A little over a month into his administration and there is growing talk President Trump will be leaving office before the end of his four-year term, either voluntarily or with a little help from his Party.
Have a $100 and willing to chance it? You’re in luck.
Ladbrokes, the UK bookmaker, is running a Donald J. Trump special this week. They even take credit cards.
If you think The Donald will serve his full term, you can get odds of 10/11, turning your c-note into $191. Not a huge return, I agree.
Greater risk but better odds can be had betting your Benjamin against the Trump White House, especially if you’re willing to pick the year he will be replaced. Bet 2017 at 9/4 and earn $325. A wager on 2020 goes off at 16/1 and rewards you with enough for a three-night stay at the Trump International Hotel in Capital City (tax included). Ladbrokes is willing to pay even if Mr. Trump is replaced briefly.
Which brings me closer to the questions of the day: who would replace The Donald and what would the impact be on the nation’s clean energy and environment sectors?
To give the mendacious man from Manhattan his due, I rather doubt anyone could replace him in sheer star power. In terms of the US Constitution, however, that would be Vice-President Pence.
There are basically two circumstances under which Trump could be relieved of the Oval Office, not counting violence. An act of which I would hope never to happen.
Article 1, section 9, clause 8 of the paper our republic is written on states:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States:
And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under
them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of
any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever,
from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
The emolument clause is so obscure a provision of the Constitution as to have been referenced by the Supreme Court only three times in 240 years. None of which actually had anything to do with a then sitting president.
Why an early Trump exit is being raised these days has nothing to do with leaks out of the White House that Trump suggesting an intention to crown himself king or, because Putin plans to award him the honorary title of A Hero of the Federation.
It’s the appearance of using the Office to benefit the family businesses that has opponents buzzing.
Parenthetically, I understand the emoluments argument; but personally, it’s low on my concerns for the country. Short of a 21st Century Teapot Dome scandal or worse, I would prefer our political leaders to focus on something more substantive and threatening to democracy.
Which brings me to the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:
Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or
of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the
principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body
as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore
of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their
written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers
and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the
powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
The Amendment was ratified in 1967 after President Kennedy’s assassination. Somewhat shockingly, the U.S. Constitution didn’t establish the line of succession should a president become disabled, dysfunctional or dead. The Amendment was added to assure an orderly and the peaceful transfer of power.
Possibly the most notorious invocation of the Amendment occurred in the aftermath of John Hinckley having shot President Reagan and permanently disabling his press secretary, Jim Brady.
It would not be an exaggeration to say what followed was a bit of mayhem in the intelligence community and within Congress and the cabinet. In the course of events there was a gaff more extraordinary than the one at this year’s Oscars, when Reagan’s Secretary of Defense erroneuosly declared himself in charge. An “oh, never mind” moment for which Alexander Haig will be forever remembered.
The 25th Amendment applies to circumstances beyond a wounding. It can be invoked while a president is under-going surgery or because of illness. No—petulance is not a legitimate reason to call for a presidential time out.
Somewhat ironically, the reason cited these days for the possibility of Trump’s departure—either temporarily or permanently—is Trump being Trump.
The rambling, contentious and confrontational manner that earned The Donald the presidency may be the same things used to deny him access to the Oval Office.
Face it. For many, Republicans and Democrats alike, President Trump’s distinctive style is unsettling. At some point, it may make them so nervous as to take the extraordinary step of calling for the elevation of Mile Pence to the presidency.
Which brings me to Pence’s possible ascendency and what it might mean to the clean energy and climate change sectors. You should be asking yourself the same question your optometrist asks: better or worse?
Vice President Pence is not exactly an unknown commodity when it comes to his views on clean energy technologies and the scientific and anthropomorphic causes of climate change. In 2014, for example, Governor Pence told Chuck Todd of MSNBC’s Chuck Todd called climate change a myth, the science behind it suspect and unresolved.
Like many deniers, Pence sticks his head out his door in winter and claims the cold as evidence of weather as usual. To be fair, he did acknowledge during the 2016 campaign that what we humans do have some impact on the environment. He’s never really said, however, what the impact might be or whether it makes a difference in the overall scheme of things.
A translator of Trumpisms, candidate Pence often cautions against any run to judgement that might negatively impact jobs in the fossil fuel sector. During one CNN segment, he explained:
What Donald Trump said was a hoax is that bureaucrats in Washington…can control the climate of the Earth.
Vice President Pence was recently re-united with his ally Scott Pruitt. Governor Pence whole-heartedly supported state challenges to the Clean Power Plan going so far as writing the Indiana Congressional delegation asking that they defund the U.S. EPA. In June of 2015, he announced that Indiana would not be complying with the CPP unless major changes were made. He subsequently modified that position, but only if SCOTUS approved the Plan.
Indiana is the 8th largest coal producing state in the Union. Pence sought to bring back the sector as governor and agrees with President Trump that the nation should follow an all-of-the-above energy strategy.
Congressman Pence, in six-terms of service, achieved a lifetime score of 4 from the League of Conservation Voters. He missed an opportunity to veto a bill that killed a successful energy efficiency program and continues to ignore the importance of clean energy technologies to job creation--including for the rising tide of coal miners who have permanently lost their jobs because of natural gas.
Returning once again to the question: President Pence, better or worse? Based on their words and actions, it might be called a toss-up.
I would caution the clean energy and climate communities, however, and advise consideration of the bigger picture. Yes, President Trump has expressed many times his suspicion of the science behind climate change, a commitment to keep the coal industry alive and has shown little support or an understanding of the problems and the potentials.
Although Trump and Pence may differ little in their words, the differ greatly in their political abilities and compatibility with the current Congressional Republican majorities. Trump’s charisma got him elected. Will mastery of the media serve to make good on his promises?
Pence may appear just a supporting actor on today’s political stage--slow and steady. What about tomorrow? He is an accomplished politician and, to the leaders of Congress, a more acceptable leader of the conservative wing of the Republican Party.
Does slow and steady trump charismatic? Time will tell. Here's hoping you bet wisely.
Joel B. Stronberg
Joel Stronberg, MA, JD., of The JBS Group is a veteran clean energy policy analyst with over 30 years’ experience, based in Washington, DC.