Donald Trump will not be impeached or removed from office under the XXVth Amendment. Republican party officeholders fear Trump’s Tea Party following would primary them out of office if they voted to remove the man who, they feel, has given them a voice. That fear supersedes their concern about losing the November elections to a Democrat since, at least, the office will remain “open” for the Republican to re-take once the stench of Trump is gone.
Depending on the group of clueless billionaires who comprise Trump’s cabinet to remove him from office under the XXVth Amendment due to mental instability (a kind way to put it) does not pass the laugh test.
Instead, Trump needs to be brought to the point where he voluntarily resigns. That point is where continuing to occupy the office is a greater blow to his self-image than leaving it.
There is means to effect that end-result, without Republican officeholders taking a large risk, and even without major drama played out in media (sorry, media, you will have to get your ratings in some other way than covering a food-fight).
Over-and-over-and-over-and-over again, Donald Trump has told us that public knowledge of his tax returns is his Achilles heel.
It is also his red-line. For Trump, the presidency is just not worth exposing the truth about his finances that would compromise his “brand”. It is simply a matter of understanding his malignant narcissism and deploying it against him.
Congress need merely pass a law, that is long overdue anyhow, that the IRS publish on its website on the 15th day of the first month of each fiscal quarter, the last 20 years of tax returns of the sitting president and vice-president. This would apply to Trump and every subsequent president, and to Pence and every subsequent vice-president.
Note that this does not compel the president or vice-president to do anything. They might contest the authority of Congress as a separate, co-equal branch, to compel the president to do anything. It would certainly take time to resolve in the Courts. Moreover, with Donald Trump, the likelihood that whatever he disclosed would bear any resemblance to what he filed with the IRS is—well, you make your own odds. Mine is zero.
By contrast, the Congress created the IRS, and can make laws governing its activities. Publishing the returns of a sitting president and vice-president is certainly within its powers if Congress so orders.
Large, veto-proof majorities would be required. But, this may be feasible. For one thing, it is not clear that anything approaching one-third of either house of Congress actually thinks Donald Trump is their guy. One rarely, if ever, hears a member of Congress praising Trump or defending him personally. They may approve of a Ryan-produced bill the president says he will support, but positive personal statements about Trump himself are as frequent as the number of people not sunning themselves on New Jersey beaches during the government shut-down.
Moreover, such a vote has a lot of ‘cover’. It is general, applicable to all current and future officeholders. If Trump resigns, that is his decision. It is readily defensible to “the system is rigged” believers, because it is a small step forward in unrigging it.
What would a primary challenger to Republican officeholders who voted for the bill really do? “You forced Trump to resign” rings rather hollow since, a) it was Trump, not the officeholder, who resigned; b) Trump has always said his tax returns are “beautiful”; and c) just what evil is associated with a president’s and vice-president’s tax returns being available for public scrutiny—does the challenger want a president to profit off of his position? This challenge would go nowhere, fast.
Right-wing Republicans can get behind Pence not just philosophically but personally. For the rest, a Pence presidency will be contested in a few years and, in the meantime, the philosophy can be battled in the mid-terms. Additionally, Pence will get to select one of their own to become his Vice-President.
There has not been a push for such a law because, until Trump, presidents have published their returns. But, the American people should not leave it to the whims of the president, nor the relative obscurity of most vice-presidents. The one exercises enormous power. The other is a heart-beat away. We should know their financial affairs.
When such a law is passed, Donald J Trump would resign the day before the IRS would publish his tax returns.
He has signaled loudly and clearly that his tax returns are a big, big, big problem for him, for the Trump “brand”, and for his image of himself. By resigning ahead of their publication, he can avoid all of that.
For that, the country and the world will say, “good riddance”. The sign of relief would be palpable.