After Trump took office, liberals fantasized about Trump getting impeached and then having Hillary, through a rather convoluted series of events, installed as president. Harvard University professor Lawrence Lessig even laid out a step-by-step process for that to happen. Trump would, of course, either resign or be impeached and removed from office, after which Pence would assume office and immediately resign. At the time, Paul Ryan was speaker of the House, and he was next in line for the presidency, but for some bizarre reason would choose Hillary for vice president. The circumstances were beyond absurd, but the left has a new, but similar fantasy: Impeach Trump and Pence, and Nancy Pelosi, through presidential succession, becomes president. After Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry last week, #PresidentPelosi trended on Twitter.
Robert Atkins and Adam P. Frankel, writing in the Washington Post, recount the resignation of Vice President of Spiro Agnew in the fall of 1973 and the possibility that Nixon might resign before nominating a successor. “Ten days later, President Richard Nixon ordered the firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in what is widely known as the Saturday Night Massacre. As hearings began in the Senate and the House on the nomination of Agnew’s successor, Gerald Ford, questions swirled about the possibility that Democratic House Speaker Carl Albert, D-Okla., might assume the presidency.”
So real was the possibility that Ted Sorensen, a speechwriter and close adviser to President John F. Kennedy, wrote a secret 19-page memorandum to Albert, offering recommendations for what to do and what to say in the event that Nixon resigned before Ford could be confirmed and Albert suddenly found himself sitting in the Oval Office. Although long forgotten, the memo is timely in this chaotic political moment, when a Pelosi presidency, however improbable, is not impossible. It reminds us that our faith in representative self-governance may yet be salvaged.
According to Atkins and Frankel, “Sorensen’s memo will be an essential – if not the only – guidebook for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., should she find herself getting closer to the Oval Office.” They do not point out, however, that Trump has a much higher approval rating than Nancy Pelosi, or that it is highly unlikely that Trump, even if he is impeached, would be removed from office, especially given the facts of the recent allegations.