Just when you thought this year couldn’t possibly get any worse, reports have emerged that the coronavirus is spreading throughout the White House. As of Tuesday, we know that Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant, President Donald Trump’s valet, Stephen Miller’s wife, and at least 11 Secret Service agents have tested positive for the virus. With the contagiousness of the virus well established, it’s impossible not to be concerned that Trump himself may have contracted the disease. Indeed, Pence is at risk as well.
So if those two are out of commission due to strict quarantine or illness, who assumes control of the presidency?
You guessed it.
“Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution provides that Congress may declare who should act as president if both the president and vice president died or were otherwise unable to serve during their terms of office,” writes Seth Cohen at Forbes. “The most recent legislation that governs the line of succession today is the Presidential Succession Act of 1947. The Act, which was passed two years after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt and done so at the urging of President Truman, set the order by which the succession to the presidency would occur, prioritizing the next two most senior elected officials in the country, first the speaker of the House of Representatives, and then the president pro tempore of the Senate.”
We ordinarily think of invoking the Presidential Line of Succession only in the occasion of the president’s death, but that wouldn’t necessarily need to be the case. The Succession Act says we could see a new president – or at least an acting president – “if, by reason of death, resignation, removal from office, inability, or failure to qualify, there is neither a President nor Vice President to discharge the powers and duties of the office of President.”
Now, let’s pump the brakes. Self-quarantine alone would not be enough to hand the levers of power over to Pence, and it certainly wouldn’t put Pelosi in the White House. As we saw last month in Britain, there was no need to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, and he was extremely ill to the point of hospitalization. To invoke the line of succession, Trump and/or Pence would have to be seriously incapacitated.
That seems unlikely…but then again, this has been a year for unlikely events.
Trump himself caught wind of Pelosi’s proximity to the Oval Office on Tuesday when he retweeted an article talking about how she would take over if he and Pence were unable to fulfill their duties. His response was…well, classic Trump.
“Then we must be very careful,” he tweeted. “Crazy Nancy would be a total disaster, and the USA will never be a Communist Country!”
For the love of God, put on a mask, Mr. President. A whole hazmat suit, if necessary. 2020 has been bad enough without even imagining the prospect of President Nancy–
No, we won’t even say it again.