On Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver discussed the much- talked-about potential of impeaching Donald Trump, including whether or not impeachment is a realistic possibility and of what its potential implications consist. Oliver also reminded audiences that Trump's presidential line of secession does not necessarily offer very appealing alternatives for the presidency—meaning that, even if Trump were impeached, Oliver said, the county could still find itself under dubious leadership.
As many know, there is a very explicit line of presidential secession that has been established by the U.S. Constitution and the Presidential Secession Act of 1947. On his show on Sunday, Oliver was straightforward in suggesting that those next in line for the presidency may not necessarily provide the leadership the country is seeking. He said, "If you are hoping for impeachment or a resignation, it is worth taking a quick peek at the presidential line of secession."
Oliver first discussed the prospect of a Mike Pence presidency, as Pence is currently the vice president and would become president if Trump were to leave office. He explained that Pence is a "hard line conservative" who has, among other initiatives, led efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, opposed the military's ending of its "don't ask don't tell" policy, opposed the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act, and spearheaded efforts for a (failed) constitutional amendment to define marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman. Thus, as Oliver implied, Pence's penchant for staunch conservatism, particularly around issues of equality, could potentially have detrimental consequences were he to become president of the United States.
Oliver then went on to suggest that both of the next options in line for president after Pence—Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate President pro tempore Orrin Hatch—would present equally egregious problems for the country. While Oliver did not expound on his critique of Ryan on his show, the comedian has previously been highly critical of the Republican speaker of the House, particularly for his embattled American Health Care Act. In regards to Hatch, Oliver characterized the senator as "his own separate kind of nightmare."
However, while playing out many hypotheticals involving the presidential line of secession, Oliver was quick to remind viewers that Trump's impeachment and removal from office is merely a possibly and far from a sure thing. And, in fact, Oliver believes that "the likelihood is that Trump will survive this and will continue as president." Oliver noted that he believes this will likely be the case because it is exceedingly difficult to impeach and convict a president. Indeed, the process requires a majority vote in the House and a two-thirds vote in the Senate, bodies which are both predominantly composed of Republicans.
Overall, Oliver's show on Sunday served as a sobering reminder of reality amidst much of the "impeachment hype" that has been permeating the news cycle. First, it reminded viewers that impeachment and conviction is actually a highly complicated process and, secondly, that even if that process were to occur, the alternatives to a Trump presidency are really not much more promising.