NYT: Pelosi Should Not Be President: ‘Conflict of Interest’ to Impeach Someone She Could Replace

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

An editorial board member at the New York Times is weighing in on a post-impeachment scenario by coming out against the federal law that would put House Speaker Nancy Pelosi into the White House if President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were both removed.

The author argued that the law that puts Pelosi second in line behind the vice president should be changed.

The reason? Pelosi is in charge of impeaching the man she could replace.

“In short, it’s a whopping conflict of interest for a lawmaker to be leading an impeachment inquiry that could result in her own ascension to the presidency,” the editorial said.

The Times, of course, is tracking the effort to unseat a duly elected president because it believes it is a good, constitutional idea:

Most Republican gripes that an impeachment of President Trump would “overturn” the 2016 election are laughable. The House of Representatives’s power to impeach is right there in the Constitution, and Republican members had no qualms about using that power against President Bill Clinton, whose offenses were far less serious than those Mr. Trump has already copped to. But the gripes have merit when it comes to the matter of presidential succession.

The editorial is informative as to how the House Speaker became second in line, how the law was changed to place cabinet members in line to replace the president and then changed back again:

The original succession law, passed in 1792, designated only two people after the vice president: the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House. In case either took over, a special election would be held to choose a new president. Why those two officials, and not someone from the executive branch — say, a member of the president’s cabinet? Because of raw politics: The secretary of state at the time was Thomas Jefferson, a prominent critic of the Washington administration, and the Federalists in charge of Congress weren’t about to hand him a potential pass to the White House.

Consider what happened in 1868, when a Republican-led House of Representatives impeached President Andrew Johnson. In the Senate trial, one of Johnson’s most outspoken critics was Ben Wade, a Republican who also happened to be the president pro tempore. Wade voted to convict, along with 34 of his colleagues, one vote shy of the two-thirds majority necessary to remove Johnson from office. The vice presidency was vacant at the time, which meant Wade was effectively voting to make himself the president.

The editorial explains that the succession law was changed from the Speaker and Senate President Pro Tempore in 1886 to make cabinet members in line to succeed — an “arrangement that lasted 60 years.” 

President Harry Truman argued that the law should be changed back to it’s original state because members of the House and Senate are elected by the people and not appointed by the president. That is still the law today.

The editorial lays out another reason there should never be a President Pelosi:

Don’t the American people choose presidents largely because of their parties? Yes, they do, which is why the prospect of Ms. Pelosi, the veteran San Francisco Democrat, sitting behind the Resolute Desk in the middle of a Republican administration should trouble anyone who values stability and democratic legitimacy.

And it also depends on what “elected” means.

“Donald Trump won his office with about 63 million votes nationwide; Nancy Pelosi won hers with fewer than 300,000,” the editorial said. 

And, “Cabinet members, on the other hand, are handpicked by the president and confirmed by the Senate, which makes them more like a vice president than a member of Congress.

So, the editorial concludes, the law should be changed “tomorrow:”

There are many intractable problems in American politics, but the presidential succession law isn’t one of the. Congress can and should pass a law tomorrow removing legislators from the line, and replacing them with cabinet members, including the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and the attorney general.

“Donald Trump’s fate should be decided based on what he has done, not on who might replace him,” the editorial said.

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