Author and former CIA intelligence officer David Priess presented a lecture on his book How to Get Rid of a President: History’s Guide to Removing Unpopular, Unable, or Unfit Chief Executives on April 30, 2019 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This event was in conjunction with the presentation Priess gave the night before on April 29, 2019 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
During the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, Dr. David Priess served at the CIA as an intelligence officer, manager, and daily intelligence briefer as well as at the State Department as a desk officer in the Near East Bureau. His work included time as the daily intelligence briefer to FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft, presenting to them each morning the highlights of the of President’s Daily Brief (PDB) and other intelligence materials.
Priess is currently a Visiting Fellow at the National Security Institute of George Mason University. He obtained his BA in politicial science from Illinois Wesleyan University, his MA in political science from Duke University, and his PhD in political science from Duke University. He has taught political science classes at Duke University, the George Washington University, and George Mason University and presents to audiences nationwide.
Priess previously presented his first book, The President’s Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America’s Presidents, at both the Library and Museum in 2016. For The President’s Book of Secrets, Priess became the first author to interview for one book every living former President, Vice President, and CIA Director from previous administrations.
As Preiss began he noted the differences between his two books. He stated that his first book was about Presidents acting well; as they received their daily intelligence briefing and they made policy decisions based on these briefings. With his second book, he wanted to balance out his preview of Presidents by detailing what happens when they act badly, and what Americans can do when those Presidents are not working out.
Priess detailed the various ways that a President can be removed from office. The first being, as he noted the way the Founding Fathers envisioned, voters can vote the President out of office. The Founding Fathers debated on the Presidency including having a Council, or having the person being appointed by Congress. They settled on a four year term and that the person could be reelected or voted out. In our history, an incumbent President has been voted out of office 11 times.
A second option is to have the President’s party refuse to nominate the incumbent President during the party primary, or the incumbent is challenged and beaten during the primary. Other options of removing Presidents include: undermining the President’s power to the point they are President in name only either through political opponents, Congress, or staff from their own Administration; the President could pass away from natural causes or through assassination; through the 25th Amendment, a President could be declared disabled, meaning they are unable to perform the duties of the office; and lastly, impeachment is the ability for Congress to remove a President who his doing irreparable harm to the country, a President that is committing treason, committing bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors.
Priess noted that Congressman Gerald R. Ford once said in 1970 during a Judiciary Impeachment Hearing that “high crimes and misdemeanors” was defined by however the U.S. House of Representatives believes it to be.