The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
The chaos in England reminds us how quickly power can dissolve when overplayed by a leader. Conservative populist Boris Johnson recently achieved a lifelong dream of becoming Prime Minister by boldly committing to exit the European Union, with or without a transition, and then using his newfound power to get the Queen to agree to the suspension of Parliament to prevent the opposition from speaking.
Parliament revolted and suddenly 21 Conservative Parliamentarians, including his brother, voted against Johnson, thus stripping his newly-won power in a single day. No doubt he would have been removed from office, but lacking a written Constitution, the British had no desirable way to oust him. There showman Johnson sits hoisted on his own petard without any good options. He went too far.
Could this happen in America? Unlikely as it seems, it is certainly possible. President Trump has overreached in many areas, and his antics are running out of fans in the electorate.
The most recent Washington Post-NBC poll measures Trump’s popularity at 38%, the lowest level of his presidency. In the midst of the Watergate scandal, 41% of voters still supported President Nixon. State polls have Trump behind in Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which by the narrowest margins handed him the presidency.
Aware that a political disaster may be in their future, House Republicans seemingly lose another member to retirement every week.
The case of Boris Johnson reminds us that power can vanish overnight in democracies. Unlike the British, who have no written Constitution and are condemned to deal with the Brexit mess by searching for precedents, the U.S. Constitution offers two options to remove a leader from office: impeachment and the 25th Amendment.
The first is impeachment requiring that the House act as a grand jury and after finding grave injury to the public interest, files a Bill of Impeachment which must be approved by a majority of the House. Only Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson endured this indignity. The drama then moves to the Senate, which sits as a jury with the Chief Justice presiding. Both sides are represented as in a normal trial, and conviction requires a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate.
A second option is provided by the 25th Amendment, passed by the 89th Congress in 1965 in the wake of the Kennedy assassination and in the midst of the Cold War. It has never been invoked.
The amendment states that a president would be removed if a letter sent to the Speaker of the House and President pro tempore of Senate by the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet states the president is not capable of carrying out the duties of the office. In the case that the vice president and cabinet would not act in the event of an obvious disability, Congress granted itself the right to assemble a group of its choosing to carry out a thorough investigation and make a recommendation. Every falsehood and outrage bring closer the once long odds that Trump will face impeachment.
When a leader’s popularity tanks, charges against him or her take on more gravitas. Trump has given House investigators a mountain of potential scandal to dig into.
Since Trump is the first president in memory to refuse financial separation from his business, formally appointed impeachment investigators will be scrutinizing financial practices, asking if the Trumps have violated the Constitutional ban on sitting presidents profiting while in office.
Also, do the Russians have any impact on his financial dealings and to what extent does that impact national security? In fact, why is this President considered a security risk by our intelligence agencies?
Why is he so obviously in the pocket of the National Rifle Association?
The saga across the Atlantic reminds us how power can evaporate with warp speed when abused. Boris Johnson’s hero is Trump. At some point we will know if Johnson is Trump’s political doppelganger.
Terry Bracy has served as a political adviser, campaign manager, congressional aide, sub-Cabinet official, board member and as an adviser to presidents. He regularly contributes to the Arizona Daily Star.