Bush Ethics Lawyer: Trump’s Nuclear Button Tweet Is Sufficient For Removal

donald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedI have previously written about the reckless claims of commentators and congressmen for the impeachment or removal of President Donald Trump.  Some based these calls on tweets posted by Trump, including comments on the NFL protests.  When calls for impeachment began to wane, many turned to the 25th Amendment.  Now, the former ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush Richard Painter has declared that Trump can be removed on the basis for removal under the 25th Amendment — a dangerous and unsupportable interpretation of the constitutional standard.

Trump osted a tweet that was rightfully denounced as bizarre and unpresidential.  Trump tweeted “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times. Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

For many, it seemed like a form of Freudian button envy.  However, Painter believes that a tweet viewed as juvenile is sufficient to allow members of Congress to remove a president from office.  Painted issued his own tweet stating “Two psychologically unfit men crowing about their nukes. This is not a good way to start the New Year. Congress needs to deal with one of them and the UN Security Council needs to deal with the other.”

Painter has previously declared the 25th Amendment satisfied.  As I have previously stated,  Trump’s conduct may be offensive or objectionable but it falls well short of  Section 4’s provision the removal from power. There are  essentially, two avenues for dragging a president from the Oval Office. First, there is the mutiny option. A vice president and a majority of the Cabinet can agree that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and notify Congress that the vice president intends to take over. If Vice President Pence could get eight Cabinet officers to sign a letter to that effect, he would immediately become the “Acting President.”  But if the president then declares to Congress that “no inability exists,” Trump could resume his powers.

The second option under Section 4 is a decision to remove the president could be made, alternatively, by “such other body as Congress may by law provide.” This is the course Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) has sought with proposed legislation to create an “Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity”—a body to decide if the president is physically and mentally fit. However, not only would this require a GOP controlled Congress to implement, it would still require the vice president’s assent.

More importantly, the Constitution only requires Trump to be able to discharge his duties; not necessarily to discharge them well. The fact is that Trump exhibited most of the traits he exhibits today during his campaign and his long business and television careers.

I have repeatedly criticized the President for his tweets and oft-hand comments, particularly about pending litigation.  Obviously, my renewed suggestion of a New Year’s resolution to remove or eliminate these tweets has clearly gone unfulfilled.  No surprise there.  However, if the President’s tweets are increasing the tensions in this standoff, Painter’s tweet is also dangerous in lowering the standard for removal of a president.  There is no constitutional license to remove Presidents under the 25th Amendment for comments deemed boorish or juvenile or inappropriate.  Dressing up an unconstitutional removal in the language of the 25th Amendment does not change the character or inappropriateness of the effort.

113 thoughts on “Bush Ethics Lawyer: Trump’s Nuclear Button Tweet Is Sufficient For Removal

  1. The character of those in public service are a reflection of those that elect them to office. All we need to do is look at where we are as a culture to understand the wisdom of Madison’s words in Federalist 51. While we will never elect angels, we certainly will not be electing anyone with the virtue of Washington from our current electorate.

    So what are our options as citizen owners of this government? We could begin by demanding our government follow the rule of law and separation of powers. We could begin by demanding our government confine themselves to the limited powers they were given. We could align on the equal security of natural rights. If we cannot unite on those principles, then we deserve the characters we elect and whatever schemes they devise that serve their interests and not that of the people.

    • Olly:

      Well said.

      The barn door is already open. Unfortunately, we now have an executive branch (with a person in the Oval Office who wouldn’t know Madison’s nor Hamilton’s Federalist Papers from a roll of toilet paper), a legislative branch and (as of yesterday via executive authority) a judicial branch all controlled by banana republicans. Welcome to our brave new world.

  2. Trump’s chief strategist said the Trump campaign committed an act of treason. My money says this will be considered “fake news.”

    • Ethics are like statistics, something used to prove one’s position. In that respect ethics performs a more subtle way of declaring the moral high ground when wrapping one’s self in the flag no longer serves that purpose.

  3. Turley is wrong again, as usual. There was absolutely nothing bizarre and unpresidential about Trump’s statement. Trump is just doing what he does best: being a STRONG leader how does not bow down, kowtow, or otherwise advance or promote the efforts of America’s enemies. Of course, Leftists like Turley want to do the opposite. They are WORSE than Neville Chamberlain. At least Chamberlain did not deliberately act to HELP Hitler the way the Leftists have done and will continue to do.

    And it’s amusing to see those completely illiterate to psychological literature refer to Trump’s actions claiming they have Freudian meaning, coming from ultrasubcretins who know absolutely nothing about Freud, psychology, psychoanalysis, or even basic symbolism and metaphor.

    Trump, unlike the Leftists who want to wash Kim Jung Un’s balls, Trump recognizes the basic concept that you have to speak on terms that the enemy understands and respects if you want to put the enemy in his proper place. In this sense, the situation here is not that different from the potential for a street fight.

