There has been a tremendous amount of talk about the possibility of President Trump either resigning, being impeached and convicted, or simply being indicted. While columnists have discussed the implications of such, there is very little talk about what would happened if Vice President Mike Pence were to resign prior to a Trump resignation or conviction in the Senate.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s probably too early to even consider either Pence or Trump stepping down. After all, Pence has not been implicated in the Mueller probe as far as we know, and Trump doesn’t exactly seem like the type who would actually give in. With that said, the implications of a Mike Pence resignation could be quite significant on multiple levels.
Let’s just assume a scenario where Robert Mueller is able to show that Pence was complicit in a crime. After all, he was the head of the transition team, and also one would assume that he may have at least witnessed criminal activity as more and more Trump campaign associates have either admitted guilt or have been convicted of crimes themselves. It is not out of the question that if he is found to have broken the law, prosecutors may offer him some kind of immunity deal, perhaps one which says something like, “relinquish the vice presidency and you won’t get charged.” It’s also possible that Pence could be indicted. Unlike with a sitting president, there is no DOJ opinion that a vice president can not or should not be indicted.
If Pence is removed from office, either on his own power or through an outside force, the vice presidency would then become vacant. Unlike cabinet positions, according to the 25th Amendment, a new appointee by the president would not only have to be approved by the Senate, but also the House. With Democrats taking control of the House in just over two weeks, this becomes a significant bullet point.
With President Trump, his foundation and his businesses under multiple investigations, the vice president holds incredible legal power. He/she has the power to pardon Trump should Trump resign, because the vice president is next in the line of succession to become president and obtain such pardon powers.
If, however, Pence was to resign prior to Trump either resigning or being thrown out of office, the chances that a Democratic-led House would approve a Trump nomination for vice president are shaky at best. This would leave a vacancy in the position, and should Trump resign or forcefully get removed from office, the next president would be the Speaker of the House. In this case, the speaker would be a Democrat.
While a Pence resignation or removal from office may appear to be a nightmare scenario for Trump, especially if he’s implicated in criminal activity by Robert Mueller, it could also be a blessing in disguise.
If Trump is impeached by the House with overwhelming evidence of guilt to multiple crimes, the GOP-led Senate may be forced to vote to convict. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote to convict a sitting president in order to force them out of office. With the GOP in control, it will take an abundance of evidence to do so, but with Mike Pence sitting on the sidelines, waiting to take Trump’s place, the decision may be one that the GOP does decide to take. After all, they may see Pence as a much more viable candidate than Trump heading into the 2020 election season, especially if Trump is implicated in multiple crimes.
If, however, Pence is out of office, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi or another democrat is instead in the line of succession, the chances that 19-22 Republican Senators vote to expel the President from office becomes quite slim.
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s still much too early to worry about such scenarios. However, it is important to note the implications of such. Mike Pence holds a lot of power. Mueller clearly understands this and could strategize in order to take advantage of that power. As the Mueller probe concludes, it will be interesting to watch how all of this plays out as we will may eventually enter territory that this nation has never seen in in terms of political chaos.