WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump had not even taken office before critics who considered him dangerous began imagining how to get him out.
One idea floated from the very start was the clause in the Constitution permitting the removal of a president deemed unable to discharge his duties.
“Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. Article 4,” David Frum, a conservative author and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote presciently just eight days after Trump’s election in November 2016. “We’re all going to be talking a lot more about it in the months ahead.”
On that, at least, he was right. There has been a lot of talk about it. But what has become increasingly clear in recent days is that the talk has extended not just to those who never supported Trump, but even to some of those who worked for him. As it turns out, according to memos written by an FBI official, the deputy attorney general at one point last year suggested that the president was so unstable that Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet should consider invoking the amendment.
There is no evidence that Pence or any Cabinet members ever seriously contemplated the idea, and the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, now says he does not believe there is a basis for such a removal. Moreover, there are serious obstacles to invoking the amendment in the way Rosenstein is said to have suggested. But the very discussion of it within the administration underscores just how volatile this presidency is and how fractured the team around Trump is.
“Like so much with this president, it’s quite literally without precedent,” said Russell L. Riley, a presidential historian at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. “To anyone’s knowledge, we’ve never been anywhere close to this situation before.”
The disclosure of Rosenstein’s comments by The New York Times followed an essay written by an unnamed senior administration official for The Times’ opinion pages saying that “given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the Cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment,” but “no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.”
Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who worked for Trump in the White House until she was fired, told MSNBC this month that discussion of the 25th Amendment was common enough among her colleagues that they invented a hashtag, #TFA, to use in text messages to each other “whenever he did something that was just so insane and so crazy and unhinged.”
The recent book by Bob Woodward documented how aides around Trump worked to restrain his more impulsive instincts and prevent him from taking actions that they believed were damaging to the country, even to the point of removing draft orders from his desk so he would not sign them. The Michael Wolff book this year said aides had questioned Trump’s mental fitness, which prompted the president to defend himself by saying that he was “a very stable genius.”
Rosenstein raised the 25th Amendment in one of the most chaotic moments of the Trump administration, shortly after the president had fired James Comey, the FBI director, who was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Rosenstein told Andrew McCabe, then the acting FBI director, that he might be able to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security and now the White House chief of staff, to try to recruit support for removal under the amendment.
In a statement, Rosenstein said the Times’ article was inaccurate but did not explicitly deny that he had discussed the 25th Amendment. Instead, he used the present tense to dismiss the prospect. “Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment,” he said.
Rosenstein seemed to feel used after a memo he wrote criticizing Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email case was cited as justification to fire him. Rosenstein then appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to take over the Russia investigation. But to Trump’s allies, the report that Rosenstein raised the 25th Amendment and even talked about secretly taping the president to prove his instability — he said he was joking — bolstered the president’s view that a “deep state” within the government is out to get him.
“It is clear that Rosenstein appointed a special counsel with the mission to remove President Trump from office while also giving himself cover,” said Sam Nunberg, a former campaign adviser to Trump. “What could Rosenstein have possibly thought the president was going to use the Comey memo for besides a rationale to fire Comey? This is a witch hunt.”
Former White House officials said they were not aware of a serious discussion of the 25th Amendment, but it was clear that some people around Trump had serious doubts about his capacity. As a result, the president has governed with a team riven by factions, contributing to dysfunction and leading him to wonder whom he can trust and who might be, in his view, plotting against him.
“I never really had questions about people looking into the 25th Amendment,” said Marc Short, a former White House legislative affairs director for Trump. “But there’s no doubt there were people on the team initially who weren’t all rowing in the same direction, and that fosters a sense of distrust that’s probably still carrying over in some ways.”
The 25th Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1967 after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in part to establish a method to fill the vice presidency if it became vacant. After Lyndon B. Johnson ascended to the presidency, next in line, should something have happened to him, was John W. McCormack, the speaker of the House, then in his 70s and not at his physical peak.
The amendment also outlined what to do if the president was “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” After suffering a severe stroke, President Woodrow Wilson was virtually incapacitated late in his tenure, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower suffered a heart attack and two other major illnesses. The nightmare situation was a president who was in a coma but could not be removed because there was no provision for it. In the nuclear age, when a commander in chief might have to make world-altering decisions in minutes, that was no longer considered tolerable.
The amendment has since been invoked to temporarily transfer power to the vice president during short periods of medical procedures, as when President George W. Bush twice underwent colonoscopies. But only once before has a White House staff been known to seriously contemplate invoking the amendment to permanently replace the president.
When President Ronald Reagan appointed former Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. as chief of staff after the Iran-Contra scandal broke, the new team arriving in the West Wing heard that the aging president was increasingly “inattentive and inept,” as a report prepared by a Baker aide put it. White House officials signed Reagan’s initials to documents for him.
But after Baker ordered aides to observe the president closely to see if it might be necessary to invoke the 25th Amendment, he came to the conclusion that Reagan, while older, was still fit. “Within a couple days of when we got there, we had this lunch and Senator Baker says, ‘You know, boys, I have no doubt this president’s fully capable of performing the job of president of the United States,’” recalled Tom Griscom, one of Baker’s aides.
As a practical matter, the notion that Trump would be removed through the 25th Amendment is more opposition fantasy than plausible outcome, absent a significant change in circumstances. The amendment does not define “unable to discharge” and was devised mainly for a situation when a president had a serious health problem, not for a president whose behavior seems erratic and would fight removal.
The amendment can be put to use only if the vice president agrees, and few can imagine Pence, who has made public loyalty to Trump his calling card, going along without a more extreme situation. The amendment then requires the support of a majority of the Cabinet or some other body designated by Congress. Congress has never designated such a body, leaving the matter to the Cabinet.
Even if the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet were to decide to invoke the amendment, there is an appeals process. The deposed president could inform Congress that he is, in fact, capable of carrying out the duties, and it would require a two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate to reject that determination and remove him — a burden even higher than impeachment, which requires only a majority in the House as well as a two-thirds vote of the Senate for conviction and removal.
Pence dismissed the issue in a recent interview on “Face the Nation” on CBS, denying being part of any discussion about invoking the amendment. “No, never, and why would we be?” he said.
Griscom said the amendment did not really fit the circumstances. “I’m not sure there’s anything here that you could say Section 4 applies,” he said. “That’s the part that became somewhat troubling — you serve at the pleasure of the president. If you do not think the president is exercising the duties of the presidency, say it. You’ve got a choice, stay or resign.”
Still, it reflects the level of frustration and concern inside the president’s own team. Twenty-two months after he first raised the question, Frum did not seem at all surprised that it has been the topic of conversation within the administration: “Here the people on the inside are recognizing this guy can’t do the job — ‘I can’t get his attention and it’s getting worse every week.’”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
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Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
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Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.