Months into President Joe Biden’s first term, supporters of former President Donald Trump are still touting the “big lie” that Trump actually won the 2020 election. One of the prominent supporters of these theories is Trump’s former lawyer Sidney Powell, who is facing a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit for promoting the big lie. In defending herself against the lawsuit, Powell has argued that no reasonable people would have believed her assertions of fraud.
But outside court, Powell has continued to play to Trump’s base and bolster theories related to the big lie.
During an event in Dallas on Sunday that was also attended by prominent peddlers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, Powell suggested 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.”
Facts First: It is total nonsense for Powell to claim that Trump could simply be reinstated and that a new Inauguration Day could be set.
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.’ “
Ratified in 1933, the 20th Amendment established Inauguration Day as January 20.
“It would take a new constitutional amendment to change that,” Eugene Volokh, a professor at UCLA School of Law, told CNN.
Per the 20th Amendment, the only way someone else could serve as acting president is if Congress determined that neither the president-elect nor vice president-elect has qualified by Inauguration Day. However, seeing as the results of the election declaring Biden victorious were certified, the window for such a possibility has closed.
According to Volokh, under the current Constitution a sitting president can be removed ahead of the expiration of their term only through resignation, impeachment and conviction, or the provisions for presidential disability in the 25th Amendment.
It’s worth noting that Powell said “should,” so it’s possible she’s not suggesting that the current law allows a president to “simply be reinstated” but that it should. Even so, Harvard University Law School Professor of Constitutional Law Laurence Tribe told CNN it’s “still weird and wild,” adding that it’s likely “it would be unconstitutional if a law was passed to that effect.”
Tribe referred to Powell’s comments as “part of a fantasy world that is truly dangerous to democracy.”