Supporters of former President Donald Trump are still touting the “big lie” that Trump won the 2020 election months into President Joe Biden’s first term. Trump’s former lawyer Sidney Powell, who is facing a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit for promoting the big lie, is one of the most vocal supporters of these theories. Powell has argued in her defense against the lawsuit that no reasonable person would believe her claims of fraud.
Outside of court, however, Powell has continued to pander to Trump’s base and bolster conspiracy theories about the big lie.
Powell suggested that Trump could be reinstated as president even now, saying that “it should be that he can simply be reinstated, that a new Inauguration Day is set” during an event in Dallas on Sunday that was also attended by prominent peddlers of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
According to CNN legal analyst Steve Vladeck, “Powell is just making stuff up. There’s no regulation, rule, statute or constitutional provision that comes within a million light-years of what she’s describing. There is no mechanism for ‘reinstating’ a former President. There is no procedure for setting a ‘new Inauguration Day.’ “
The 20th Amendment, which was ratified in 1933, established January 20 as Inauguration Day.
“It would take a new constitutional amendment to change that,” Eugene Volokh, a professor at UCLA School of Law, told CNN.
The only way someone else could act as president under the 20th Amendment is if Congress determines that neither the president-elect nor the vice president-elect have qualified by Inauguration Day. However, since the election results declaring Biden the winner were certified, the window for such a scenario has closed.
According to Volokh, a sitting president can only be removed before his or her term expires under the current Constitution by resigning, being impeached and convicted, or using the 25th Amendment’s provisions for presidential disability.
Powell said “should,” so it’s possible she doesn’t mean that the current law allows a president to “simply be reinstated,” but rather that it should. Even so, Harvard University Law School Professor of Constitutional Law Laurence Tribe told CNN that it’s “still weird and wild,” adding that “a law passed to that effect would most likely be unconstitutional.”
Tribe referred to Powell’s comments as “part of a fantasy world that is truly dangerous to democracy.”