31

Mike Pence took his oath a few minutes before Donald Trump did.

During those few minutes, was he Vice President to President Obama?

41

No, because while taking the oath is a prerequisite for executing the office, just swearing it doesn't make one POTUS or VPOTUS.

Article II, Section 1, Clause 8 of the US Constitution says:

Before he [the President] enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: [...]

"Before" does not necessarily mean "the exact moment" and someone can hold an office without executing it. Term limits are defined in the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 1, which states:

The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January

So at January 20th 2017 12:00:00*, the terms of Obama and Biden ended and those of Trump and Pence started. But they still had to take their oaths in order to be allowed to actually do any of those things their offices allow them to do.

* One could nitpick and ask "12:00 according to what time zone?". If you really want to know, please ask a new question. someone asked that question.

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  • 4
    @helrich That's incorrect. The oath IS required. Article II Section 8, Clause 1. – Philipp Jan 23 '17 at 14:36
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    @Cruncher No, the oath is required before the office of POTUS can be executed. I added the relevant section of the constitution to the answer. – Philipp Jan 23 '17 at 14:40
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    @Cruncher You have a president. That president just isn't allowed to do anything before he said those 35 words. But the constitution doesn't say anything about how that oath needs to be taken. The ceremony is optional. So in a pinch Trump could just have quickly said "I do solemnly swear 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 and now launch those goddamn missiles" – Philipp Jan 23 '17 at 15:11
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    the constitution doesn't say anything about how that oath needs to be taken -> So Trump could have taken the oath over Twitter? 🤔 – user11249 Jan 23 '17 at 15:21
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    @Leatherwing but any act undertaken by Obama before the second "correct" swearing of the oath could presumably be legally challenged on the grounds that the constitutional requirements for Obama to act as president had not been met. Such a challenge would also require a legal determination that the first swearing had in fact been inadequate in some way; my recollection was that the mistake was so minor that it would probably have been ruled insignificant if the question had come before a court, but the second swearing was organized to preempt any possible challenge. – phoog Jan 23 '17 at 15:23

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