President Donald Trump's sudden trip to Walter Reed's medical facility raised immediate constitutional questions – as the president prepared for an extended hospital stay a few weeks before the election.
It would be the first extended hospital stay for a seated US president since the shooting of Ronald Reagan in 1981. It wasn't just a short trip to the doctor – which the President can do in a specialized medical department of the White House by well-trained doctors.
"Out of caution and on the recommendation of his doctor and medical experts, the President will be working in the President's offices of Walter Reed for the next few days," said Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary.
There was no transfer of power to Vice President Mike Pence, as had rarely happened in the past, as President George W. Bush did in 2002 during a medical procedure on Vice President Dick Cheney.
Vice President Mike Pence comes first in the line of succession. But the President "is responsible," said the White House
A Marine One pilot wears a face mask as President Donald Trump prepares to leave the White House to go to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after testing positive for COVID in Washington on Friday, October 2, 2020 -19 was tested. The President should stay in the hospital for "the next few days," the White House said
"The president is responsible," White House communications director Alyssa Farrah, a former pence spokeswoman, told NBC News.
Pence was working from his official residence at the Naval Observatory, according to an administrative officer who said he was "in good health."
The vice president also has an office in the old executive office building on White House grounds – but campus security was questioned as a handful of officials attended Saturday's event where Trump announced his nomination for the Colonel Court tested positive for office coronavirus.
The key factor will be Trump's condition and whether he needs to be sedated for medical treatment for some reason or otherwise unable to perform his duties.
In their public comments on Friday, Aides described the president as "barking" orders and keeping a steady hand on the ship of state – although the nation wasn't supposed to look at him until he left Marine One.
Pence wasn't visible either. He only ran one conference call where he stood up for Trump. His office did not immediately disclose his whereabouts.
President George W. Bush boards Marine One when he leaves the Washington White House on June 28, 2002. D. C. Bush transferred power to Vice President Dick Cheney when Bush was undergoing a colonoscopy
The presidential doctor Dr. Richard Tubb briefs the press about the colonoscopy exam. President George W. Bush underwent the President's withdrawal from Camp David from the White House briefing room in Washington, DC, on June 29, 2002. There was no briefing at the White House on Friday after Donald Trump said he tested positive for the coronavirus
Trump's positive test for the coronavirus sparked cascading effects in the chain of government – and poses a number of constitutional problems should he suffer a difficult illness or lose his battle with the disease.
The Constitution and the laws passed by Congress provide for a series of successions and provisions for what happens next if the President is incapacitated. A network of party and state election laws stipulate what to do if a candidate on the ballot has to be replaced.
Election day itself is set by law and can only be postponed by an act of Congress.
But there are ambiguities in all areas – from national party rules to state suffrage to succession – which only 32 days before the November 3rd elections offer multiple avenues for chaos.
Who is responsible for the land now?
President Trump remains accountable in both title and operation. The White House reports that he is experiencing mild symptoms and there have been media reports that he was lethargic on his way back from the events Wednesday and Thursday.
The White House Doctor says Trump and First Lady Melania Trump "are both good at this time."
The president has canceled a planned rally and has a single event on his agenda. He hasn't tweeted since he announced earlier this morning that he tested positive for COVID-19.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters he spoke to the president and Trump immediately put him through with inquiries about the country. His first question to me this morning was: How is the economy doing? How are business talks going on Capitol Hill? & # 39; he said.
In reality, the massive US government continues to advance even when the president is overseas or taking care of his campaign or other matters. The main issue Meadows mentioned – a coronavirus aid package – has already been largely negotiated by Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. All the president needs is a deregistration and his signature.
Should Trump's condition worsen, there are provisions for the transfer of temporary authority to the vice president. Trump is 74 years old and medically obese, which puts him at higher risk than many Americans.
In the worst case, who comes after Mike Pence?
The line of succession is determined by law – although there are ambiguities. Pence's role as successor is enshrined in the constitution. The vice president tested negative for the coronavirus, his office said on Friday.
Should the 60-year-old Pence become incapacitated or unable to serve, the next candidate for the presidency would be Nancy Pelosi, 80, a Democrat, under the Presidential Succession Act.
Next up is the pro tempore Senate President, the party member with the highest majority, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, 87.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would be next, followed by other secretaries.
Should Pelosi be increased, the Republicans could question inheritance law. Some scholars question its constitutionality, and there are questions as to whether she would have to resign to intervene.
