If Donald Trump and Mike Pence are ousted, get ready for President Paul Ryan.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives is next in line if both the president and the vice president are removed from office simultaneously. And that may sound enticing for critics of the administration, until they remember Ryan's record.
As Speaker, Ryan has failed to push through any important legislation at a time when Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House. But if he could, he has made it clear he’d like to slash funding for Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps. Some of his most noteworthy ideas over the years have included privatizing Social Security and abolishing the corporate income tax. He often blames the poor for their problems.
“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work,” he told a conservative radio host in 2014. “There is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with."
Others have called the Wisconsin Representative an opportunist who condemned Trump during the campaign, saying he could not support him after the notorious Access Hollywood video came out, but has failed to criticize Trump since he took office.
"If Trump and Pence get removed, Paul Ryan becomes president. We’re fucked no matter what," tweeted @anthagiox, saying what many were tweeting on Friday.
The prospect of a Ryan administration gained traction Friday after former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with foreign agents. Flynn, a key figure in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election, is widely believed to have agreed to testify in exchange for a plea deal.
ABC News reported on Friday that Flynn will testify that Trump instructed him to contact Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. If true, the information Flynn provides could lead to an indictment or the impeachment of Trump. Vice President Mike Pence would be the next in line for the presidency, but it's also possible that Pence could be implicated in the Russia scandal. Federal prosecutors revealed Friday that a senior Trump transition official directed Flynn to speak to Russian ambassador. That person could very likely be Pence, who also led Flynn's vetting process.
Pence has a history of denying his knowledge of the Trump campaign's activities during the 2016 campaign. Last year, Pence publicly denied that the Trump campaign had ever been in touch with WikiLeaks, a statement that turned out to be false. In November, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, admitted that he had exchanged messages with WikiLeaks, the organization that leaked information stolen from the Democratic Party by Russian hackers.
And Thursday, news broke that Trump ally Roger Stone had been communicating with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with the help of a New York radio host. Stone, who is in regular communication with the president, has bragged about his ties to Wikileaks. Given this extent of the Trump campaign’s contact with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election, it’s hard to believe Pence had no knowledge of these incidents.
Pence may also be implicated in obstruction of justice in relation to the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
So it all points to Ryan—unless, of course, Trump is impeached and President Pence gets his own vice president confirmed before he's ousted, too.