Unimpeachable

Mark Olson
Sep 6, 2018 · 5 min read

On September 5, 2018, the New York Times published a stunning op-ed in which an anonymous “senior White House official” writes, “I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” However, this op-ed contains the fairly idiosyncratic word “lodestar.” As the internet has pointed out, the peculiar word “lodestar” also appears to be a favorite word used by Vice President Mike Pence throughout past speeches and writings over the last couple decades. Many believe that this clue strongly suggests that Vice President Mike Pence is the author of the anonymous and scathing rebuke of President Trump in the New York Times.

If Vice President Pence is the author of this anonymous Op-Ed, Mike Pence just pulled off the most Machiavellian feat of recent American history because the Constitution renders the Vice President un-removable from office (at least until the next election). That’s right, the Vice President cannot be fired, and the Vice President cannot be removed from office after impeachment.

First, the Vice President cannot be fired by the President because Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution states that the Vice President is elected separately from the President. Like Article II, Section 1 says: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected.”

Since the president cannot fire the Vice President, surely the Vice President can be impeached and subsequently removed from office? Article II, Section 4 does state: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution would make it seem that a Vice President could be impeached and removed from office. Keep in mind that once a government official is impeached by the House of Representatives, they are not removed from office. After the House votes to impeach an official, they are then tried by the Senate to determine if that official should be removed from office.

However, the wrinkle comes in Clauses 4 and 6 of Article I, Section III of the U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section III, Clause 4 states: “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate.” Article I, Section III, Clause 6 states: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.”

The vice president is the President of the Senate and thus presides over the Senate, unless the Senate is holding a trial to determine if, and only if, an impeached President should be removed from office; in this case, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the Senate during the trial. However, Article I, Section III, Clause 6 only specifies if the President of the United States is being tried by the Senate. If the Vice President of the United States is being tried by the Senate for removal from office after impeachment by the House, the Vice President would still be serving as the President of the Senate. Article I only changes the President of the Senate in the specific case that the President has been impeached and is being tried for removal from office. It would be like a sitting judge sitting over a case in which he is also the defendant of the very same case.

Simply put, Vice President Pence (or any Vice President) is immune removal from office after impeachment because he would preside as judge over his very own trial for removal from office in the Senate. On the day of the trial, the Vice President could just show up, sit in his big chair at the front of the Senate Chamber, and refuse to call the Senate to order or refuse to allow any Senator to speak. According to the rules of the Senate, no Senator can speak unless the presiding officer, in this case, the Vice President, gives that Senator permission to speak. No call to order, no speaking, thus, no trial to remove from office.

Whether an accident or intentionally written into the Constitution by our founders can be debated by scholars; however, it is plainly stated in the original text of the Constitution that the Vice President would preside as judge over his own trial to remove from office after impeachment. Unless the President is first removed from office making the Vice President the President, the Vice President cannot be fired, cannot be removed from office after impeachment in the House, and will hold his office until he is not elected Vice President by the people.

In response to the op-ed, President Trump tweeted, “TREASON?”–clearly a warning tied to the criteria for impeachment under Article II, Section 4. However, if Vice President Mike Pence is the anonymous op-ed author betrayed only by the use of the arcane word “lodestar,” and has been leading an underground resistance inside the White House to thwart President Trump–even flirting with using the 25th amendment to remove President Trump from office–Mr. Pence’s actions are a feat that Machiavelli would be proud of. According to the words of the U.S. Constitution, Vice President Mike Pence cannot be fired by President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence (as long President Trump remains president) cannot be removed from office if impeached.

If Mike Pence is indeed leading an anti-Trump resistance he is doing so from a place of immense power — he cannot be fired by President Trump, and if Congress turns against him, such as the Pro-Trump wing of the Republican party joining with Democrats in Congress to move against Pence, Pence could only be removed from office if Trump were impeached and removed from office first. If a Pence lead resistance is also the source of other leaks, Pence cannot be removed from office, which makes Pence the perfectly positioned Machiavellian leader as the Constitution guarantees that unless President Trump resigns or is removed from office via impeachment or the 25th amendment, no matter what, Mike Pence will be the Vice President until 11:59am (eastern time) on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 (per the 20th Amendment).

References

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration. (2018, September 05). Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/opinion/trump-white-house-anonymous-resistance.html

Matthews, D. (2018, September 05). Trump is accusing his administration’s anonymous op-ed writer of treason. That’s nonsense. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2018/9/5/17825062/new-york-times-trump-op-ed-treason

Moye, D. (2018, September 06). One Word Has People Convinced Mike Pence Wrote Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lodestar-mike-pence-anonymous-new-york-times_us_5b905dd5e4b0511db3dec1e1

Mark Olson

Written by

Political consultant, Poli Sci Prof, MBA, MA in Poli Sci

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