The U.S. Constitution clearly states that if the president is removed from office for whatever reason (death, being incapacitated, impeachment) the vice president becomes the American head of state.
But what if both the president and vice president are booted from office? In that case, the speaker of the House assumes the office of the presidency.
And according to Tufts University law professor Michael Glennon, Vice President Mike Pence, much like his boss, Donald Trump, is indeed facing the prospect of being removed from office.
In an op-ed he wrote for the Washington Post, Glennon notes that the Founding Fathers originally intended for the vice presidency to be given to the candidate who was runner-up in the electoral balloting:
“The initial system was designed to select as president and vice president the two individuals most qualified to lead the nation, whatever their political philosophy […] It did this by permitting members of the electoral college to cast two votes for the office of president. The individual who received the most votes would be president, and the runner-up, vice president.”
However, the runner-up system led to some tricky (even dangerous) situations between men who literally hated each other (i.e. Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr) being stuck with one other for a four-year term in office. This was untenable.
Therefore, the 12th Amendment was drafted so members of the electoral college had to cast separate ballots for president and VP. But that too causes a bit of a quandary:
“A party’s ill-gotten gains — the presidency and all its appointments and prerogatives — would then remain in its hands even though its leader, the president, had been impeached and removed from office. Electoral corruption would still be rewarded.”
One of the main purposes of providing for impeachment was to affix a punishment for election fraud or other illegal acts a candidate might use to gain office, i.e. conspiring with a foreign country to assure a certain outcome, Glennon adds:
“Pence, too, would be impeachable. The reason is that, had Trump not engaged in electoral fraud and corruption, Pence, like Trump, would not have been elected.”
So, if indeed Donald Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 race, that would mean that even if he’s impeached, his party (and his vice president) would still benefit from the illegal actions taken to assure victory. Trump and Pence would both have to be impeached and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi appointed to the office of president.
Would the House and Senate agree to impeach both Trump and Pence? That seems unlikely, but once we’ve seen the entire Mueller report and underlying evidence, it just might happen.
If Pence is indeed a part of the larger conspiracy which helped elect him and Trump, they both deserve to spend the rest of their lives out of office and in prison.