The much-anticipated book “A Warning,” reportedly written by an unnamed senior White House official, claims that high-level White House aides were certain that Vice President Mike Pence would support the use of the 25th Amendment to have President Donald Trump removed from office because of mental incapacity.
According to the exposé, which is written by someone that The New York Times and the publisher of the book say is a current or former senior White House official, using the pen name “Anonymous,” highly placed White House officials did a back-of-the-envelope tally of which Cabinet members would be prepared to sign a letter invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which says that if the president is deemed unfit to discharge the duties of his office, the vice president would assume the role.
That letter would need to be signed by a majority of the Cabinet, delivered to Pence for his signature and then submitted to Congress.
According to Anonymous, there was no doubt in the minds of these senior officials that Pence would support invoking the 25th Amendment if the majority of the Cabinet signed off on it.
While discussions of invoking the 25th Amendment were never formalized, the idea that the vice president could go along with a Cabinet-backed plan to remove the president was certain to raise the ire of Trump, who is intolerant of dissent or any hint of disloyalty.
Passages from “A Warning,” set to be published Nov. 19, were provided to HuffPost by a source who did so only on the condition that their anonymity be protected and that the passages from the book would not be quoted from directly.
HuffPost has not confirmed Pence’s position on the invocation of the 25th Amendment but is publishing details from “A Warning” because the book is highly newsworthy and the Department of Justice has gone so far as to warn the author that he or she may be subject to nondisclosure agreements as part of their work as an employee of the executive branch.
The discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment took place, according to the book, soon after FBI Director James Comey was fired by the president. Comey’s firing, which was done without any warning or consultation with Congress, led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who was charged with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and possible obstruction of the probe from the Trump administration.
The controversy around the firing, which the president did not appear to anticipate, and Mueller’s appointment infuriated Trump, and aides described his behavior at the time to HuffPost and other news publications as “unhinged.”
The book says that Trump’s behavior at the time was so erratic that it ignited the internal discussions about the 25th Amendment.
Since Trump was sworn in as president in January 2017, Pence has endeavored to be a loyal soldier, but Trump has a high capacity for remembering disloyalty or any dissension. One incident that two sources tell HuffPost the president has brought up in the past was Pence signaling to the Republican National Committee, hours after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was published by The Washington Post in October 2016, that he would be prepared to take over as the Republican nominee if they wanted to oust Trump.
The Trump family is said to like Pence and think he is loyal to the president, according to a well-placed source, but no one, with the exception of the president’s family, is safe from being branded as disloyal if the president feels they have been.
In the past two years, Trump has systematically removed Cabinet officials who would potentially challenge his presidency, making the prospect of invoking the 25th Amendment today a near impossibility.
In September 2018, a firestorm was ignited when The New York Times published an op-ed written by a person they said was “a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure.”
In the op-ed, which said that senior administration officials were having to constantly temper the president’s worst instincts, Anonymous said that invoking the 25th Amendment had been a topic of discussion. “Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the Cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.”
After the Times published the op-ed, Pence was asked by Margaret Brennan, moderator of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” if he’d had been involved in discussions about the 25th Amendment. He responded by saying, “No, never. And why would we be, Margaret?”
Weeks after the Times first published the anonymous op-ed, a New York Times investigation revealed that then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “discussed recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.”
Months later, in an interview with the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes,” Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who was later fired by the president and remains the target of a federal criminal investigation, confirmed that Rosenstein had discussed the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment with Cabinet members. “Discussion of the 25th Amendment was simply Rod raised the issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other Cabinet officials might support such an effort. I didn’t have much to contribute, to be perfectly honest, in that — conversation. So I listened to what he had to say. But, to be fair, it was an unbelievably stressful time.”
Follow Yashar — or send him a tip — on Twitter: @yashar
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more information
In-person early voting dates: Varies by state
Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
Polling hours on Election Day: Varies by state/localityMy Polling Place