The US is in the midst of the gravest crisis of executive authority in its almost 250 year history. We may later learn that some of these reports are incomplete or even erroneous. But based on reliable reporting, the Vice President is considering or at least “not ruling out” removing the President from office, pursuant to the 25th Amendment. The Speaker of the House has conferred with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about protecting the country’s nuclear arsenal from the President. (Just as importantly she announced this publicly, with the tacit silence of the country’s top general.) The House is moving rapidly toward impeaching the President and while it still seems unlikely it is now by no means impossible that the Senate will vote to remove him from office. Over just the first days of January President Trump has committed a number of acts which are reasonably viewed as statutory felonies – solicitation of election fraud, obstruction of justice, incitement to riot, et al.
Meanwhile, the President has not been seen in public since Wednesday morning when he spoke to the insurrectionist crowd shortly before it marched on Capitol Hill.
My initial claim about the gravity of the crisis may at first seem hyperbolic. But I think it is unquestionably true. While the final days of Richard Nixon’s presidency bear some parallels, nothing remotely like this has happened. It is not simply that there seems to be a real chance that the President will be removed from office. It is not clear currently that the President is actually acting as President. It is not clear his orders are being followed or that he is even giving them.
The only constitutional consolation is that this can’t go on forever. Indeed, it can’t go on for more than ten days. But even in that constrained span of time I’m not sure people are grasping the extra-constitutional passage through which the country is passing.