It may be time for constitutional law attorneys and members of Congress to start brushing up on the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, Section 4, regarding a president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
We clearly have elected someone who is delusional, if not insane. The sorest winner of all time cannot stop whining:
Just like his campaign, the first days of his presidency have been animated and defined by grievance.
At a White House reception last night to discuss his 2017 agenda, Trump devoted the first 10 minutes to rehashing the 2016 campaign. The commander-in-chief told a bipartisan group of congressional leaders that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused him to lose the popular vote.
That is a ludicrously false claim, and this is not hyperbole: Trump is the sorest winner in American history.
UPDATE: If there were millions of illegal votes cast, it would be safe to assume that some of those illegal votes went to the yuuugely popular Donald Trump. Not according to “The Donald.” Donald Trump claims none of those 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast for him. Zero. This is a statistical impossibility.
The New York Times has rarely ever used the word “lie” in a headline, but that it did. Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers:
President Trump used his first official meeting with congressional leaders on Monday to falsely claim that millions of unauthorized immigrants had robbed him of a popular vote majority, a return to his obsession with the election’s results even as he seeks support for his legislative agenda.
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Trump appears to remain concerned that the public will view his victory — and his entire presidency — as illegitimate if he does not repeatedly challenge the idea that Americans were deeply divided about sending him to the White House to succeed President Barack Obama.
As Dan Balz of the Washington Post points out, it is Trump who is undermining his legitimacy by undermining confidence in the electoral process. Trump’s voter fraud claims undermine the democratic process and his presidency:
There is no benign explanation for President Trump’s false assertion that millions of people voted illegally in the last election. It is either a deliberate attempt to undermine faith in the democratic process, an exhortation to those who favor new restrictions on access to the ballot box or the worrisome trait of someone with immense power willing to make wild statements without any credible evidence.
By repeating as president what he had said as a candidate, for whatever purpose, Trump is now striking at the foundation of a democratic society. This is yet another example of Trump being willing to cast doubt on information, individuals or institutions that he believes threaten his legitimacy, challenge his authority or question his actions, from attacks on “phony polls” or the “dishonest media” to assertions now of vast voter fraud.
Trump then sent his press secretary, “Baghdad Sean” Spicer, out to defend his delusions. Press Secretary Affirms that Trump Believes Lie of Millions of Illegal Voters:
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, confirmed on Tuesday that President Trump has long believed that millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally in the 2016 election, furthering a false claim from the podium of the West Wing briefing room and refusing to rule out an investigation down the road.
“He said 3 to 5 million people could have voted illegally, based on the studies that he’s seen,” Mr. Spicer told stunned reporters, acknowledging a statement that Mr. Trump made privately in a meeting with congressional leaders on Monday afternoon.
And what studies, pray tell, has Trump seen? Ah, the conspiracy-mongering Alex Jones at the alt-right web site Infowars:
A November 2016 blog post on Infowars, the conspiracy theory-focused website run by radio host Alex Jones, posited the idea that roughly 3 million people voted illegally. Mr. Jones has hosted Mr. Trump on his radio show in the past.
The assertion was based on tweets from a self-proclaimed voter expert, who claimed to have a study. However, there’s no evidence of the study. And officials in swing states where Mr. Trump secured victory, many of which are governed by Republicans, say that there is no evidence of such fraud.
Mr. Spicer also made vague reference to another Pew Research Center study that supposedly backed up Mr. Trump, but the author of the study in question, David Becker, now executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, tweeted again that no such fraud happened.
[Washington Post fact checker Michelle Ye Hee Lee posted a piece Tuesday taking apart Spicer’s assertion. There are no studies that show what Spicer claims.]
[UPDATE: Washington Post fact checker Michelle Ye Hee Lee follows up, Trump’s absurd claim the 2012 Pew report researcher was ‘groveling’: “Yet again, we award Trump Four Pinocchios for his claim.”]