    Most here have probably never been in a street fight or confronted with that possibility. Well, I have–and many times in my youth, in particular. I grew up in a rough neighborhood where gangs and threats were commonplace. I quickly learned the rules of the street. If the threat of physical violence existed and the opponent directly threatened me, I would make clear in no uncertain terms that I was fearless and was prepared to totally annihilate the opposition. And, yes, at first, I was sometimes beaten physically since my opponent or opponents were often stronger or more experienced. But the opponents definitely respected me more because I didn’t back down. And I soon did get the strength and experience to shut down any opposition at all, memorably jumping onto one particularly large bully and pounding him with everything I had.

    So Trump is doing the SMART thing here, giving “Bowl-Cut Boy” the Vito Corleone treatment, as when he warned the Commission about potentially taking any actions against his son Michael.

    Don’t any of you wonder why Kim Jung Un hasn’t said ANYTHING in response to Trump’s statement?

    He hasn’t–because he’s pissing in his pants and finally visualizing a fate far worse than Saddam Hussein hiding in a cave in his underwear hoping not to be discovered.

    I say, Right-On, Trump! And as for the rest of you Kim Jung Un ball washers, you’re free to keep doing that, since you love it so much, but don’t for a minute think that you know anything about dealing with bullies, terrorists, and dictators.

    • Trump is that wrecking ball kinda of guy you need when all hell breaks loose or the game looks in the tank. We had them on the football teams I played on that were winners. Things would go along during a game and you’d get incrementally behind on the scoreboard. All of sudden one of these guys had simply had enough of the malaise and would make a big play (usually cause a fumble or pick off a pass or just pancake some guy) based simply on emotion and some talent. No plan. I’m not saying you can have a steady dose of this kinda guy, but in small doses when you really need them, they’re indispensable.

    • “Turley is wrong again, as usual. There was absolutely nothing bizarre and unpresidential about Trump’s statement.”

      I think it’s definitely bizarre and unpresidential. But that’s not the same thing as saying he should be removed from office for beclowning himself with silly tweets. And whatever I may think about trump and his reality clown show, I recognize that the US media has acquitted itself far worse with it eagerness to be part of the absurd “resistance” and constantly playing the role of amateur psychiatrist diagnosing alleged mental illness from afar. Whether trumpy suffers from any form of mental illness I’m not qualified to say, but one doesn’t need any special qualifications to determine that he’s a stupid, immature boy.

      • Jay:

        Congressional members met with a Yale psychiatrist last month. How is it that the press is supposed to ignore what concerns 100 mental health professionals?

        If Trump were an 11-year-old boy in an elementary school, I can guarantee you his behaviors would be under observation by a school psychologist, and a behavioral plan would be put in place to correct these bizarre bullying behaviors. Tout de suite! Public school systems do track harassment, intimidation and bullying incidents. Trump is a bully. His tweets prove that.The free press has a right to report on it, and any opinions from mental health professionals to whom it concerns.

        Perhaps if Trump was not so very public in his outlandish behaviors it could remain a private issue. But, he is displaying his narcissism publicly. It is fair game.

        His mental health should be of grave concern to all of us.

        But, no. Instead, the ruling party turns a blind eye to a 71-year-old who is the leader of the free world (and of our already great nation) and allows him to behave worse than a 5th-grade school boy (or worse, allows him to exhibit behaviors that seem consistent with brain atrophy seen in senior citizens) and you think it deserves no impunity.

        At the very least it deserves Congressional censure. Or if, you prefer some further private action from other elected officials charged with the separation of powers, (good luck with that). I don’t like Senator Corker by any means, but even he sees something is terribly wrong and admits it publicly.

        And! you think it’s none of our business nor that of our free press? Good grief.

        • Trump is a bully. His tweets prove that.

          Let me know when his tweets evolve into actual policy that illegally targets our citizens; like for instance weaponizing the IRS to target liberal groups.

        • There is a process spelled out in the 25th Amendment for removal of a president due to incapacitation.
          A meeting of a dozen or so members of Congress with a psychiatrist with a book to sell isn’t really part of that process.
          It was 1189 psychiatrists, not 100, who declared Goldwater mentally unfit for the presidency in 1964.
          That’s what lead to “the Goldwater rule”, discouraging psychiatrists from making pop diagnoses without actually examining the subject.
          We could just skip the voting next time and have the psychiatrists pick who they feel has the best mental health.

  4. So, we’re going to remove Trump because he has nasty disposition. Or maybe he’s rude and crude at times. I think the Bush family are bunch of sore losers. The establishment ( both parties) cannot handle the simple fact that this guy won. I didn’t vote for this guy in the primaries, but guess what, he won. Just get over it.

  5. I have major objections to Richard Painter’s assertions that President Trump has passed the point of where he is eligible to be removed from office based upon a comical tweet about having nuclear weapons that will make it off the launch pad.

