Thursday Reads: Time to Invoke the 25th Amendment

Elisabeth Macke, August; 1887-1914. “Unser Wohnzimmer in Tegernsee”, 1909/10.

Good Afternoon!!

It just keeps getting worse. Yesterday, decent Americans watched in horror as Trump repeatedly insulted a gold star family and in the process politicized and diminished all fallen soldiers and their families. How much lower can he go? I guess we’ll find out, because there doesn’t seem to be anything too sacred for Trump to trash and disparage.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Trump trivializes the deaths of four soldiers.

STAFF SGT. Bryan C. Black, 35, always relished a challenge. As a child, he drove himself to learn chess; as a teen, he excelled as a wrestler; and as an adult, he joined the Army, where he finished Ranger school and joined the Special Forces. Deployed to Niger, he learned the local dialect.

Before joining the Army, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah “J.W.” Wayne Johnson, 39, owned and operated a successful business. In uniform he became a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist. Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, was a good student and talented athlete. When he joined the Army he continued a family military legacy dating to 1812.

Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25, was known to be both determined and playful, as demonstrated by how he commuted to a job at Walmart — removing the front wheel of his bike and becoming known as the “Wheelie King.”

These are the four soldiers who were killed Oct. 4 when their unit was ambushed by Islamist extremists in West Africa. Their lives, their brave service and the sacrifice of their grieving families should be discussed and honored. Instead — thanks to a president with a compulsive need to be the center of attention — their deaths have been trivialized. President Trump reduced condolences to a political competition and treated the grieving families who received them as pawns in a game.

You know the rest; if not you can read it at the Post. At this point, the entire world knows our shame–that the U.S. president is a disgrace and unfit for the office he holds.

Reading aloud, Julius LeBlanc Stewart

Aaron Blake at the Washington Post: Trump’s unmoored week shows just how aimless he is.

President Trump’s most faithful supporters like to believe he’s always a step ahead of the media and the political establishment — that he’s playing three-dimensional chess while we’re stuck on checkers. Where we see utter discord, they see carefully orchestrated chaos.

This week should disabuse absolutely everybody of that notion.

On two issues — health care and calling the families of dead service members — the White House has shown itself to be clearly unmoored, careening back and forth based upon the unhelpful and impulsive comments and tweets of its captain.

Again, you probably know the rest. I spent the day yesterday on the verge of tears, trying desperately not to sink into depression. Unlike Trump, I’m capable of empathy. I have my own life issues to deal with, as we all do; but always the fear of what is happening to our country hangs over everything and makes it difficult to handle day-to-day worries.

I can’t imagine what White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and his family must be feeling. CNN reports: Sources: Kelly didn’t know Trump would publicize that Obama didn’t call when his son died.

Chief of Staff John Kelly told President Donald Trump that President Barack Obama never called him after his son’s death prior to Trump raising the issue in a Tuesday radio interview, multiple White House officials told CNN.

But, according to these sources, Kelly never thought the President would use that information publicly.

Kelly and much of the White House were caught off-guard by Trump’s comments, one official said, struck by how the President took a story Kelly has tried to keep private — the death of his son — and used it to defend his handling of four soldiers killed in Niger.

Roberto Ploeg, 1955

Trump, in defense of his own previous claim that Obama didn’t call the loved ones of fallen soldiers, floated the idea Tuesday that reporters ask Kelly, a retired general, whether Obama called him after his son died in Afghanistan.

“As far as other presidents, I don’t know, you could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don’t know what Obama’s policy was,” Trump said during a Fox News radio interview.

It’s not clear to me why Kelly expected Trump to keep his confidence. Trump is a sociopath. He doesn’t care any more about Kelly or his dead son than he does about any of the grieving families. He cares only for himself and filling the dark empty hole in his soul with flattery and praise from others.

Kelly should resign or at least begin working with other cabinet members to invoke the 25th amendment before it’s too late.

NBC News Opinion: The 25th Amendment Proves Why Trump’s Mental Health Matters, by Richard Painter and Leanne Watt.

The 25th Amendment is the ultimate constitutional “check” — a corrective mechanism for an American president who is physically or psychologically unable to lead. Most important, it grants legal authority to those closest to power — first, the vice president and Cabinet members, then members of Congress — to stage an intervention. At the very least, these individuals are authorized to call a temporary timeout if the president is judged unfit to govern.

Is America today in need of such an unprecedented intervention?

