What happens to the seat of power if President Trump falls seriously ill?

In wake of the latest developments of the United States President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump contracting COVID-19 on Friday, the question is, what happens if the President is incapacitated? With weeks to go for the US Presidential elections, President Trump’s public appearances will be limited but there are also other concerns.

At the present moment, 74 year old President Trump is being treated for high cholesterol and has taken hydroxycholoquine according to reports by CNN. The President however is under quarantine amidst treatment and is expected to carry out his duties without disruption while recovering.

According to Section 3 of the 25th Amendment on the US Constitution, if the President is unable to execute his duties, he has to write to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speak of the House of Representatives that he is unable to discharge his powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice-President as the Acting President.

In the current scenario, Vice-President Mike Pence could assume control if President Trump becomes incapacitated, for example while undergoing any medical procedure due to the coronavirus.

The 25th Amendment was adopted in 1967 following the 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy and President Trump could declare in writing his inability to carry out his duties if he unable to do so.

In the past, two US Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W Bush have invoked the 25th Amendment in the US Constitution. On July 13, 1985, President Ronald Reagan elected to have a precancerous lesion removed after it was discovered during a colonoscopy. However, his letter stated he was not invoking Section 3 of the 25th Amendment and that he was mindful of his duties. Vice President George H.W. Bush was acting president for nearly eight hours from 11:28 am until 7:22 pm.

In the second case, George W Bush had invoked Section 3 of the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution twice. The first time was on June 29th 2002 while undergoing a colonoscopy. Vice-President Dick Cheney was the Acting President from 7:09 am to 9:24 am. The second time was on June 21st 2007 from 7:16 am to 9:21 am when Cheney was Acting President once again.


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