There are plenty of observers, including Michael Cohen, who suspect that Donald Trump might resign shortly before the end of his term so that President Mike Pence can pardon him. This is based on the premise that a pardon from Pence might have a better chance of holding up in court than if Trump were to try to pardon himself. But what really happens if Trump resigns early?
First, Pence automatically and immediately becomes President. From there it gets more complicated. Pence could nominate anyone he wants to be the new Vice President. But that nominee would need to be confirmed by the House and Senate, meaning both parties would need to be on board – meaning the pick would have to be non-controversial.
For that matter, with just days left in the term, there might not be time for Congress to vet and confirm a pick anyway. There’s a good chance there would simply be no Vice President. If something were to happen to Pence, then Speaker Pelosi would become President.
It gets even trickier. If Mike Pence were to pardon Donald Trump, it would be the end of Pence’s political career. We all know that Pence has no chance if he runs for President in 2024 or 2028, but hope springs eternal. Would he be willing to throw his career away just to pardon Trump? Would Trump be willing to resign unless he has absolute confirmation from Pence that a pardon is coming? As with all would-be magic wand tricks in politics, this one merely ends up being complicated for everyone involved.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report