What if Trump Can’t Run? Many Steps Are Clear, but Some Are Not
NICHOLAS FANDOS, NICK CORASANITI
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s positive coronavirus test has raised the possibility, however remote, that he could become incapacitated or potentially die in office if his symptoms worsen.
While that outcome remains highly unlikely, and few in Washington were willing to discuss it on Friday, when Mr. Trump was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment, the Constitution and Congress long ago put in place a plan of succession to ensure that the nation is protected from adversaries and internal conflict when the elected president cannot serve.
虽然这样的结果目前仍然不太可能出现，而且华盛顿很少有人愿意在周五特朗普被送往沃尔特·里德国家军事医学中心(Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)接受治疗时讨论这个问题，但是宪法和国会在很久以前就制定了继任计划，以确保在当选总统无法履职的情况下，国家不会受到敌对势力和内部冲突的影响。
The Constitution makes clear that the vice president is first in line to succeed the president should he or she die in office, and can step in to temporarily take on the duties of the presidency should the commander in chief become incapacitated. Vice President Mike Pence, 61, tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday.
Other situations become far more complicated and are wrapped in a cloud of legal disagreement over what to do if a president cannot exercise his duties but refuses to give them up, or wins election but cannot serve, or in a case in which the president and the vice president are incapacitated.
Here’s how it works:
What happens if Trump dies or cannot serve?
The Constitution and the law are clearest in instances when a president dies or must resign from office. The 25th Amendment states: “In case of the removal of the president from office or of his death or resignation, the vice president shall become president.”
The ascension of a vice president under such circumstances has not been that rare in United States history. A vice president has assumed the nation’s highest office because of the president’s death eight times, most recently in 1963, after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, when Lyndon B. Johnson became president. (In 1974, Vice President Gerald Ford became president after the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.)
在美国历史上，副总统在这种情况下晋升并不是罕见。因总统去世而由副总统担任国家最高职务的情况出现过8次，最近一次是在1963年，约翰·F·肯尼迪(John F. Kennedy)遇刺后，林登·B·约翰逊(Lyndon B. Johnson)成为总统。（1974年，副总统杰拉德·福特[Gerald Ford]在总统理查德·M·尼克松[Richard M. Nixon]辞职后成为总统。）
The Constitution leaves it to Congress to decide what should happen if the vice president also dies or cannot serve, and several laws have been enacted to lay out the contingencies.
The most recent, the Presidential Succession Act, was enacted in 1947 after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. (It was tweaked again in 2006.) The statute says the speaker of the House is next in line, followed by the president pro tempore of the Senate, and then members of the cabinet, starting with the secretary of state.
最近的一项《总统继任法案》(Presidential Succession Act)，是在富兰克林·D·罗斯福(Franklin D. Roosevelt)1945年去世后，于1947年颁布的。（它于2006年再次修改。）该法案规定，接下来的继任者是众议院议长，其后是参议院临时议长，再之后是内阁成员，从国务卿开始。
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 80, said on Friday that she had tested negative for the virus and was confident that the right plans were in place, should they become necessary.
“Continuity of government is always in place,” she said on MSNBC. “I always say it’s a relic of the past, but nonetheless, they say we have our job we have to do, and this is what we’ll do.”
Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, is the current president pro tempore in the Senate. He is 87.
艾奥瓦州共和党参议员查尔斯·E·格拉斯利(Charles E. Grassley)是现任参议院临时议长，现年87岁。
What if the president is too ill to perform his duties?
Under the 25th Amendment, ratified in the 1960s to clarify presidential disability and succession planning, presidents can voluntarily designate powers to their vice presidents if they become seriously ill or are unable to perform their duties.
If Mr. Trump became gravely ill, he could provide letters to the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate saying he was “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” to transfer his powers to Mr. Pence, who would, in effect, become acting president. Mr. Trump could reclaim his full authorities when he recovered.
On Friday afternoon, as Mr. Trump was expected to depart for Walter Reed, Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said the president would remain fully in power.
“No transfer,” he said. “The president is in charge.”
Since the amendment was ratified in 1967, the vice president has taken power in only three instances, each of them exceedingly brief. In 1985, when President Ronald Reagan was put under anesthesia for a colon procedure, he granted his powers to Vice President George Bush for about eight hours, though he avoided formally invoking the amendment. And in 2002 and 2007, President George W. Bush temporarily transferred his authorities to Vice President Dick Cheney during colonoscopies.
