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Trump Has COVID — What Happens If He Gets Too Sick To Be President?

Donald Trump has tested positive for COVID-19. Here’s how VP Mike Pence could assume the role if Trump gets too sick to govern.

Now that President Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus, what happens if he can’t perform the duties of his elected office?

The recent diagnoses follows the presidential debate and several rallies where Trump was seen interacting with lots of different people. The news that both Trump and First Lady Melania have been infected with COVID-19 has dominated the media, derailing Republican rallies and events that were meant to occur through November 3, the day of the presidential election.

Should Trump become incapacitated, his duties would be fulfilled by the nation’s vice president, Mike Pence.

There are several sections in the U.S. Constitution that allow for a vice president to take control in a scenario like the one we’re going through. According to U.S. News, under Section 3 of the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which was included after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, a president could declare in writing their inability to discharge their duties.

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The vice president would then serve as acting president while the former president remains officially in charge of the office. Once the president is fit to return, they should declare in writing that they’re able to discharge their duties.

White House
Photo by Zach Gibson/Stringer/Getty Images

This section of the constitution has some precedent in recent history, with Ronald Reagan enabling it when he had surgery to remove a precancerous lesion. His vice president, George H.W. Bush, was acting president for a period of 8 hours.

In 2002 and 2007, when George W. Bush was president, he invoked this right twice, leaving vice president Dick Cheney in charge of the office for a couple of hours on each date.

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Another option that would allow Vice President Pence to take over Trump’s administration is one that’s never been used before. Under Section 4 in the U.S. Constitution, the vice president and the majority of officials in either cabinet can inform congressional leaders that they believe the president “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” allowing the vice president to take over.

If two thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate believe that the president isn’t fit to lead the country, the vice president would remain in charge until after the following presidential election is held.

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