The amendment, ratified in 1967 after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, was constructed to assure a smooth transition when a president becomes incapable of leadership. (Its vague wording leaves room for both physical and psychological justifications.) By the 1960s, the dangers of an incapacitated president were far greater than at the founding of our country. But arguably, the stakes have only gotten higher. With tensions flaring around the globe, there can be no doubt as to the fitness of the man or woman in possession of U.S. nuclear codes.

Pundits and politicians alike have called for the amendment’s implementation over the past few months. But it is both practically and philosophically a tool of last resort. Unlike impeachment, which is controlled solely by Congress, the 25th Amendment requires action by the majority of the president’s Cabinet and potentially Congress. This means that even in today’s polarized climate, partisan removal is unlikely. In addition, the bar for diagnosing mental health conditions is quite high.

This is a deep dive into what would be required to invoke the amendment to rid the country of a dangerous president. I hope you’ll read the whole thing.

Today, Trump is off on a new tangent because he’s apparently worried about the Russia investigation again. It started yesterday with baseless attacks on former FBI Director James Comey and Hillary Clinton.

Today he actually accused the FBI of colluding with Russia and Clinton against him.

Those are all lies. Clinton did not sell uranium to Russia. Two people from Fusion GPS did take the 5th, because they have refused to accept the unilateral subpoena issued by Devin Nunes, who is supposedly recused from the Russia investigation. Natasha Bertrand at Business Insider: The founders of the firm behind the Trump Russia dossier appeared before the House Intel Committee and refused to testify.

The founders of the opposition-research firm that produced the dossier alleging ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russia met behind closed doors with House Intel Committee staff on Wednesday and asserted their constitutional privileges not to testify.

The founders of Fusion GPS — Glenn Simpson, Thomas Catan, and Peter Fritsch — were required to appear before the committee by its chairman, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who had subpoenaed them earlier this month.

Fusion’s counsel, Josh Levy, wrote a 17-page letter to Nunes earlier this week urging him not to force Simpson, Catan, and Fritsch to appear before the committee, because if they did they would have no choice but to assert their constitutional privileges not to testify.

Edouard Vuillard, Lucy Hessel_Reading

“We cannot in good conscience do anything but advise our clients to stand on their constitutional privileges, the attorney work product doctrine and contractual obligations,” Levy wrote.

Nunes required them to appear anyway, prompting Levy to release a blistering statement accusing Nunes — who stepped aside from the committee’s Russia investigation in April but still has subpoena power — of abusing his power as chairman.

“No American should have to experience today’s indignity,” Levy wrote. “No American should be required to appear before Congress simply to invoke his constitutional privileges. But that is what Chairman Nunes did today with our clients at Fusion GPS, breaking with the practice of his committee in this investigation. The committee has not imposed this requirement on any other witness, including the president’s men.”

He added that the “disparate treatment and abuse of power” by Nunes was “unethical, according to the DC Bar rules.”

That Trump would accuse the FBI of conspiring with Russia against him is beyond belief. How can anyone doubt that this man is mentally incompetent?

I just noticed that George W. Bush gave a speech this morning that seems directed at the dangers of Trump’s presidency. Excerpts from The Hill:

Former President George W. Bush said Thursday that “bigotry seems emboldened” in the modern U.S.

“Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts,” he observed during a speech for the George W. Bush Institute. “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”

Vanessa Bell, Interior with artist’s daughter

Bush also said that public confidence in the country’s institutions has declined in recent decades.

“Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy,” he said.

There are signs, Bush said, that the intensity of support for democracy itself has “waned.”

More from The Washington Examiner:

Former President George W. Bush said Thursday that America should not downplay Russia’s attempts to meddle in the U.S. election.

“Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy,” Bush said in a speech sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute and others in New York. “And that begins with confronting a new era of cyberthreats.”

“America has experienced a sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions,” he said. “According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systemic and stealthy. It’s conducted a range of stealthy media platforms.”

“Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed,” he added. “But foreign aggressions, including cyberattacks, disinformation and financial influence should never be downplayed or tolerated.”

That Bush is speaking out seems like a good sign. Will Republicans in Washington DC listen?

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?

55 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Time to Invoke the 25th Amendment”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    The Daily Beast: George W. Bush Bashes Trumpism: ‘Blasphemy Against the American Creed’

    • Pat Johnson says:

      If I remember correctly this guy also took huge cuts out of the Constitution when he had the chance as well.

      • Enheduanna says:

        Yeah and the winner of the 2000 presidential election coming out against election hi-jinks is pretty rich too. {sigh} I guess we’ll take what we can get.