When a reporter pointed out to Mr. Spicer that such widespread fraud would be one of the biggest scandals in American electoral history and asked why the administration isn’t investigating, the press secretary said, “Maybe we will.”
Trump doubled-down on his delusional grievances today. Trump seeks ‘major investigation’ into unsupported claims of voter fraud:
President Trump plans to ask for a “major investigation” into allegations of widespread voter fraud as he continues to claim, without providing evidence, that he lost the popular vote in November’s election because millions of illegal votes were cast, according to tweets posted Wednesday.
The White House has yet to provide details, but Trump said in back-to-back tweets that the investigation into “VOTER FRAUD” — Trump used all capitals for emphasis — would cover “those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal” and “those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).”
“Depending on results,” Trump tweeted, “we will strengthen up voting procedures!”
Trump did not indicate who would lead such an investigation or what ground it would cover. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on whether it would now launch an investigation.
As you might imagine, the secretaries of state of the several states — most of whom are Republican — are not at all happy with Trump suggesting that they are not carrying out their official duties. While Trump promises voter fraud probe, election officials say they don’t know ‘of any evidence’ backing his claims:
On Tuesday afternoon, the group representing many of the country’s chief state election officials — otherwise known as the people who actually oversee elections in each state — said they did not know of “any evidence” backing up Trump’s claims. The group also said that if the Trump White House had concerns, they were willing to hear from them.
“We are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump, but we are open to learning more about the administration’s concerns,” the National Association of Secretaries of State said in a statement.
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After Trump’s tweet Wednesday morning calling for a voter fraud investigation, Jon Husted, Ohio’s Secretary of State and a Republican, replied by saying that officials already had a review underway in his state. “Easy to vote, hard to cheat,” he added.
Here is a smattering of the fact checks from just the past couple of days alone debunking Trump’s delusional claims:
Trump Won’t Back Down From His Voting Fraud Lie. Here Are the Facts. (New York Times)
Trump wants to investigate purported mass voter fraud. We pre-debunked his evidence (The Monkey Cage at The Washington Post)
Recidivism Watch: Trump’s claim that millions of people voted illegally (Fact Checker at The Washington Post)
Here are nine investigations on voter fraud that found virtually nothing (Wonkblog at The Washington Post)
Greg Sargent at The Washington Post makes the salient point: Sean Spicer just said Trump believes millions voted illegally. Here’s the problem: No one can tell him otherwise.
Can anyone talk Trump into accepting reality? Is anyone seriously trying?
It is bad enough that Trump repeated the lie about millions voting illegally in private. But now the White House has declined to correct the record when given the chance to do so publicly. The White House, of course, is stuck in the position of asserting that Trump really believes this, because, well, he said it, and copping to a knowing lie on Trump’s part would lead to more criticism. But the end result is that the White House is allowing the underlying false claim to stand.
To paraphrase the line from Apollo 13: “America, we have a problem.” The always insecure egomaniacal Twitter-Troll-in-Chief is delusional, if not insane. He is emotionally, and quite probably, mentally “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
How long can this go on before our political leaders are forced to consider invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment?
UPDATE: Glenn Thrush reports on Trump’s Voter Fraud Example? A Troubled Tale With Bernhard Langer:
The witnesses described the story this way: Mr. Langer, a 59-year-old native of Bavaria, Germany — a winner of the Masters twice and of more than 100 events on major professional golf tours around the world — was standing in line at a polling place near his home in Florida on Election Day, the president explained, when an official informed Mr. Langer he would not be able to vote.
Ahead of and behind Mr. Langer were voters who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote, Mr. Trump said, according to the staff members — but they were nonetheless permitted to cast provisional ballots. The president threw out the names of Latin American countries that the voters might have come from.
Mr. Langer, whom he described as a supporter, left feeling frustrated, according to a version of events later contradicted by a White House official.
Just one problem: Mr. Langer, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., is a German citizen with permanent residence status in the United States who is, by law, barred from voting, according to Mr. Langer’s daughter Christina.