The 25th amendment also contains provisions allowing the Cabinet to intervene if the President "is unable to perform the powers and duties of his office". It happened during the Russia investigation when it became known that former Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had commented on it at a meeting while Trump was raging over the investigation. Rosenstein said he was joking.
In a scenario where President Trump lived and tried to deny the move, it would force a vote in Congress, requiring two-thirds of the vote in each house for his removal.
Can Republicans replace Donald Trump on the ballot?
The Republican National Committee has the option to nominate the vice-presidential candidate or another Republican in the event Trump retires or dies in office.
It turns out that RNC chairman Ronna McDaniel tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, as reported on Friday.
Whenever there was a change, all 168 members of the RNC would have to meet to vote on Trump's replacement.
All members of states and territories would vote and meet like they did in Charlotte. During a snap this summer when Trump tried to postpone the convention, party officials concluded that the RNC needed to meet and could not virtually conduct its vote.
Replacing Trump on the ballot would be an extreme challenge – also because people in many states have already started voting.
Even if Trump died in office before election day, his name could still be on the ballot.
Even so, the electoral college could offer a solution. People who vote for Trump are actually voting for a list of voters.
The electoral college meets in Congress on December 14th.
Basically, the chances are that even if Donald Trump's name was still on the ballot and he had withdrawn, those voters could still vote for whatever that is, December John Fortier, the commission's former executive director for continuity of government, said NPR.
People wait in line to cast their ballots in person for the November 3rd election on the Chicago Board of Elections' Loop Super Site in Chicago, Illinois on October 1st, 2020
One of the most challenging scenarios is what will happen if the Vice President and Cabinet wanted the President to leave, but he was still alive and did not want to leave.
"Congress may have to decide whether to keep the president or the vice-president," said Fortier. "So it could go on, but that would be the more extreme version."
“Could the President's name be removed from the vote? I think it would be very difficult, ”he said.
Can the election be postponed in any way?
This is an idea that Trump himself hovered as a coronavirus hit – only to be shot down immediately by Republican congressional leaders.
Election day on November 3rd is set by law, not the constitution, and is subject to technical changes. However, this would require legislative action from the Democratic House and the Republican Senate with the signature of the President.
This power to determine elections arises from Article II of the Constitution.
It is possible that states are still taking action to change their electoral rules. Many have already done this amid the coronavirus, but these changes have already brought legal challenges with them. The Republican Party and its allies have fought a variety of changes to expand postal voting, eliminate secondary envelopes, relax postmarking rules and mail delivery times, send postal ballot papers to all registered voters, and other steps.
Any final changes just a few weeks before election day would certainly pose challenges for those interested.
The constitution provides for the end of the presidential term on January 20th.
States have the power to set the procedures for their elections, and many have chosen to postpone their primaries. But the national election day itself is fixed.
How we got here
The president confirmed on Friday that he and First Lady Melania tested positive for coronavirus after traveling with consultant Hope Hicks, who became ill on Wednesday.
& # 39; Tonight @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will start the quarantine and recovery process immediately. We'll get through this TOGETHER! & # 39; he tweeted.
Trump is 74 years old, which puts him at higher risk of serious complications from viruses.
With the presidential election less than 32 days away, the positive result means the government may need to consider contingency plans in line with the Constitution should Trump get too sick to pass the race.
The 25th amendment states that the Vice President can temporarily replace the Commander in Chief in the event Trump becomes incapacitated.
When the Vice-President cannot take control either, powers are delegated to the House Speaker, in this case Nancy Pelosi.
THURSDAY: Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he leaves Marine One after arriving on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on October 1, 2020, following campaign events in New Jersey before announcing he will Has COVID-19
The president tweeted to confirm the news just before 1 a.m. EST on Friday
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump began the quarantine process Thursday night after Hope Hicks tested positive for COVID-19
Line of succession: Under the 25th Amendment, Vice President Mike Pence will next take executive control if the president cannot terminate his term. The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, comes second when neither the President nor the Vice-President can take office
RNC RULES FOR THE FILLING OF BLANK SPACES FOR PRESIDENTIAL DESIGNATIONS
Under the rules of the RNC, it has the authority and authority to fill any vacancy that may arise as a result of the death, disapproval, or otherwise of the Republican candidate for President of the United States or the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States of nominated by the national convention.
The RNC can also convene the national convention again to fill such vacancies.
When voting under this rule, RNC members who represent a state 9 out of 43 are entitled to cast the same number of votes that that state cast at the national assembly.
In the event that the members of the Republican National Committee from one state disagree on voting, the votes of that state will be divided equally, including partial votes, among the members of the RNC present or voting by proxy.
