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The Complete Order Of Presidential Succession In The Event That Donald Trump Cannot Fulfill His Duties

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What's The Order Of Presidential Succession If The President Leaves?

Ever since President Donald Trump has been elected into office, there has been a worldwide frenzy. And that frenzy got even more wild after the president announced that he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for coronavirus.

This news followed after his aide, Hope Hicks, tested positive. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, tested negative.

Now, many are concerned about a further outbreak at the White House, and there are talks about what happens next if Trump is too sick to act as president, or passes away.

And since it's an election year, what is the line of succession for the Republican nomination? Does Pence automatically become the new candidate? Does the election get delayed?

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According to Richard Pildes, leading expert on election law, "...the RNC would determine who the replacement candidate would be, should it come to that unfortunate situation [Trump is incapacitated]. And Republican slates of electors in states the president won, because he remains on the ballot, would very likely follow the RNC’s recommendation...

If the RNC were deeply divided, and Republican electors then did not coalesce around a single replacement candidate, there might not be a majority winner in the electoral college. In that case, the House would choose the president from among the top three vote getters in the electoral college. In that process, each state delegation gets one vote."

What Is The Correct Presidential Order of Succession?

While Trump will "almost certainly" remain on the ballot, who will serve as President in his absence? These 18 individuals are his successors in the event that he is too ill or is incapacitated.

1. Vice President

Mike Pence

Pence is the only person in Trump's administration that cannot be fired. In Washington since 2000, Pence was elected governor of Indiana back in 2015.

He describes himself as "a Christian, a conservative and a Republican." The former Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison, Omarosa Manigault, once stated, "We would be begging for days of Trump back if Pence became president."

2. Speaker of the House

Nancy Pelosi

After Paul Ryan retired as Speaker of the House, Pelosi assumed the position in January 2019. She's the only Democrat in the line of succession, and is also the only woman in United States history to serve this position.

Since 1987, Pelosi has served in Congress, representing California's 12th congressional district, the 5th district, the 8th district, House Minority Leader, and as Speaker from 2007 to 2011, and again since 2019.

3. Senate President Pro Tempore

Chuck Grassley

Grassley has served as a Senator from Iowa since 1980, serving seven terms since. Before becoming a Senator, he served from 1959 to 1975 in the Iowa House of Representatives, and the United states House of Representatives from 1975 to 1981.

He's the most senior member of the Republican party in the Senate, and votes in line with Trump a majority of the time.

4. Secretary of State

Mike Pompeo

Trump appointed Mike Pompeo as the Secretary of State after firing Rex Tillerson in 2018. Trump complained to reporters that he and Tillerson "disagreed over strategy in key areas of foreign policy."

Pompeo has been described as a "Trump loyalist."

5. Secretary of Treasury

Steven Mnuchin 

​​Mnuchin is a former banker and Hollywood film financier. Although he's widely praised by Trump, his peers seem him in a different light. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon called him the “foreclosure king.” Senator of Illinois Tammy Duckworth described him as “greedy and “unethical.”

Mnuchin and his wife have also been under scrutiny for allegedly violating federal ethics rules, as well as flaunting their wealth on more than one occasion.

6. Secretary of Defense

Mike Esper

Before being appointed the Secretary of Defense, after James Mattis resigned and Patrick Shanahan withdrew his name from consideration, Esper was a defense contractor lobbyist, U.S. Secretary of the Army, and Vice President for Government Relations at Raytheon.

He was confirmed to the position in July 2019.

7. Attorney General

William Barr

Replacing Jeff Sessions, AG Barr assumed office in February 2019 and has since been considered a close confidant of the president. This is the second time Barr has served as Attorney General; he previously held the position from 1991 to 1993.

Before this, Barr served in the Department of Justice by leading the Office of Legal Counsel and serving as Deputy Attorney General. He also served on the board of directors for entertainment conglomerate Time Warner.

His controversies include allegedly mishandling the Mueller report, interfering in the removal of the Southern District of New York's attorney, and interfering in the sentencing of Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.

