If Donald Trump is impeached and then removed from office by a Senate trial, Vice President Mike Pence would, under the constitutionally mandated line of succession, immediately assume the office of the president. But according to the House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry report issued on Tuesday, Pence is also implicated in the plot to force Ukraine into an investigation of Democrat Joe Biden — the exact offense for which Trump may now be impeached.
The report says that Pence, as well as Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo, and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, were “either knowledgeable of or active participants” in the plot to force the Ukraine government into and investigations that would be of “personal political benefits” to Trump.
According to the evidence unearthed by the impeachment inquiry and spelled out in the report, Trump withheld a congressionally approved $400 million aid package, as well as the promise of White House visit for the country’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky, from Ukraine in an effort to “compel” the Ukrainian government “to do his political bidding.”
If a voting majority of the House agrees that Trump abused the power of his office in the Ukraine plot, Trump will be impeached. The impeachment then goes to the Senate for a trial. If 67 of the 100 senators vote to convict Trump, he would then likely be removed from office. But the report appears to put Congress in a conundrum, because Pence — who would take over the Oval Office — is also implicated in the same impeachable offense as Trump.
The report, however, contains no mention of whether Pence may also face impeachment.
In witness testimony, United States Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland — who acted as the point man in the effort to pressure Zelensky — said under oath that he told Pence directly that the military aid was being held back in order to force Zelensky to announce the investigations demanded by Trump, according to a USA Today account.
Pence has denied Sondland’s claims.
But Trump himself has also appeared to implicate Pence. On September 25, the same day that the White House released a partial transcript of Trump’s phone conversation with Zelensky that ignited the impeachment proceedings, Trump told reporters that he felt they should “ask for Vice President Pence’s conversation, because he had a couple of conversations also.”
Pence has denied that he had any knowledge of Trump’s request for “a favor” from Zelensky in the phone call. The “favor” referred in part to the Biden investigation. But an aide to Pence was listening to the Trump-Zelensky call, and would have given the Vice President a transcript of the conversation within hours, experts say.