How Trump could throw Mike Pence under the bus to save himself
Donald Trump and Governor Mike Pence of Indiana speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Moreso than at any other time in his presidency, Donald Trump appears to be perilously close to being impeached by the House of Representatives — and potentially even removed by the Senate.

Removal by the Senate still seems like a tall order, given that 20 Republicans would need to join with the 47 Democrats to find Trump guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors and give him the boot. But some cracks have appeared in Trump’s stalwart GOP defenses as the details of an intelligence community whistleblower have emerged and a devastating record of a call with Ukraine was released. And if the conduct that continues to be exposed is increasingly serious and damning, it’s possible even Republican lawmaker could be convinced to push the president out of office (though the most likely outcome is still impeachment in the House and acquittal in the Senate).

But if it appears that the Senate is turning against the president, Trump may have one move left to save himself: thoroughly tar Vice President Mike Pence with the Ukraine scandal.

It may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but by making it clear how thoroughly he corrupted his administration, Trump may be able to entrench himself in office. Because if Trump is removed, naturally, the vice president takes over. But if Trump and Pence were both removed — without time for a replacement vice president to be found — the presidency falls to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The last thing Senate Republicans would do, short of handing over the nuclear codes to Russia or China, is elevate a Democrat to become president and replace a Republican. Impeaching and removing Trump seems to be a big enough stretch to imagine — but ousting Trump and Pence in one fell swoop, as some have fantasized about, is unthinkable for the GOP.