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Who becomes president if Trump is impeached and removed from office

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  • On December 18, the US House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump, charging him with abusing power in the Ukraine scandal and obstructing Congress.
  • In January 2020, the Senate plans to hold a historic trial to determine whether to remove Trump from office.
  • Given the current partisan makeup of the Senate, it’s unlikely for Trump to be convicted and removed from office, which requires the vote of 67 Senators
  • In the improbable event that Trump is removed from office, current Vice President Mike Pence would take over the office of the presidency due to the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
  • Under the current Presidential Succession Act, first passed in 1947, the vice president is followed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the president pro tempore of the Senate.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Beginning in January 2020, the US Senate plans to hold a historic impeachment trial to determine whether to remove President Donald Trump from office. 

On December 18, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on articles of abusing his office and obstructing Congress.

Now, whether the charges stick are in the hands of the Senate. The constitutional mechanism for the impeachment of a federal officer — including presidents, vice presidents, and federal judges — is laid out in Article II, Section 4 of the US constitution, which reads, “the President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Given the current partisan makeup of the Senate, it’s highly unlikely for Trump to be convicted and removed from office, which requires a two-thirds majority vote of 67 Senators. Currently, the Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two independents who caucus with Democrats.

FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2018, file photo, Vice President Mike Pence gestures during an event on the creation of a U.S. Space Force at the Pentagon. Rising space power China is attacking the newly created U.S. Space Force as a “direct threat to outer space peace and security." Its foreign ministry says China is “deeply concerned about it and resolutely opposed to it." (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

If Trump is removed from office, this guy becomes president.
Associated Press


In the improbable event that Trump is removed from office, current Vice President Mike Pence would take over the office of the presidency due to the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which stipulates that “in case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.”

If the vice president doesn’t take office for some reason, Nancy Pelosi tales the Oval Office

Under the current Presidential Succession Act, first passed in 1947 and amended in 2006, the vice president is the first in the line of succession to the presidency followed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, currently Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and the president pro tempore of the US Senate, currently GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley.

After those three officials, the line of succession is made up of the president’s cabinet officials. The Secretary of State is fourth in the line of succession, followed by the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the Attorney General with the Secretary of Homeland Security, the most recently-created department, in the last place.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., flanked by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., left, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., speaks reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on two charges, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Associated Press


This ordering of cabinet officials is why at every State of the Union, one cabinet secretary is the “designated survivor” and does not attend the speech in the US Capitol to ensure that someone in the presidential line of succession is safe in the event that the Capitol experiences a bombing, for example.

The presidential line of succession is also affected by whether the members of Congress or cabinet officials in it are eligible for the presidency. Under Article II, Section I of the US Constitution, someone must be 35 years old and a “natural-born” US citizen who has lived in the country for 14 years to serve as president.

The current Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, for example, is not in the line of presidential succession because she was born in Taiwan to Chinese, non-US citizen parents.

The Senate has never voted to convict and remove a US president from office in American history. The last two presidents to be impeached by the House, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, were both acquitted by the Senate. 

Read more:

Here’s what’s next for the Senate vote on impeachment

Here’s how Trump could be impeached, removed from office, and still win re-election in 2020

Here are all the US presidents who have been impeached

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry stayed behind during Trump’s State of the Union speech — here’s how past ‘designated survivors’ spent their evenings under high security

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