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Suppose, for example, that a sitting President is diagnosed with a mental illness that a competent authority decides makes the President unable to carry out his duties, but the President refuses to step down. Assuming this President commits no impeachable crimes, can he still be removed?

  • "Assuming this President commits no impeachable crimes" What constitutes an impeachable crime is whatever Congress when impeaching him decides it is. It is not reviewable by the courts. So basically, Congress is always free to impeach him if they have the political will to do so. – user102008 Jan 11 '17 at 1:16
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25th Amendment:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

The President can't be removed from office for this by a Congress complying with the Constitution. However, the VP and the majority of the Cabinet can say "he's crazy," at which point the VP takes over the duties as Acting President. Congress then decides whether or not he's crazy. If Congress agrees, the VP continues to act as President.

  • The phrasing of the 25th is actually very interesting in some places. The VP keeps his acting president status for the duration of the legal dispute, which means if he is also able to somehow delay Congress's vote (e.g. by arresting sufficiently many congresspeople to hinder a quorum), the VP can get unchecked access to presidential powers for nearly a month. This seems... dangerous. Actually, it appears that he doesn't even need to delay the vote, since there's no provision for Congress throwing him out early. – Kevin Jan 31 '16 at 1:54
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    @Kevin Yes there is: impeachment. – cpast Jan 31 '16 at 2:17
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    @Kevin Not if the VP tries something like what you suggest. Congress can move fast if it has to, and keep in mind that the process by which they try the impeachment isn't reviewable by the courts. – cpast Jan 31 '16 at 3:06
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    @Kevin, arresting congresscritters is tricky: the founders thought of that, and granted constitutional protection against arrest. "They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same" – Mark Jan 11 '17 at 5:58
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    @Mark: Sure, but that only covers when they are either physically in one of the houses of Congress or "going to and returning from the same." They can still be arrested at their D.C. homes, in their home states, or literally any other random location that isn't their place of work. And, once again, the VP only loses the presidential powers after Congress has failed to vote for him for 21 days. They cannot vote him out early, because there's no provision for that. – Kevin Jan 11 '17 at 6:03

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