Now that Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has resigned in disgrace due to his complicity in Trump’s Russia scandal, it now seems a race against to see whether Trump resigns before massive public pressure forces a reluctant republican congress to impeach him. And, depending on how one parses things, it turns out Donald Trump can set the record for the shortest president in the history of the United States.
In terms of absolute shortest time serving as president, William Henry Harrison holds the title; he died of pneumonia (or some now argue enteric fever) just thirty-one days after being sworn in. For Donald Trump to break that record, he would need to resign within the next six days. Depending on how severely the public demand for impeachment is ramped up by Michael Flynn’s explosive departure last night, it seems possible but unlikely that Trump will resign by next Monday.
But you’ll find those who argue that because Harrison served before the 25th Amendment existed, he was technically still the president for the full forty-eight months even though he was deceased for the final forty-seven of them. Harrison’s vice president John Tyler was arguably never the president, even though he acted in the role for the remainder of Harrison’s term. So under those parameters, what was the shortest presidency on record, and can Trump still break the record?
Since the ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967, the only president not to finish a full term was Richard Nixon, who resigned. He had already been in office for more than five and a half years at the time. Or again, if you want to be technical about it, he was a little more than one a half years into his second term. So if Donald Trump were resign any time before August of 2018, his term would be shorter than Nixon’s second term. But many will only consider Trump to have truly set the record if he bests William Henry Harrison by resigning within the next week. For those wondering, impeaching Trump would take longer.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report