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Imagine if you will it's inauguration day, and everyone's up on the steps. The new VP is sworn in, and that lets the previous administration VP off the hook. Suddenly, a shot rings out, and the current administration sitting president is fatally hit.

What happens next? Does the newly sworn-in VP, being the official next-in-succession then get sworn in as President, or does the president-elect, still a civilian, get sworn in as the new president?

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In this scenario, theoretically, the Vice-President of the previous administration should become President for the few minutes until 12 noon when the incoming President's term starts.


This is because:

  1. Though the Vice-President of the new administration had already taken his oath of office, his term has not started constitutionally.

    • The Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

    • Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

      (emphasis mine)

  2. The Constitution isn't clear if the Oath of Office is necessary for the President to take office. The text simply states:

    • Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

    • So, even though the incoming VP has already taken the oath for Vice-Presidency, his term hasn't started yet. And even though the outgoing VP hasn't taken the oath for the Presidency, he would become President for a few minutes until it reached 12 noon when the incoming President's term starts.

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