WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced that he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday, positing the announcement on Twitter.
In a memo, the President’s doctor wrote that he expects the president to “continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering.” But what does that look like and who enforces it?
The president’s announcement he has COVID-19 raised a lot of questions online and the VERIFY team is here to put it all of it in context.
First, what is the 25th Amendment and how is it invoked?
The first part of the 25th Amendment is clear: if the President dies, resigns or is removed from office, the vice president takes over.
But what if the President is still in office and unable to do his job?
"If the president said 'I'm unable to function,' the vice president will just take over. But absent such a declaration prior to the 25th Amendment, it would be ... a little uncertain who would make that determination," Prakash said. "Are other people supposed to make it? Is Congress? Is it the courts? Is it the vice president? Who is it? and the 25th Amendment speaks to that question."
"The 25th Amendment is intended to address situations where the president is still alive, but incapacitated, and therefore unable to perform his or her duties," Somin said. "It enables him to voluntarily (and temporarily) cede power to the vice president until he recovers."
Our experts say this can go down a couple of ways.
First, the president submits a written declaration to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives, in this case Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, respectively.
Vice President Mike Pence would then act as president until Trump submits a written declaration that he can resume.
Then there’s the other way it could go down.
The VP and a majority of the “principal officers of the executive departments," which our experts say is generally interpreted as the president’s cabinet, submit a written declaration to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the House speaker that the president is unable to do his or her job.
The president would be allowed to contest that declaration, but if the VP and cabinet persist, that would lead to a vote in Congress. It would take a vote of two-thirds in both houses to keep the VP in charge.
Our experts say there’s really no precedent here.
"No, this has never happened," Somin said. "It’s been talked about, but never actually done."
“I think every time the 25th Amendment has been invoked, it's the president himself saying 'I can't function,'" Prakash said.