No candidate will be selected to fill such a position unless he receives a majority of the votes that are entitled to cast in the election.
However, the upcoming elections make matters even more difficult as the Democratic and Republican National Committees could also choose a replacement for their party's ticket should the candidate step down.
The committee could choose to nominate the vice-presidential candidate or another member of its party.
The selection process would depend on the parties' respective statutes.
In this scenario, all 168 members of the RNC would have to meet to vote on Trump's replacement.
The rules require that all members – three from each state and three from six territories – cast the same number of votes that they were allowed to cast at the national convention.
If the members of a particular state do not unanimously agree to vote, they split it equally and cast a third of those votes.
While this scenario is hypothetical, it would be the first of its kind as no party's presidential candidate has ever died or withdrawn prior to an election.
A testimony from the White House doctor said that both the president and first lady are "okay during this time," but did not say whether either had symptoms.
If Trump falls seriously ill, constitutional procedures are in place that would allow Vice President Pence to temporarily take power.
The 25th amendment to the Constitution sets out the procedures by which a President can declare that he cannot perform the powers and duties of the Presidency.
If he made that call, Trump would send a written note to the Senate President pro tempore, Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Pence would serve as the incumbent president until Trump submitted "a written statement to the contrary".
This has happened on occasion, with Ronald Reagan taking George H.W. Bush was in charge of surgery in 1985 before George W. Bush temporarily transferred authority to Dick Cheney during the colonoscopy in 2002 and 2007.
These were all short, planned transfers of power and were nowhere near a re-election campaign.
There is also a second option that has never been used: the vice-president and a majority in the cabinet can declare the president incapable of performing the powers and duties of his office. In that case, Pence would be acting President until Trump could make a written statement to the contrary.
There has also been speculation about a late election but this is highly unlikely as the vote is already taking place.
While the Constitution does not set an election date, postponing the vote would require an act of Congress, including support from the democratically controlled House of Representatives.
And regardless of the election date, Trump's term ends on January 20th.
First Lady Melania tweeted, “Like too many Americans this year, @potus & I quarantined at home after testing positive for COVID-19. We're feeling good and I've postponed all upcoming engagements. Please be sure that you are safe and we will all get through this together. & # 39;
Trump was last seen by reporters who returned to the White House on Thursday night and appeared to be in good health.
WHAT DOES THE 25TH AMENDMENT SAY? CAN TRUMPS CABINET REALLY POT HIM?
The The 25th amendment to the US Constitution deals with the authority of the president in the event of death or impeachment and was ratified in 1967 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
What does the 25th amendment say?
It consists of four sections, all of which deal with the President leaving office during his elected term.
The first section says that if the president dies or resigns or is removed, the vice president will take over the oval office, which was not clearly stated in the original constitution.
Presidents can of course be removed from office, a feature of the constitution from the start. They can also be removed by the 25th amendment – of which below.
Section II states that both the House and Senate must approve a new Vice President if the Vice President dies, or resigns, or is dismissed. Until 1967, the presidents could change vice-presidents themselves in the medium term if they asked the vice-president to resign – not something that actually happened, but was possible in principle.
Section III clarifies that a president can temporarily delegate his or her powers to the vice-president and later reclaim them when he or she is able to serve. This is most commonly invoked when a president is under the influence of a surgical anesthetic for a short period of time.
Section IV is the most controversial part of the amendment: it describes how the President can be removed from office if he is incapacitated and does not leave alone.
The vice president and "a majority of officers in the executive departments or any other body that Congress may determine" must write to both presidents per tempo of the Senate and the President of the House, saying, "The President is incapable of performing the powers and duties of his office."
The term chief officers of the executive departments would normally mean the cabinet secretaries.
At least eight of the President's 15 highest cabinet members must therefore agree with the Vice-President that a President should be removed before a plan can be implemented.
Notification of the President of Parliament and the President of the Senate per tempo is the act that immediately elevates the Vice President to the role of "Acting President".
The deposed president can contest the claim and give the leaders of the bloodless coup four days to re-assert their claims against the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Congress then has two days to convene – if it is not already in session – and another 21 days to vote on whether the president is unable to serve. A two-thirds majority in both houses is required for this decision.
As soon as a two-thirds majority vote takes place, the President loses his powers and is removed. The vice president ceases to act and is sworn in as president.
However, if 21 days of debate and voting end without a two-thirds majority, the President regains his powers.
What could happen to trigger the 25th Amendment?
Vice President Mike Pence and eight of the 15 "key" cabinet members would have to agree to tell Congress that President Donald Trump is unable to run the country.
