If Donald Trump is indeed removed from office, he will be the first US President to be deposed, although he is the fourth to face an attempt to remove him from office, after Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton. Congress will certainly try to learn from these past political experiences during the current process. Removing Trump from office will be challenging, however, particularly as the Senate is held by a Republican majority who support the President. Nonetheless, unlikely as it may be, the possibility remains that many Trump supporters may change their position, particularly if it becomes apparent during the public hearings in the House of Representatives and the witness testimonies concerning the various activities of the Trump administration that progress needs to be made towards trial proceedings and Trump’s removal from office. Both chambers of Congress will have to prioritize their national loyalty and their responsibility to the American people over their party loyalty to the President.
In such an event, in view of the provisions of article 5 of the US Constitution, it is highly likely that Vice-President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate and the first in the line of succession, would replace his deposed predecessor as acting US President. He would serve out the rest of the President’s term of office, until 20 January 2021, which would be considered a transitional period before the new President took office.
If such a scenario occurred before the start of the 2020 presidential race, in which Trump has already declared his intention to run, a dangerous “political earthquake” may occur that radically changes the domestic and foreign political landscape in America and leaves Congress to shoulder the burdens of running the country until presidential elections take place and the next President enters the White House.
Repercussions of Trump’s removal
1. The political architecture and the existing balance of power in the USA: The fact that this is the first time in US history that the head of state — who is also the head of the executive branch — may be removed from office has strengthened the powers of the legislative branch, represented by the two chambers of the Senate, to carry out the unprecedented removal as part of its mandated supervisory role. The new President would also have to review their relationship with Congress and examine the repercussions of any future decisions or positions adopted by Congress concerning the President’s relationship with the parliamentary majority, whether it be their own party or the opposition.
Trump’s removal would have an impact on the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. During the first two years of Trump’s administration, the Republicans held a majority in the House of Representatives. Although they lost that majority during the 2018 mid-term elections, they still hold a majority in Congress. Trump remains convinced that he still holds the keys to the political game, as all laws discussed by the House of Representatives must pass through Congress for approval. A compromise therefore needs to be found between what the President (the head of the executive branch) is trying to achieve through the bills that he and the Republican Party in the House of Representatives support and what the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives (one of the two chambers of the legislative branch) is seeking to get passed through the Senate in other bills. Some of the issues that Trump has pursued have led to significant splits in the Republican majority in the Senate, which calls into question whether the President can always count on the support of his own party’s majority.
2. Policies of the new administration: The world will likely follow the events of the post-Trump period with anticipation, given the USA’s position as the leading international superpower. Attention will be paid to the political choices made and the positions adopted on various international and regional issues. During such a transition period, the transitional President — in this case, Mike Pence — usually tries to retain the policies and positions adopted before the President’s removal until the new administration takes power and adopts its own policies, approaches and decisions.
Despite Pence and Trump’s differences of opinion on many matters, Pence will likely see it as his responsibility to leave most of his predecessor’s policies unchanged until the election results are decided and the new President takes office.
Possible post-Trump scenarios
Once Pence has completed the transitional period, which would run until the end of the former President’s term of office, one of the following scenarios may occur:
Similarities and differences in Pence and Biden’s visions
Although Pence is not expected to change many of Trump’s policies and decisions during the transitional period, his political calculations may change during the presidential elections if he faces his perhaps closest political rival, Joe Biden. In that event, he will seek to produce his own political manifesto during the presidential race, with a focus on showing how his policies and ideas differ — sometimes radically — from Trump’s own.
On the other hand, Biden’s campaign is likely to focus on the failures of the previous administration as a whole with regard to how it handled many domestic and foreign issues. We shall now take a quick look at the positions that Pence and Biden are expected to adopt on the most important domestic and foreign political issues.
Whoever the next President is, they will want to avoid making the same foreign policy mistakes that Trump made, particularly during election periods, such as his connection to Russia during the 2016 elections and Ukraine during the 2020 elections. Pence and Biden may adopt similar policies on some foreign issues, while differing on others:
* Egyptian researcher living in Washington.
EPC | 27 May 2020
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