自1967年该修正案通过以来，只出现了三次副总统获得权力的情况，每次都非常短暂。1985年，罗纳德·里根(Ronald Reagan)因结肠手术接受麻醉，他将权力授予副总统乔治·布什(George Bush)大约八个小时，但他避免了正式启用该修正案。在2002年和2007年，乔治·W·布什(George W. Bush)做结肠镜检查时，暂时将权力移交给了副总统迪克·切尼(Dick Cheney)。
Can the president be involuntarily replaced?
The 25th Amendment also allows for the forcible removal of a president, including if he is too ill to designate his authorities or simply refuses to do so.
To the amendment’s authors, these were not merely wild hypotheticals. After he had a stroke in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson spent the remainder of his term partially paralyzed and blinded; his condition was mostly kept a secret.
The amendment grants the vice president, acting together with the cabinet or a group appointed by Congress, powers to intervene. If a majority of either group decides and informs the House and Senate that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” then “the vice president shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as acting president.” The power has never been used, and political considerations could make it difficult to unlock.
The arrangement would last until the president informed Congress that “no inability exists” and he could perform his duties. If the group that removed his or her powers disagreed, the question would be left to Congress, with a requirement that two-thirds of the House and Senate must agree in order to strip the elected president of power.
What if there is a dispute over who is in power?
Although the presidential succession is clearly enshrined in law, some legal scholars argue that it may not be consistent with the Constitution, posing potentially disastrous problems if the nation’s top two leaders could no longer serve.
Some constitutional scholars have raised doubts about whether the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate are eligible to step in for the president, arguing that the framers intended for only executive branch officials — an “officer” is the term in the Constitution — to qualify.
Jack L. Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor, warned this year that the seemingly arcane dispute could cause a clash. It is possible, for instance, that Ms. Pelosi and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the next executive branch official in line, could make competing claims to the presidency.
哈佛大学法学教授杰克·L·戈德史密斯(Jack L. Goldsmith)今年就警告称，这一看似玄妙的争端可能会引发冲突。例如，佩洛西和下一个行政部门继任人选国务卿迈克·庞皮欧(Mike Pompeo)可能对总统职位提出竞争性要求。
“These are all nightmare scenarios because these points of constitutional law have really never been tested,” Mr. Goldsmith said.
It is also unclear what would happen if the president and vice president became temporarily incapacitated. Norman J. Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who has studied the issue, said that situation could easily result in dueling short-term claims to presidential authority among the White House chief of staff, the secretary of state or other figures.
如果总统和副总统都暂时失去能力，也不清楚会发生什么。研究过这个问题的美国企业研究所(American Enterprise Institute)国会学者诺曼·J·奥恩斯坦(Norman J. Ornstein)称，这种情况很容易导致白宫幕僚长、国务卿或其他人在短期内争夺总统权力。
“You think about ambiguity in the chains of command when we have adversaries around the world,” he said. “We could end up with some real issues and a government in effect adrift with some competing power players.”
What happens if Trump cannot run anymore?
It gets messy, quickly.
First, the Republican National Committee would have to produce a new nominee, a process that would involve Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and the 168 national members — three from each state and territory. But since many states have already started printing, mailing and accepting ballots, and some have begun in-person voting, the name of a new nominee could be unlikely to be printed on ballots in time for Election Day.
首先，共和党全国委员会(Republican National Committee)必须产生一位新提名人，这一过程将涉及该委员会主席罗娜·麦克丹尼尔(Ronna McDaniel)和168名国家成员——每个州和属地各有三名成员。但由于许多州已经开始印刷、邮寄和接受选票，有些州已经开始现场投票，新候选人的名字不太可能在选举日前被及时打印到选票上。
Then it would fall to individual states to decide how to proceed, and most have not set rules for this situation.
“It would be a question of what each state’s law says or doesn’t say about what happens in this eventuality, and many state laws are just silent on this possibility,” said Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, who also discussed the issue on his Election Law blog. “So there may be questions about what to do.”
“问题会出现在每个州的法律对这种可能发生的情况有什么规定，或是没有规定，而许多州的法律对这种可能性只是保持沉默，”加州大学欧文分校(University of California, Irvine)的法学教授理查德·L·哈森(Richard L. Hasen)表示，他也在自己的选举法博客上讨论了这个问题。“所以关于该做什么，可能会有疑问。”
The question would become more complex if Mr. Trump won but was unable to serve. Some but not all states bind their electors to vote for whoever wins the state, but even most states with binding elector laws make no mention of what could happen should a candidate die or be unable to serve.
The question could be resolved by Congress, which certifies the Electoral College vote, or it could end up in the courts.