This group consists of Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of Home, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Labor, Secretary for Health and Human Services, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Energy, and Secretary of Education. Veterans Affairs Secretary and Homeland Security Secretary.
Your formal notification would go to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and in the Senate to the "President pro Tempore", the highest member of the Senate. Once the letter is mailed, Pence becomes the "acting president".
Alternatively, Congress could set up its own mechanism to decide whether it is fit for office – possibly a commission or a joint committee. Pence would still have to agree with his conclusion and then formally write pro tempore to the spokesman and president.
Or another possibility is that the pool of "chief officers" is seen as larger than 15 and a majority of that group is calling Trump incompetent.
What if Trump disagrees?
If Trump claims he can hold office, he would write to the House Speaker and President of the Senate within four days and launch an intense three-week debate in both Houses of Congress.
Trump would be removed from office if both two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate were to agree with Pence and his cabal.
If either chamber failed to hit that mark, Trump would retain his powers and likely embark on a full house cleaning, firing pence and replacing disloyal cabinet members.
Are there any gaps?
The 25th amendment allows Congress to appoint its own body to evaluate the president, rather than relying on the cabinet – the men and women who work most closely with Trump – to decide how to proceed.
It states that "another body as Congress requires" could play that role, but Pence would still have to agree to any finding that the president is incapable of performing his duties.
If the Democrats took over both the House and Senate, they could create such a body by a simple majority.
This commission could, hypothetically, include anyone from presidential historians to psychiatrists charged with assessing the president's aptitude for office.
Another loophole is that it does not state that the cabinet has to agree, but that the "chief officials" of the departments are needed. This term is not defined in the constitution. In some departments, the legislation appears to designate not only the secretary but also the MPs and even the under-secretaries of state as "chief officers" so that many more people could be involved in assessing Trump's fitness.
Could Trump Fire Pence If He Rebels?
Yes, in principle. If Trump smelled a hint of anger – if pence and a cabal of cabinet members, or pence and a congressional jury seemed ready to judge him incapacitated – he could fire his vice president with the stroke of a pen to stop the process.
However, installing a more loyal vice president could be problematic as the 25th Amendment includes its own poison pill: both Houses of Congress must vote to approve a new vice president.
That means Trump would run against the same Congress that would vote on his eligibility for office, unless the process unfolded in the weeks leading up to a new Congress.
In theory, a democratically controlled Congress could make life dramatically more difficult for the president if he came to power in the middle of the constitutional crisis.
One scenario seems to surprise the President's historians, however: Firing pence before the trial begins, and then vacating the vice presidency would not provide Congress with a practical way forward. That would represent a constitutional crisis of its own.
Is there a precedent for this?
No. Only Section III, the voluntary surrender of powers of the President, was ever used, and very briefly.
In December 1978, President Jimmy Carter considered using Section III when considering surgery to remove hemorrhoids.
Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both voluntarily gave up their powers while under anesthesia.
Section IV was also never invoked, although it was alleged that Ronald Reagan's Chief of Staff Donald Regan had advised his successor, Howard Baker, in 1987 that he should be willing to invoke it because Reagan was inattentive and inept.
The PBS documentary & # 39; American Experience & # 39; recounts how Baker and his team watched Reagan closely for signs of incompetence when they first met and found that he was in perfect control of himself.
The White House had previously distributed a schedule for Friday that indicated he was planning to hold a fundraiser at his Washington, DC hotel and a political rally in Sanford, Florida. That has since been canceled.
Fears that the president might have contracted the virus rose after it was revealed that Hicks had traveled on both Marine One, the presidential helicopter, and Air Force One last week.
Along with the trip to the rally on Wednesday evening, Hicks had been aboard Air Force One for the first presidential debate on Tuesday evening in Cleveland.
She was discovered by DailyMail.com when she stepped off Air Force One in town without a mask.
Hicks traveled with the President to a rally in Pennsylvania last Saturday where she was seen maskless and clapped in the Village People's YMCA.
Trump confirmed Fox News to Fox News: "Whether we are quarantined or whether we have him, I do not know.
"I just did a test and we'll see what happens."
He later tweeted to confirm that he and Melania were in quarantine, writing, "Hope Hicks, who worked so hard without even taking a little break, just tested positive for Covid 19. Dreadful! The first lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will start our quarantine process! & # 39;
Hicks experienced mild symptoms while traveling home from a rally in Minnesota Wednesday night, according to a government official who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity to divulge private information.
She was quarantined by others on the plane and her diagnosis was confirmed Thursday, that person said.