Friday.
“That’s absurd. Absolutely absurd. Again, right here in the last three weeks before the election, I think those wild comments should be largely discounted,” he said speaking at a news conference in Kentucky.
The new proposal would create a commission of 17 people – eight appointed by Republicans and eight appointed by Democrats – as well as a chair selected by the entire body. That commission could study the President’s health as well as request an exam of the President. If the President refused, the commission could make a judgment on the President’s condition with the information they already had. A majority of the commission could vote to remove the President, but only with the Vice President.
That commission would be made up of physicians as well as former executive office holders, and could include past presidents, vice presidents, secretaries of state or other former executive branch office holders. Raskin told CNN in an interview that the thinking is that those individuals would be best equipped to understand the duties of the Presidency and make a determination about whether a president was fit for office.
“This is really only for the most extreme situations where you have a president who cannot fulfill the functions of the office,” Raskin said during Friday’s news conference.
White House communications director Alyssa Farah on Thursday again refused to tell reporters the date of the President’s last negative test before a positive for coronavirus occurred, citing Trump’s “private medical history.”
After he tested positive for the virus twice last Thursday and announced his positive status early Friday morning, Trump’s condition appeared serious. Later Friday, Trump’s doctor said that he had a high fever and received supplementary oxygen as well as the antibody cocktail from the biotechnology company Regeneron, ultimately being transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for three days for monitoring.
But he did not always comply with the social distancing and mask wearing guidelines that experts say is essential to minimizing the disease’s spread. Trump left the hospital on Sunday to ride in an SUV with his security detail past supporters cheering him on outside Walter Reed. And in a dramatic return to the White House on Monday, Trump peeled off his mask to pose in salute as his helicopter departed before walking inside.
“Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” Trump wrote several hours before walking carefully out of the hospital’s gold front doors, even as his doctors warned he wasn’t yet “out of the woods.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.
CNN’s Caroline Kelly, Haley Byrd, Ted Barrett, Kevin Liptak, Jason Hoffman and Maeve Reston contributed to this report.