Menu Close

IN FOCUS – Impeachment — May a President Be Impeached for Mental Impairment?

White House

House Republicans finally have set a date to begin impeachment proceedings against President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.  The inquiry will kick off with a hearing on Thursday, September 28 before the House Oversight Committee.  This first hearing apparently will deal more with constitutional and legal issues than presenting evidence — but they need to begin somewhere.

Don’t expect to read much about the impeachment from our Deep State-controlled press.  Last week, the White House issued a directive to U.S. news organizations as to how it should cover the Biden impeachment, boldly entitled:  “It’s Time For The Media To Do More To Scrutinize House Republicans’ Demonstrably False Claims That They’re Basing Impeachment Stunt On.”  The author was “Ian Sams, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor and Spokesman for White House Counsel’s Office.”  The directive stated: “It’s time for the media to ramp up its scrutiny of House Republicans for opening an impeachment inquiry based on lies.” (Emphasis original.)  Attached to the memo was a “14-page appendix,” which the memo claims “comprehensively addresses the 7 key lies House Republicans are suggesting they are basing an impeachment on.”  (Note that this “spokesman” for the White House Counsel’s office ended this sentence with a preposition.)  The 7 charges against Biden addressed in the press directive are that:

  1. Biden engaged in a bribery scheme with a foreign national;
  2. Biden got the Ukrainian prosecutor general fired in order to help the company where his son served on the board; 
  3. Biden participated in his family’s global business ventures with America’s adversaries;
  4. Biden is compromised by deals with foreign adversaries and it is impacting his decision making;
  5. The Biden Administration interfered with the investigation of Hunter Biden; 
  6. The Biden Administration stonewalled congressional investigations; and 
  7. Biden changed his story on his involvement with Hunter’s business dealings.

Thus far, almost all of the grounds for impeachment of President Biden that have been raised have focused on corrupt actions committed while he was serving as Vice President from January 2009 through January 2017, and dereliction of duty while serving as President.  But today we address a different issue as President Biden deteriorates mentally — can he be impeached for mental incapacity and the inability to do his job?

A May 2023  poll by leftist National Public Radio found that Americans believed, by a 62-36 percent margin, that Biden’s notable mental stumbles are a real concern as he plans a run for a second four-year term.  What does the nation do if the President is alive, will not resign, but is obviously suffering from extreme mental deficiencies?  What constitutional options are available?

During the debates on adoption of the Constitution, some Founders argued that impeachment’s sweep should include protecting the nation against the mental decline of a President.  James Madison, for example, argued it was “indispensable that some provision should be made for defending the community against the incapacity … of the Chief Magistrate” as “[l]oss of capacity might be fatal to the Republic.”  Gouverneur Morris also argued that “incapacity” of the President would be among the “causes of impeachment.”  Raoul Berger, Impeachment (Harv. U. Press:  1999) at 189-190.

Nevertheless, Article II, Section 4, specifies that impeachment was to apply only to “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” – and that is quite different than mental incapacity.  The problem of Presidential incapacity originally was covered briefly elsewhere in the Constitution — in Article II, Section 1 — which provided that:

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President….  [Emphasis added.]

Not until 1967 did Congress finally fill in the details of “inability to discharge the duties” by proposing the long and detailed 25th Amendment, which was ratified.  The key provision addressing removal of the president states:

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. [25th Amendment, Section 4 (emphasis added).]

It could be possible that Biden’s incapacity could become so great that even Vice President Harris and a majority of the deeply political Biden Cabinet would feel obligated to advise Congress that the President is incapable of functioning.  However, it is not impossible that these leaders and the First Lady just might want to keep him in office nevertheless.  This would not be the first time that the President’s wife ran the country.  President Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke in October 1919, and First Lady Edith Wilson limited access to him and acted as President.  Because Wilson was not dead, nor willing to resign, and Congress would not declare him “unable to discharge” his office, Edith Wilson exercised the power of the Presidency until Wilson’s term concluded in March 1921.

To be sure, the Constitution clearly limits impeachments to “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” and does not cover impeachment for incapacity.  However, if Biden deteriorates and the Vice President and Biden Cabinet were to refuse to use the provisions of the 25th Amendment, it is at least possible that the constitutional standard would be disregarded by Congress to remove a non-functioning President’s finger from the nuclear trigger.

Editor’s Note: To read the articles in this series, please click here.

Share Now

Share Now