What is the 25th amendment and can it be used to remove Donald Trump from power?

Credit: PA

On Wednesday the night world looked on in horror as rioters, encouraged by a defiant Donald Trump, stormed the Capitol building in Washington DC in support of the outgoing president as Congress met to vote on the US election result.

Fired up by the president's false allegations that the November's election was "stolen" and "rigged", hundreds of Trump supporters fought police and stormed the home of America's federal government.

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President Trump has since committed to an "orderly transition" of power to President-elect Joe Biden after the scenes of chaos in the Capitol.

But Mr Trump's side line role in the violence and the fact that he has refused to concede the election has lead to calls to invoke the 25th amendment which would see outgoing Vice-President Mike Pence and Cabinet colleagues evict Mr Trump from the Oval Office.

What is the amendment and could it be used to remove the incumbent president?

What does the amendment say?

"In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President ..."

The amendment clarifies that the vice president becomes president (as opposed to acting president) if the president transfers power to them in the event of them, for example, becoming incapacitated during an operation.

President Trump encouraged his supporters to protest during a speech in Washington DC.

In 2002, President George W Bush became the first to use the amendment’s Section 3 to temporarily transfer power, to Vice President Dick Cheney while Mr Bush was anesthetised for a colonoscopy

The vice-president will then take over and powers formally transferred back to the president once they have written to the VP to discharge them of their duties.

But what if the president is unfit to do their job but won't transfer power?

In this case, the amendment states that the vice president and the majority of the cabinet would have to declare the president unfit to lead.

They would then write to the president pro tempore of the Senate (the second highest ranking official in the US) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, stating that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of office.

Lloyd Watkins, of Nashville, Tennessee, a supporter of President Donald Trump, carries a flag outside the Capitol in Washington Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

The vice president will then assume the powers and duties of the office as acting president until such a time as the president believes they are able to perform their duties.

They then write a letter to confirm they believe they are ready to resume their role. But, if they disagree, the vice president/acting president and majority of the cabinet can write to Congress to ask them to vote on whether to let them return to power.

Why was it introduced?

An amendment detailing presidential succession plans followed the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963.

President Lyndon B Johnson in his 1965 State of the Union promised to “propose laws to insure the necessary continuity of leadership should the president become disabled or die.” The amendment was passed by Congress that year and ultimately ratified in 1967.

Protesters marched to the Capitol building on President Trump's encouragement. Credit: AP

Could Trump be forced out of office using the amendment?

It is just two weeks until Joe Biden's inauguration.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have tweeted in support of using the 25th amendment to oust Mr Trump from office should he refuse to leave the White House on 20 January.

Mike Pence, who has distanced himself from Mr Trump, has been urged to join with Democrats should the situation demand invoking the 25th amendment.

Who has called for the amendment to be invoked?

Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger and top Democrat Chuck Schumer called for the 25th Amendment to be invoked which, if implemented, would see outgoing Vice-President Mike Pence and Cabinet colleagues evict Mr Trump from the Oval Office.

On Thursday Mr Kinzinger, describing the president as unfit and unwell, called for the 25th Amendment to be used.

Mr Kinzinger said: “It’s with a heavy heart I am calling for the sake of our Democracy that the 25th Amendment be invoked.”

His call was echoed by Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer who said, if the Cabinet failed to act, Congress then should.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined those calling on the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to force Mr Trump from office.

She said Mr Trump should immediately be removed from office or Congress may proceed to impeach him.

Inside the Washington siege - Robert Moore on his report that shocked the world