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Could Pence assume presidency if Trump is sick? What the 25th Amendment says

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, announces a national emergency to further combat the Coronavirus outbreak, at a news conference Friday, March 13, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

If President Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis makes him too sick to fulfill his role, what happens?

The answer lies in the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states the duties of the presidency could pass to the vice president.

Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for COVID-19 on Friday morning and is in “good health,” according to Devin O’Malley, Pence’s press secretary.

Trump has “mild symptoms of the coronavirus,” The New York Times reported Friday.

Should the president’s condition worsen, Trump is allowed to sign off on Pence fulfilling his duties, the Constitution states.

“Whenever the president transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the 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 Acting President,” Section 3 of the 25th Amendment States.

The 25th Amendment was first invoked in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan during his second term. George H.W. Bush took over for Reagan when he underwent colon cancer surgery.

“I am about to undergo surgery during which time I will be briefly and temporarily incapable of discharging the Constitutional powers and duties of the Office of the President of the United States,” Reagan wrote.

The transfer of power lasted eight hours and Bush reportedly played tennis for most of the time, according to NPR.

President George W. Bush transferred power to Dick Cheney in 2002 and 2007 when he went under anesthesia for colonoscopies, according to

“I did so because we’re at war and I just want to be super cautious,” Bush said, CNN reported in 2002.


© 2020 McClatchy Washington Bureau

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