Trump’s diagnosis is a jolt for the country’s leadership, and officials said some advisers early Friday discussed the continuity of government should the president’s condition grow worse. Vice President Pence tested negative for the virus Friday morning, a spokesman said.
If both Trump and Pence were to fall ill, however, the presidential line of succession would move on to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 80, who said Friday she was being tested out of an abundance of caution and was awaiting results.
Down the line are Senate president pro tempore Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), and then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the first Cabinet member in the line of succession. Pompeo has been traveling since Sept. 27 and recently tested negative with his wife, he told reporters Friday, but was reconsidering travel to Africa following the news.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who would come next in line, has been negotiating a coronavirus relief bill for days with Peolsi.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper would come next. He tested negative Wednesday ahead of his travel to Africa and was last with Trump on Sunday for a White House event, the Pentagon said. Esper will be tested again Friday, defense officials said.
A likelier scenario is the temporary surrender of powers by the president to the vice president, as clarified in the 25th Amendment. If the president is unable to perform his duties, including by disability or illness, the president informs the House speaker and Senate president, and the vice president performs presidential duties.
The president then resumes duties after providing “a written declaration to the contrary” to the Congressional leaders, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The measure has been used three times. President Ronald Reagan informally invoked the act in 1985 when he was incapacitated for cancer surgery, according to the CRS. President George W. Bush later used the measure in 2002 and 2007, both while he was sedated for routine colonoscopies.