Regardless of the move or motives behind any impeachment action, others have suggested the provisions of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution could be in play.
Unlike an impeachment, which is essentially a trial by federal lawmakers of any civil official for treason, bribery or "high crimes and misdemeanors," the 25th Amendment provides for the succession of power if the president dies or cannot fulfill his or her duties.
Impeachment and the 25th Amendment are not the same thing. However, in a crisis, Congress could impeach a president in addition to using the 25th Amendment. Once a president has been removed from power via the provisions of the 25th Amendment, lawmakers could choose to impeach that former president.
What is the 25th Amendment?
The 25th Amendment was passed by Congress in 1965 and ratified in 1967 after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and provides procedures for the succession power for the president or vice president in case of death, removal, incapacitation or resignation.
The amendment was passed by Congress on July 6, 1965 and ratified on Feb. 10, 1967. According to the Constitution Center, the amendment specifies under Section I that the vice president will become president in the event of the latter's removal from office or death.
Additionally, if the office of the vice president is vacant, the president will nominate a new vice president who will then need to be confirmed by a majority in both the House and Congress, under Section II.
The amendment also stipulates that the duties of the presidency shall fall to the vice president if the president is found to be "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."
And, as is most likely the main focus of those looking to the 25th Amendment to provide an opportunity to remove President Trump from office, Section IV reads:
"Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore [for the time being] of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President."
In other words, if the vice president and the majority of another governing body like Congress agree that the president is not fulfilling his duties (or is unable to), the vice president may take over the office.
But, the president could appeal: he or she may submit to the acting president (the former vice president) and Congress a written declaration to regain office -- but, the acting president and Congress may still overrule it if they deem the president still unable to perform his duties.
The vice president and Congress can put it in writing that they think the president is unable to perform his duties, send it to the speaker of the House and the Senate's president pro tempore, and prevent the president from resuming office.
Could the 25th Amendment Affect Trump?
The main reason that the 25th Amendment has been trending in recent years is, well, President Trump.
Accounts on Twitter like PeopleAgainstTrump (@impeachtrump) are popping up, and hashtags like #Twentyfifthamendment are trending -- indicating many in the public would support a Trump impeachment. And while impeachment is a trial (and not a full removal from office), many also seek to use the 25th Amendment as a means for the president's removal.
In the wake of a New York Times article describing how deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein suggested secretly recording meetings with the president and Justice Department and FBI officials in order to expose the "chaos" of the administration, things are tense. But, Rosenstein denied the allegations in the article.
"The New York Times's story is inaccurate and factually incorrect," he said in a statement to The New York Times. "I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment."
In an article in Politico this year, Joshua Zeitz claims there is currently no reason for Trump to be ousted via the 25th Amendment based on his erratic behavior. "Put another way, Donald Trump has not -- to the best of our knowledge -- suffered a stroke or blow to the head since the 2016 election. He is who he is, and he has been like this for a very long time," Zeitz writes.
And Democratic strategist Don Calloway told The Hill in an interview that impeachment should not be a major goal for Democrats.
"I don't think we should impeach in general," Calloway told The Hill. "I think that impeachment emboldens the 'deplorables,' and folks will come out, in a way, against Democrats," continuing that Democrats should instead focus on economic empowerment and worker reform, claiming that, "these are things we should be focusing on instead of impeachment. Impeachment is purely political. We have substantive stuff to worry about."
Additionally, following the highly controversial anonymous New York Times article -- which detailed the efforts of White House insiders to foil Trump's more dangerous moves -- the vice president came to Trump's defense.
The 25th Amendment provides no grounds for removal based on inflammatory language on Twitter or seeming erratic behavior. And some claim that impeachment might only fuel Trump's fire for the 2020 election.
In fact, according to Business Insider, Trump himself is somewhat nonplussed over impeachment rumors.
"He has repeated to folks that, if the Democrats impeach him, it would be a victory, politically, because it would be a complete overreach and he could exploit it and run against it in 2020," a source familiar with Trump's political strategy told Axios.
Still, what could invoking the 25th Amendment or impeaching Trump look like for stocks? Peter Cohan, lecturer of strategy at Babson College told TheStreet earlier this year that it might actually mean good things for the economy.
"I think, if anything, if Trump were impeached, it would be great for stocks," said Cohan. "When I saw that Trump said that stocks would collapse...it struck me as one statement that was unsubstantiated and could easily be proven untrue by data."
How Many Times Has the 25th Amendment Been Used?
The short answer is: in its fullest sense, never.
While the first three sections of the amendment have been used numerous times, the fourth section has not.
The first and second sections detailing the succession of the vice president in the event of the president's death or resignation have been used, when Richard M. Nixon was succeeded by Gerald Ford after Nixon's resignation in 1974. Ford subsequently nominated Nelson Rockefeller as vice president.
Additionally, the third section has been used when Ronald Reagan underwent surgery in 1985 and had his vice president temporarily assume duties. And, George W. Bush did the same thing twice -- once in 2002 and again in 2007, delegating his duties to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Why Was the 25th Amendment Created?
The 25th Amendment was proposed to deal with the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the subsequent succession of his vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson.
The amendment was intended to deal with the lack of a vice president following Johnson's succession to the presidency -- something that had happened 16 times before. The amendment also answered questions about what would happen if the president suffered a debilitating injury, disease, or general inability to perform duties during their presidency.
Who Can Declare a President 'Unfit'?
But, who can actually determine if a president is unable to perform their duties?
According to USA Today, in the drafting the 25th Amendment, former Senator Birch Bayh assumed the vice president would consult with medical experts. But, said a former aide to the senator, it was never thought that the determination of fitness would be made only by doctors, or that the amendment would be a substitute for impeachment.
"It was certainly on our mind that the impeachment proceeding was still something that was available in the case of a president that had violated his oath or hadn't performed his duties," Bayh's aide Jay Berman told USA Today. "That truly should be the first line of defense in any case where there's an issue about removing the president."