If Trump's Impeached, Pence Is Next

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There's renewed talk of impeaching President Donald Trump after he made unsubstantiated allegations about the former president, Barack Obama. Early Saturday morning — as you probably already know — he took to Twitter to accuse Obama of having Trump Tower wiretapped before the election in 2016. Now one Harvard Law professor has written for Bloomberg that this alone, assuming the unproven claims are not true, is an impeachable offense of serious misconduct. Even a city in California jumped on the impeachment bandwagon, passing a resolution calling on Congress to act. So here's what would happen if Trump were to be impeached.

If Trump were impeached, that would mean that the House of Representatives decided that he had committed an offense counting as "high crimes and misdemeanors," something constitutionally impeachable. First, the House Judiciary Committee would have investigated the claims and voted on whether to move forward to a vote on the floor. If this sounds familiar, the process is a lot like that of a bill. A simple majority would then have to vote for impeachment — essentially to charge the president with a crime. What happens next is a trial in the Senate; the House would normally appoint members of the Judiciary Committee to act as prosecutors.

To get an idea about how this might go, take a look at Bill Clinton's impeachment trial in 1999. It lasted just over a month, and the Senate ended up voting to acquit, as they didn't get the two-thirds necessary. But it was a full-on ordeal that would take the nation's attention for those five weeks.

So if Trump moved past this point — if he were to be convicted in his impeachment trial — we would be in new territory. Clinton and Andrew Johnson are the only two presidents to have been impeached, but neither were convicted.

But what happens next might not make Democrats happy. Because if Trump goes, next in line is the vice president, Mike Pence. After Pence would be the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan — but only if Pence and Trump were to be impeached together. After Ryan, it's the president pro tempore of the Senate. And finally there's another list of cabinet officials if none of the prior officials can serve.

If Pence assumed the presidency, though, he would get to appoint a new vice president — confirmed by the Senate — and then that would complicate matters further. Because if Pence were later impeached, his vice president would take the office. And the cycle could continue.

In any case, successfully impeaching to the point of getting a Democrat in the White House would be rather difficult. That said, it might be necessary to impeach Trump anyway, according to some arguments including the Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman, who wrote as much for Bloomberg.

There's also talk of getting rid of Trump without even going the impeachment route. So at this rate, anything could happen between now and the next election. Stay tuned.