8. Secretary of the Interior

David L. Bernhardt

According to the U.S. Government's website, the Secretary of the Interior's job is to "manage and sustain America’s lands, water, wildlife, and energy resources, honors our nation’s responsibilities to tribal nations, and advocates for America’s island communities." And that position is currently filled by an oil and energy industry lobbyist.

Bernhardt was confirmed as Secretary of the Interior in February 2019, and acted as acting Secretary of Interior after Ryan Zinke resigned.

9. Secretary of Agriculture

Sonny Perdue

Sonny Perdue is the former governor of Georgia. He's a former Democrat who later switched to the Republican Party before serving as Georgia's governor.

He's in charge of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, which underwent changes to include more requirements. Perdue stated, “We’ve got more jobs based on... Trump’s economy than we’ve got people to apply for them. We’re going back to the original congressional intent.”

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10. Secretary of Commerce

Wilbur Ross

Ross is known for building companies "from the assets of defaulted ones," leading to him to have the nickname "King of Bankruptcy."

Ross tends to invest in "distressed companies in a wide range of industries." He also has financial connections to Russia via a shipping company among whose clients reportedly include a Russian energy company co-owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin's son-in-law.

11. Secretary of Labor

Eugene Scalia

Son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Eugene Scalia was appointed to Secretary of Labor in September 2019. He previously served in a law firm and as Soliciter of the Department of Labor.

He replaced Alex Acosta, who worked at the U.S. Century Bank as the chairman.

12. Secretary of Health and Human Services

Alex Azar

Azar is a former pharmaceutical industry executive who also served under George W. Bush's administration. He replaced Tom Price, who resigned after "Politico reported that he spent more than $1 million in taxpayer money to travel on private and government aircraft."

13. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Ben Carson

Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who, before his appointment to Trump's cabinet in March 2017, had no background in government or housing policy. He ran against Trump in the Presidential Primaries back in 2014, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008.

14. Secretary of Transportation

Elaine Chao

Elaine Chao is the first Asian-American woman to be appointed to a President’s Cabinet, and she's also the wife of Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

She received her American citizenship at the age of 19 after migrating from Taiwan to the United States "on a cargo ship when she was eight." She worked under George H. Bush as the Director of the Peace Corps. 

In the event that Chao was up for the Presidency, she wouldn't be eligible, as the Constitution states that the President must be a natural-born citizen of the United States.

15. Secretary of Energy

Dan Brouillette

After Rick Perry stepped down in December 2019 as Secretary of Energy, Brouillette was appointed that same month.

From August 2017 to his appointment, he was Deputy Secretary of Energy, and before this, was Senior VP of a lobbying firm, Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs in the U.S. Department of Energy, staff director for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Vice President of Ford Motor Company.

16. Secretary of Education

Betsy DeVos

DeVos is a billionaire and a proclaimed advocate for "the expansion of charter schools and voucher programs that use taxpayer money for private schools."

She and her husband, heir to the Amway fortune, have reportedly given "hundred of thousands" to a conservative Christian group called "Focus on the Family." Like much of Trump's Cabinet, DeVos position has not been without controversy, including changing regulations to Title IX campus sexual assault, giving new protections to those accused.

17. Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Robert Wilkie

Before Wilkie was appointed as Secretary of Veterans Affairs in July 2018, Ronny Jackson held this position and that of Donald Trump's physician. Wilkie is a lawyer who previously served as an intelligence officer in the Naval Reserve, as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs, and as the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

Wilkie is also pro-Confederacy and is a member of the Confederate Memorial Committee.

18. Secretary of Homeland Security

Chad Wolf

After a slew of appointments and resignations — Mick Mulvaney, Mark Meadows, John F. Kelly, Reince Priebus, Kirstjen Nielsen, and Kevin McAleenan — Wolf is currently the acting Secretary of Homeland Security, though he's been accused of illegally holding the position. 

Prior to assuming the position, he helped create the family separation policy at the border, was involved in deploying law enforcement to Portland during protests, and was a lobbyist.

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Shavella is an MFA student at Brooklyn College, studying creative writing. She enjoys blogging, reading, volunteering, and working on her novel.