US Election 2020

Who could replace Trump if he's too sick with Covid-19?

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have coronavirus. Who will take charge if the president gets really ill and is unable to do the job?

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Who could replace Trump if he's too sick with Covid-19?
CARLOS BARRIA REUTERS

What happens when a president is too ill to do the job? We may be about to find out.

Both the President and First Lady Melania tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday. 

Trump's positive test follows news that Hope Hicks, a top adviser and trusted aide, fell ill on Wednesday.

The President is 74 years old and overweight, therefore in the vulnerable group for Covid-19.

Hicks accompanied the President to Ohio for the presidential debate on Tuesday and to Minnesota for a campaign event on Wednesday.

Trump, who is tested regularly for coronavirus, has kept up a rigorous travel schedule across the country in recent weeks, holding rallies with thousands of people in the run up to the election, despite warnings from public health professionals against having events with large crowds.

There have been widespread concerns that the president and his entourage did not take seriously precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19, such as social distancing and wearing masks at the presidential debate on Tuesday.

The news comes just 10 days after Trump was reporting as saying that coronavirus “affects virtually nobody.”

Republican Election campaign on pause?

With 32 days to Election Day on November 3, there are serious questions on whether events such as the upcoming second presidential debate on October 15 will even go ahead.

Pence or Pelosi: next in line to the throne

So who would take charge of the presidential duties if Trump falls seriously ill?

According to the 25th Amendment, in the temporary incapacitation of Trump, Vice President Mike Pence would take charge.

“In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.”

In the eventuality that Pence were to also become ill, the powers of the president then move to the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

"If, by reason of death, resignation, removal from office, inability, or failure to qualify, there is neither a President nor Vice President to discharge the powers and duties of the office of President, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall... act as President."

If Pelosi is also incapacitated, the next in the presidental line of succession is Republican Chuck Grassley, then in order of office, would follow Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Defence Mark Esper, and then Attourney General William Barr.

Exception in election year?

If the president decides to withdraw his candidacy from the election due to the illness, the Republican party could even end up replacing him with someone else in the party.

If this were to happen, all 168 members of the Republican National Congress would have to meet to vote on Trump’s replacement.