    My senses are going dull to listen to the childish remarks of Painter and others of his ilk. I don’t know much about Painter, but it did surprise me to learn that President Bush had an ethics lawyer in the White House during his terms in office. There are several questions I would like to ask Mr. Painter, but since he isn’t obligated to respond in this forum, I will withhold those questions until a more appropriate occasion presents itself.

    In conclusion, I would suggest to Mr. Painter that he keep these reckless comments to himself. He is not exhibiting either good moral character or knowledge of the facts related to the Constitution. In addition, he is creating further resistance against his political aims by exposing himself from behind the bushes.

  6. “Removal” is not the question.

    The question is whether Americans are going to

    annihilate the “deep state” coup d’etat

    and take their country back

    or not.

      • Clearly he was not referring to where or when; he was alluding to the the principles set forth in the 4th self-evident truth in the DoI:

        That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

          • But, which people? Just right-wing Republicans, authoritarians, and neo-Nazis?

            Yes Jay, Thomas Jefferson was specifically talking about Republicans, authoritarians and neo-Nazis. You can believe that, or you can reject whatever tribe has been selling you that bill of goods.

  7. The fastest and most substantial “check & balance” on lawless presidents would be to criminally prosecute the Bush DOJ attorneys that committed legal malpractice by green-lighting war crimes like torture, warrantless wiretapping (felony) and blacklisting/employment tampering.

    This action would create an immediate deterrent to Trump’s DOJ attorneys. They would no longer give him legal cover to commit war crimes. Most war crime indictments happen 20-40 years later, so the Bush war crimes are legally ripe for criminal prosecution. It would also provide relief for the thousands of Americans blacklisted and being harassed 24/7 for more than 5000 days (the government admits to over 1 million persons on various post-9/11 blacklists, including at least 40,000 American citizens on U.S. soil.

  8. We shall see, we shall see. The Trump has many faults but a coup may be met by a counter-coup. It could get ugly.

    America thinks it is different, America thinks it is so special, we will see how different and special it seems when the SHTF

    • Sadly, I agree with Kurtz. I am afraid that any attempt to remove Trump, via 25th amendment, impeachment, or maybe even the next presidential election, may degenerate into civil (or uncivil) war.

  9. JT, so it seems that you find no fault in the dear leader, are you going to admit you were wrong about Trump, when the time comes as you were with HRC being tried and convicted? Because I seem to remember you posting how Trey Gowdy had HRC on the ropes. Then posting your vacation pictures of Alaska. And really never bringing it up again. Stop holding Trump’s hand, of course if you’re working for him, then that’s different.

  10. We elect a President to keep his finger near the button. That midget needs to be nuked. The best time would be to hit that large palace he was in with all his cronies yesterday and kill them all at once.
    He is a danger to LA and the entire West Coast.
    There is a nuke coming to a town near you soon.

    • I do hope you are kidding. Nobody needs to be nuked. Starting a nuclear war is an absolutely insane suggestion. A nuclear weapon aimed at the palace would not kill only those in the palace. It would kill millions of North Koreans. While some may deserve that, not all North Koreans do. And then there is the inevitable nuclear conflict that will spread after such a U.S. nuclear strike at North Korea. Are you really foolish enough to believe that China and Russia are going to do nothing in response to a U.S. nuclear strike against North Korea?

      • It doesn’t matter whether he’s kidding or not. Comment section trolls don’t really have the authority to order nuclear strikes. There’s one twitter troll who does, but frankly, I’m not terribly worried about it.

  11. I admit some of Trump’s tweets (how can anyone deny this?) are imbecilic, and this may be one such tweet.

    That said, in reply to this “lahyah” and all the rest suffering from TDS like our dear Isaac: please never stop your actions such as described above, insuring Trump’s re-election. However naïve and/or ignorant are Trump’s tweets, you simply HAVE to agree persons suffering from TDS only and continually insure the exact opposite of their stated goals, being Trump’s removal. That being the case, and it undeniably is the case, this makes them only dumber than Trump.

  12. Peter, Peter, Peter. Ever four years we get to vote on who is boorish or juvenile. Did you watch the campaign, as most people did? They voted knowing what Trump was like and according to the voting rules (Electoral College) in place at the time.

  13. Professor Turley just said this: “There is no constitutional license to remove Presidents under the 25th Amendment for comments deemed boorish or juvenile or inappropriate”.

    Get it? Trump is “boorish and juvenile”, but somehow fit to continue as President. Like we really want a boorish and juvenile president with his finger on the nuclear button!

    One suspects that Professor Turley knows most of his readers exist in a right-wing media bubble. Therefore the wise professor has to parse his language at times.

    • Agree! I noticed it throughout the piece. Near the end Turley has the guy with his finger on the button as “increasing the tension” and Painter as “dangerous”.

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