Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe says Justice Department officials discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to suspend President Donald Trump's power early in his presidency. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key Trump defender, has vowed to investigate, calling it an attempted "administrative coup."
That's a reckless allegation. The 25th Amendment is there to address presidential instability, something strongly suggested by Trump's behavior during his two years in office. The latest example came Sunday, when Trump opined on Twitter that there should be some kind of federal response to a "Saturday Night Live" skit he didn't like.
If Graham wants to investigate these alleged 25th Amendment discussions, great — as long as those hearings also look at the mounting evidence that Trump may, in fact, be mentally unstable.
In May 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey over the agency's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election (as Trump himself admitted on national television afterward). As McCabe said on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Comey's firing made FBI officials consider for the first time whether the president might be compromised in some way.
McCabe says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein raised the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment, under which the vice president and Cabinet can suspend a president's authority if he is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" due to physical or mental incapacitation.
Rosenstein, McCabe said, "was definitely very concerned about the president, about his capacity." As well he should have been. But the discussions apparently never went past the spit-balling stage.
McCabe was fired in March, hours before he was to retire with pension, ostensibly over a disputed allegation that he lied about press leaks. The move to deny McCabe his pension spotlighted Trump's well-known vindictiveness, but also makes it fair to examine McCabe's motives now in telling this story. As does the fact that he's currently marketing a book.
But none of that negates Trump's multiple, glaring signs of instability, including: his Twitter rants — like Sunday's "SNL" diatribe — against even the mildest criticism from any source; his disjointed speeches, like last week's Rose Garden labyrinth of immigration paranoia; his seeming inability to understand that the Russian government is not a source from which he should accept intelligence information that contradicts what U.S. intelligence professionals tell him.
For more than two years, Trump has appeared to be America's most prodigious presidential liar. But what if the truth is that this president has literally lost the ability to distinguish reality from fantasy? It's something to consider next time Trump gamely insists that construction of his border wall is well underway when, in fact, it isn't.
So by all means, Graham should bring on the hearings — provided they address not just whether the 25th Amendment discussions happened but whether they were, perhaps, justified.
-- St. Louis Post-Dispatch