The chaos of the first eight days of the Trump presidency is not especially surprising. The transition exposed his complete ignorance about the complexity of the president’s job and worse, his admitted disinterest in learning the ropes and studying the briefing books that Obama’s staff had prepared for him. Trump refuses to read the all-important President’s Daily Briefing (PDB), a highly classified document with critical information about national security. It’s too long for his taste. “I like bullets or I like as little as possible,” he said. Ideally, he’d like a single page with bullet points. Breezily he continued, “I don’t have to be told – you know, I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.” Trump prefers to watch the news on television, preferably Fox News. A White House aide told Politico that the president gets bored and likes to watch TV.
Perhaps Trump gets bored because he is so out of his depth. He has no inkling of the conventions and accords that have been agreed upon by allies and adversaries after extensive negotiation. He denigrated NATO, seemingly ready to trash the mutual defense treaty in effect since the Cold War. Today German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to explain to Trump that the Geneva Convention requires the international community take in war refugees. She “regrets” Trump’s decision to ban refugees and immigrants from certain countries. In an interview with ABC News two days days earlier, Trump casually opined that the US should have essentially s.tolen Iraqi oil after the war. “We should have taken the oil. You wouldn’t have ISIS if we took the oil.” When interviewer David Muir countered that critics said that would have been a violation of international law, Trump responded, “Who are the critics who say that? Fools.”
Examples abound of Trump’s ignorance of domestic and international law and his willingness to flout them. What is to be done?
The Constitution provides for the removal of a president for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors, but we’re not quite there yet. Impeachment and trial in the Senate can be a lengthy process.
There is, however, another avenue in the Constitution to remove a president from office. Article 4 of the 25th Amendment provides for a transfer of power to the vice president if the president is incapacitated. The hitch, and it’s a big one in this case, is that “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” are the ones to determine “that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Republicans will have that power for at least the next two years, so President Trump would have to transgress in especially egregious ways to persuade the party elders that his position was untenable. Of course, in this case, the vice president might be less than reluctant to assume the highest post in the land.
There are some rumblings, even now. A few Republicans are starting to chafe. Trump’s tactics are “unconventional at best and disastrous at worst,” said Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. “These distractions have the capacity to sink his entire administration, and they’re not representative of the quite serious people he’s assembled.”