        • Pat Johnson says:

          He was a colossal jerk but because of Trump he is being treated as if those horrific 8 years never existed.

          They did and thousands of American military and an untold number of Iraqi civilians lost their lives in a war that should never have happened. Billions of dollars spent chasing a lie while his friends in the military industrial complex became wealthier. And who can forget Katrina?

          Nope, I can’t possibly overlook those 8 years of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld just because the current assh*le is just as bad or worse.

          For me the current mideast situation can be directly laid at the feet of these liars and no amount of sanitizing will ever change that.

      • Fannie says:

        Yup, talk about not being able to communicate……..Bush had the same issues.

        • RonStill4Hills says:

          But…Bush’s reaction to an unfavorable critique was not to call people fabricators and disgusting liars.

          The takeaway here is that the so-called leader of the free world viciously attacked a grieving family because of a bad review.

          He did not say, they misunderstood my intent, my condolences didn’t sound like that in context. He called them out as LIARS!!!!

          I demand a public apology on heir behalf. He cannot be allowed to get away with this.

          • Fannie says:

            Let me back up. I was talking about his problem communicating about the Saddam and Kuwait War, and the green light to Iraqi Freedom. And I won’t be forgetting how Pat Tilman’s story got hijacked, and lied about, not just by the military (which Kelly is now coming to Trump’s rescue), but even the NFL.

            I don’t want an apology, I am about sick of their bullshit saying they are so sorry.

        • RonStill4Hills says:

          Fannie – If I sounded like I was chastising or disagreeing with you, let me say nothing could be further from the truth, I agree with you COMPLETELY.

          I was just drawing the distinction between an ordinary asshole, and whatever the hell Trump is.

          I, like you, am glad am glad Bush is speaking out. I am glad Obama is speaking out, I don’t know if they coordinated but it is good that they spoke on the same day.

          G.W. Bush was insecure fuck-up who was lead by the nose by some unethical characters on a dangerous quest to live up to his father. Lots of pyschodrama. Whatevs…

          Trump on the other hand is an evil person. I just pray that the media doesn’t do its usually “equal-time” “in-his-defense” two-step and let Trump off the hook as misunderstood

    • NW Luna says:

      Shrub was bad, but even he would not have sucked up to Russia.

      Conditions are really bad when even GW Bush speaks out against them. But he’s still not calling out Trumpf directly.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        Remember when he looked into Putin’s eyes and found something there to “love”?

        Given the chance he probably would have cozied up to him.

  2. Enheduanna says:

    Great post BB. Can’t wait to get to the NBC opinion article on the 25th amendment. I just hope the pressure gets to the point he resigns – but not before the 2018 elections in case we’re stuck with Pence.

    And you know when tRump comes out with a tweet storm directing attention TO the Russia thing – it’s got to be bad. I hope this does not distract from his disgraceful behavior toward Gold Star families. Or is it a reaction to something about to drop from the Mueller investigation?

    • NW Luna says:

      He’s protesting so much you know that he’s furiously trying to cover up. That bit about Comey being the best thing which ever happened to Hillary — I doubt that even his deranged supporters will buy that.

      • quixote says:

        That relates to what I was thinking as I read that flapdoodle about the FBI conspiring with Russia against him. He’s not saying that because he believes it. It’s purely meat for his base. And he’s giving them a frame for the news about his collusion.

        Now they can pat themselves on the back for being so smart they’re not taken in by all that “fake” news about Dear Leader.

  3. RonStill4Hills says:

    Trump is such a liar. He says, “I don’t know what Obama’s policy was…” then why did you comment on it? Simple fucking question, no ?

  4. RonStill4Hills says:

    Ok, Kelly comes out and defends Trump saying,” I told Trump what to say, I was stunned that people criticized it…”.



    • Enheduanna says:

      And now Rep. Wilson is getting death threats.

      The entire account of the call and what was said has tRump written all over it. The bungling and inappropriate language – he might as well as told her to “have a good time.”

      And to imply that these women (and let’s face it they are women) would make up a story, on their way to meet the casket at the airport….just blows my mind. And yet that is exactly what O’Reilly and Hannity and all the rest of that ilk are saying.

