Who are the seven US citizens in line to succeed Trump should the unthinkable happen?
In the hit ABC political drama Designated Survivor, Thomas Kirkman, an independent Housing and Urban Development Secretary, becomes president following a terrorist attack killing the rest of the line of succession. Further back, in the successful drama the West Wing, which finished in 2006 (can you believe it?), President Bartlett steps down temporarily, giving the powers of the president to the Speaker of the House due to the absence of a vice president. Fortunately, in real life, the only time the line of succession has been used is following the death or resignation of a president, most recently with Richard Nixon’s resignation, which was followed by Gerald Ford's ascension to the country's top job.
But which key figures are in line to succeed Trump if the unthinkable happened?
1st – Vice President Mike Pence
The former governor of Indiana was announced as Donald Trump’s running-mate ahead of the general election last November. Previously a member of the US House of Representatives, Pence became Indiana governor in 2013 and served right up until January of this year. Pence is currently the second favourite political figure to win the 2020 election, only beaten by incumbent Donald Trump, according to Oddschecker.
2nd – Speaker of the House Paul Ryan
Should the unthinkable happen to Trump and Pence, or should both get caught up in a scandal and are forced to resign together, this establishment Republican would be elevated to the presidency. Ryan was Mitt Romney’s running-mate back in 2012, and has served as Speaker since the end of 2015.
3rd – President pro tempore of the Senate Orrin Hatch
The president of the senate is the vice president, who can vote on the senate floor in the event of a tied vote. The president pro tempore is a position usually reserved for the most senior member in the majority party, meaning that the current president pro tempore of the Senate is 83-year-old Republican Orrin Hatch, who is the second longest-serving senator in the chamber.
4th – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
America’s most senior foreign affairs figure is fourth in line to the presidency. Under Barack Obama, this post was first held by Hillary Clinton and later John Kerry, but is currently held by Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the biggest oil companies in the world.
5th – Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin
Mnuchin is a former Goldman Sachs employee and Republican. He became treasury secretary following Trump’s election last year. He was preceded by Jack Lew, who served for most of Barack Obama’s two terms in power.
6th – Secretary of Defence James Mattis
Mattis is the only independent figure in the top seven, and one of just three in the line of succession. The rest are all Republicans. Nicknamed “Mad Dog”, Mattis served as the Commander of the United States Central Command between 2010 and 2013.
7th – Attorney General Jeff Sessions
The US Attorney General heads the country’s Department of Justice. The current man in the role is Jeff Session who started his political career as an attorney for Southern Alabama before becoming Alabama’s Attorney General. He was then elected to the senate in 1996 and served there right up until his appointment as United States Attorney General in 2017.
His role makes him seventh in line to the presidency.
A full list of the line of succession can be accessed here.