“He is a citizen of Germany,” she said, when reached on her father’s cellphone. “He is not a friend of President Trump’s, and I don’t know why he would talk about him.”
Wow. As Steve Benen comments, “Why is this the perfect Donald Trump story? Because it checks so many boxes: Trump got to brag about knowing a celebrity, who shared a bizarre and racially charged anecdote, which the president believed because he lacks anything resembling critical-thinking skills, which then led the president to concoct a broader conspiracy theory about immigrants, which in turn helped soothe Trump’s bruised and unhealthy ego.”
The Washington Post’s conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin suggests, Maybe Trump isn’t ‘lying’, “there is a difference between distorting reality and being delusional”:
The supposition among pundits, elected officials and political insiders is that Trump, like his argument over the inaugural crowd size, “lies” to make himself feel better. His staff salutes, repeats his lies and then gets bashed. What if, however, he thoroughly, “honestly” believes his crazy, unsubstantiated claims? When he denies saying something, what if he honestly does not, cannot recall statements that now come back to haunt him?
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Putting aside the psychiatric lingo, Sen. Ted Cruz’s essential point — Trump cannot tell what is real and what is not — surely looks right on point less than a week into the presidency.
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We are not calling — yet — for invocation of Section 4 of the 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.”)
We are calling for someone, perhaps his children, to see if they can prevail upon him to stop behaving in this way, for if not, legitimate worries will mount about whether he is able to carry out his duties. We also are saying that Republicans need to be pressed to state their view: Is he lying or is he unable to separate what he wants to believe and what exists, literally, in front of his eyes? The first makes him morally unfit, and was the basis upon which many #NeverTrumpers refused to vote for him. If the latter, they — and we all — have a constitutional crisis the likes of which we have never seen. With Trump, however, we have learned the past provides no guarantees.
Heather Digby Parton writes at Salon, Don’t look now: It’s President Pence! Donald Trump can be deposed, even without impeachment:
When the president was reported to have told congressional leaders on Monday that he still believed 3 million to 5 million illegal votes had been cast in the election, causing him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, it became clear that Trump’s erratic behavior was not stopping. Leaks have been pouring out from inside the nascent administration, giving a picture of an insecure, irrational man who is obsessed with his image and little else. [See, In his first major TV interview as president, Trump is endlessly obsessed with his popularity.]
According to an article in The Washington Post, Trump’s inner circle is overwhelmed by power struggles and internecine battles while the president fulminates over every criticism. The New York Times has reported that his staff is concerned about his “simmering resentment” at what he thinks is unfair press coverage. Politico has reported that aides are trying to minimize his incessant TV viewing, and according to a report by Axios, Trump is running his administration almost entirely in reaction to what he sees in the media. [See also The Washington Post and The New York Times.] He sounds as if he is unable to handle the stress and is using avoidance mechanisms.
So what happens if President Trump cannot pull himself together and continues to psychologically unravel? There is a remedy other than impeachment. Even conservatives like David Frum have been talking about it for a while:
The 25th Amendment was added to the Constitution after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and provides for the replacement of the vice president if the office becomes vacant. (So it led indirectly to the presidency of Gerald Ford, the only American president who was never elected to any national office.) But Section 4 is about something else entirely:
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.
It’s obvious that Trump has a narcissistic personality, which in itself is not disqualifying. He’s not the first president to have one; nor will he be the last. But his issues seem to run deeper than that. Some observers have suggested that he shows the characteristics of classic psychopathy. And there are plenty of people who see his behavior as blatantly self-destructive.
Of course it’s an extreme long shot that members of Trump’s Cabinet or the Republican leadership in Congress would ever take such a drastic step. (Although it’s not at all hard to imagine that in their hearts many of them would prefer President Mike Pence.) This would only happen if Trump really started to behave in a unhinged fashion. After all the bizarre behavior he has exhibited over the past 18 months, one cannot help but wonder: What could possibly count as going too far? It’s almost too terrifying to imagine.