      • Fannie says:

        Well don’t you know women use to be scared, and honorable, and religious………now they are a bunch of fucking whores. Kelly might as well have called them whores. You know, black women are to be blamed for everything, and so too are women of any color. I am so pissed, after our female soldiers are raped by their fellow soldiers, where Trump can harass Ruth Bader Ginsburg and get away with it. I am sick to death of white men telling women who they were, who they are, and what they should say and do, and when. Like women are slaves, and the only one free are white men. That if we don’t believe in Trump’s God, that we are invalid as human being. I am woman, and I am tired to white men breaking every damn dream women have ever had.

        • Sweet Sue says:

          He’ s awful.

        • Earlynerd says:

          I am worried about the reaction to O’Donnell’s courageous reporting about Drumpf & Drumpf’s now disgraced keeper Kelly.

          O’Donnell called out freakin Boston freakin Irish freakin Catholics. There are few more powerful lobbies in the U.S. And he did it over the humanity of women, about which the majority of Catholics in the U.S. care not one whit:

          The victorious Trump-Pence ticket received 52% of Catholics’ votes compared to Clinton-Kaine’s 45%

          • Earlynerd says:

            This indelible photograph is from the resistance to integration in south Boston that O’Donnell cites:


          • Earlynerd says:

            Please disregard the commentary on that URL. It was the first one the increasingly rThug slanted search engines turned up and I hadn’t read it through.

            It had way too much mitigation of the self righteous violence that did happen in south Boston, over white children having to actually sit at desks next to not-white children, crack open books that might not have been fresh and clean, in buildings that might not have passed code, and learn from teachers that might not have the resources they needed to teach them.

            Same thing I was familiar with from going to school in the south, as a white Catholic child. We all knew.

          • bostonboomer says:

            I’m sorry, but it’s not true that the majority of Catholics don’t care about the humanity of women. The majority of Catholics don’t agree with the church’s stances on birth control and abortion. Furthermore Boston has changed a hell of a lot since the 1950s, which is what Lawrence was talking about. Brighton is a completely different place today–in fact it’s full of college students. I’ve lived here for 50 years, and I know what I’m talking about.

    • Enheduanna says:

      P.S. The GoFundMe for Johnson is over halfway to their $1MIL goal in two days.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Now we know that Kelly isn’t really one of the “adults.” He’s signed on to Trump’s agenda. I never trusted him after he was so hard line on immigrants at DHS.

    • Fannie says:

      First I thought he had to come out and do his little show and tell, otherwise his ass was going to be fired. No more, he got caught, and for whatever reason, he damn well knows that people all across this country are having sleepless nights (I woke up thinking about Iraqi Freedom and how my cousin lost his life). He needed to get busy, because women are getting busy calling out the abuse, the harassment, and confusion that Trump and his administration, and his corporate Americans he put in office, are crowding us in, like we are a bunch of rats, knowing damn well what ever happens to this country, they will not fall face on floor, gloom and doom is all I see. My blood runs cold, with great despair for my sisters. God Damn this, this reality.

  6. Pat Johnson says:

    Are we still holding out “hope” that Kelly is only doing his job to save us from Trump?

    A career general who would march out and slime a woman for speaking up while pontificating about “sacred” in mentioning how “stunned” he was about attacks on women and Gold Star families. The same attacks perpetrated by Trump. Incredible!

    Kelly is not to be trusted. He is as slimy as his boss. Forget about him acting as the “protector” of the American people. He is an enabler. A toady. A man without principle.

    I’ve lost all faith in everything. Need to put myself in a “time out” from the madness and lies. Too overwhelming when I am unable to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Mueller is not going to do it or if he is, it will be too late.

    Signing off for awhile. See you all down the line.

  7. RonStill4Hills says:

    Ok, so General Kelly puts his own personal integrity, honor, credibility and reputation on the line to defend this unworthy piece of pumpkin poop and Orange Foolius rewards him by doubling down on the attack on Congresswoman Wilson. Calling her a liar aain, after Kelly confirmed the substance of what she said.

    Kelly tarnished himself for his boss, and within hours Trump proved that he was a fool to do it.

    The country should demand a full throated public apology.

    Not because apologies mean much, but because Trump deserves to do the Cersei Lannister walk of shame!

  8. bostonboomer says:

    This piece by Masha Gessen in the New Yorker is the most powerful critique of John Kelly’s performance I’ve read yet.

    John Kelly and the Language of the Military Coup

  9. NW Luna says:

    The invaluable Ari Berman at Mother Jones has an extraordinary examination about how an ongoing campaign of voter suppression in the state of Wisconsin, which my own reporting has told me is the worst kept secret in the history of that state’s politics, probably did throw that state’s electoral votes to the president* in 2016.