In February, I looked at the possible methods for getting rid of Donald Trump1. These of course included impeachment, removal because of inability to discharge office and the Salazar solution. If the last two do not work, then impeachment is the only option. However, that would mean the Republican Party would have to admit that they made a grave error in having anything to do with Trump, and that is unlikely, given that these vain politicians are loath to ever admit they made a mistake, monumental though it may be.
The removal from office because of inability to discharge the office is still possible and is now much more likely given the exit of Reince Priebus as chief of staff. That was the last remaining voice of Republican ‘normalcy’ (if that is not an oxymoron) which the Republican Party hoped would be able to at least have some calming influence over the bizarre, petulant Trump. Now that Priebus is gone, removal of Trump is much more likely. The question is: how will it be done?
If you look at interviews with Trump in an earlier incarnation in real estate, you will see that he can actually string words together to form cogent, if simple sentences3. This seems to be largely beyond him now, as some of his garbled utterings seem to indicate. He seems unable to hold a thought for the length of a sentence and seems to get lost before the sentence comes to its completion. It also seems clear that his vocabulary has declined, and his grammar is often mangled4. Whether these indicate cognitive decline in the early stages of some form of dementia is unclear, but this possibility is now being talked about openly5,6. Perhaps the most famous case of incipient dementia in a president is that of Ronald Reagan. Transcripts of Reagan’s speeches have demonstrated that he had started to repeat words and used non-specific nouns (e.g. ‘thing’)6; traits that have been clearly present in Trump’s speeches over the last few years. In fact, numerous mental health professionals and academics have expressed deep concerns about Trump’s ability to discharge the office of president6. These are worrying signs for the US, as Trump has the nominal ability to launch a war, nuclear or otherwise. The one bright spot in this is the replacement of Priebus with John Kelly, who will apparently impose some discipline in the office, as he is a former general in the Marine Corps. However, while it may be easy to discipline the office, attempting to discipline Trump seems next to impossible, as Priebus found to his cost, so it will be interesting to see how long Kelly lasts.
The other possibility of effectively removing Trump is what is called the Salazar solution, where the incumbent remains in office, but is effectively ignored. This was the method employed after a stroke incapacitated the eponymous Portuguese dictator. He was replaced, but still thought he was in charge; he signed papers, dictated orders and received visitors1. This already seems to be happening in the US. Some days ago, Trump tweeted that transgender people would be barred from serving in the armed forces. Trump had stated that this decision was reached after his discussions with his generals. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have indicated that the do not consider tweets to be orders, and so have effectively ignored it7. Similarly, the commandant of the Coast Guard has announced that he will “not break faith” with transgender members in the service8. Whether they can continue to ignore this if a formal order arrives is another story.
Whatever happens in the interim, and however long it takes, Trump will be effectively removed, initially by people ignoring him, and then by the Vice President and the executive, or Congress, invoking the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, and removing Trump by reason of incapacity. I expect this will happen later this year or early next year. If it doesn’t, then the damage to the US reputation in the community of nations will probably be irreparable.