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Northwestern professors available on domestic terrorism, 25th Amendment

Federal authorities foiled a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with 13 people being arrested who reportedly have ties to a far-right militia group. Northwestern historian Kevin Boyle teaches and writes about political extremism in the 20th century and is available for comment. 

In addition, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), concerned about President Trump’s health and decision-making abilities, were expected to introduce legislation today that would create a commission to “help ensure effective and uninterrupted leadership” in the presidency.

The panel would be called the Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office, “the body and process called for in the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” The 25th Amendment formalizes that the vice president takes over the duties of the presidency in the event of a president’s death, inability to perform his duties or resignation from office. It also lays out a process by which a sitting president may be removed from office. 

Professors from history and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law are available for comment on the 25th Amendment.

On political extremism

Kevin Boyle, William Smith Mason Professor of American History in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, is an historian of the twentieth century United States, with a particular interest in modern American social movements. He is currently at work on two book projects: “The Splendid Dead,” a micro-history of political extremism and repression in the early twentieth century; and “The Splintering,” a narrative history of the 1960s. He teaches undergraduate courses on modern United States history, the civil rights movement, and racial violence and graduate courses in twentieth-century American history, working-class history, and narrative history. To arrange an interview, please email Hilary Hurd Anyaso at h-anyaso@northwestern.edu or Stephanie Kulke at stephanie.kulke@northwestern.edu.

On 25thAmendment

Michael J. Allen is an associate professor of history, with a focus on U.S. politics and diplomacy. Professor Allen has limited availability today. To arrange an interview, please email Hilary Hurd Anyaso at 
h-anyaso@northwestern.edu or Stephanie Kulke at 
stephanie.kulke@northwestern.edu.

Quote from Professor Allen
“Not since its adoption in 1965 has the obscure 25th Amendment been such a frequent topic of discussion as during the Trump Administration, when observers have regularly speculated about the invocation of its Section 4 authority, by which the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet might declare to Congress that President Trump is unable or unfit to discharge the duties of his office. 

“Now, with President Trump undergoing experimental treatment for COVID-19, the 25th Amendment again comes into play, specifically Section 3, which allows the President to voluntarily and temporarily transfer presidential power to the Vice President during a period of incapacity. 

“Such a transfer of power has occurred before – most recently when President George W. Bush underwent colonoscopies – but never so close to a fiercely contested election, never in such a perilous moment as the current pandemic and never with a president who would seem to be so gravely ill. Under such circumstances, the invocation of the 25th Amendment represents an incipient national crisis.”

Juliet Sorensen is a clinical professor of law and executive director of Injustice Watch. From 2003-2010, Sorensen was an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, focusing on fraud and public corruption. She can be reached at j-sorensen@law.northwestern.edu.

Daniel Rodriguez is the Harold Washington Professor of Law and previously served as a dean of the Law School. Among his focus areas are administrative law, local government law and federal and state constitutional law. He can be reached at Daniel.rodriguez@law.northwestern.edu.

Find more sources on the 2020 Elections and other news of the day on Northwestern’s For Journalists faculty experts hub