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What the 25th Amendment Means Now That Trump Has COVID-19

NATIONWIDE — President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis has a lot of people asking about the 25th Amendment.

What You Need To Know

The 25th Amendment goes over the transfer of power — what happens when the president chooses to transfer his powers and when he does not. Sections three and four, in particular, are what people are looking at now.

Section three says the vice president will take over command when the president gives his written declaration that he cannot perform his duties. The president gets that message to the president pro tempore of the Senate and speaker of the House. The vice president stays in charge until the president writes he is ready to come back.

Section three has been invoked a handful of times, both formally and informally. Most recently when then-President George W. Bush underwent anesthesia for two routine colonoscopies.

Section four goes over what happens when a president is incapable of declaring his incapacity. In that case, the vice president and a majority of cabinet secretaries write to the speaker of the House and President pro tempore of the Senate that the president is unable to perform his duties and the vice president takes over.

But if the president disputes this, the vice president and cabinet secretaries have to go through the process again. Congress makes the ultimate decision. It would take a two-thirds vote to remove the president from power.

Another option in section four outlines the vice president working with “such other body as Congress may by law provide.” That could mean an independent review board or a psychologist, for instance. The language is broad.

“One of the great things about our democracy is there’s a secession plan in place, so we will never be without a national leadership,” explained Dr. Jeremy Levitt, professor of law at Florida A&M University. “That secession plan is very clearly spelled out in the genius of the 25th Amendment.”

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