What mechanisms are provided by the US Constitution to handle a situation in which the president is kidnapped or held prisoner by a foreign power?

Who will be the USA president-deputy?

How would be that person be nominated?

How long will it take to nominate him/her?

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 12:21
  • I've done a pretty big edit. We don't tend to find questions about particular hypothetical situations very answerable. So I've made the question about the general situation while briefly mentioning the North Korea story to clarify your intent. I've done this to try to avoid the question being closed.
    – James K
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 12:58
  • 3
    Note, some more research would be helpful, have you heard of the "vice president"?
    – James K
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 13:09
  • Thank you for your editing! Now it goes to the point. Concerning the 'vice president', I think is a retorical question, not very welcoming one for a new user though. Deputy, vice ...name it as you prefer, it doesn't make a difference.
    – Tino
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 14:15
  • This is highly hypothetical... the US president is one of the most well guarded people on earth. A primary line of defense is to get a VP so goofy or so scary that they discourage removal of the president. GHW Bush's VP, Dan Quayle, had the goofy part down, while Dick Cheney excelled at scary.
    – tj1000
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 8:54

2 Answers 2


I would expect Congress would declare war rather swiftly, and all attempts to obtain the President's release through military action would be tried. Even if Congress doesn't declare war, the Vice President would be sworn in as President following from Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution and they would take military action:

Article II, Section 1, Clause 6

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

The official policy of the government is to not negotiate with terrorists, and this would be seen as a terroristic act. The Constitution combined with the Twenty Fifth Amendment provide clear lines of succession, and Americans have rarely been all that attached to whoever happens to be in power anyway. Sending a message to the offending country would probably be more important than the captured President's life regardless of who the President is.

To answer your more specific questions:

How would be that person be nominated? How long will it take to nominate him/her?

The Vice President would be sworn in probably less than half an hour (give or take) after officials have realized what has happened. All that is really needed is a swearing in ceremony after a quick meeting of the Cabinet secretaries and (possibly) a letter is sent from the Vice President to both President pro tem of the Senate and the Speaker of the House given these facts, if the parties wish to strictly adhere to the 25th Amendment.

25th Amendment

Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President

  • "Americans have rarely been all that attached to whoever happens to be in power anyway." - ahem. FDR?
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 13:19
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    @user4012 Rarely. A third of the country at most given points in time would probably think to themselves "Good riddence," while still supporting military action.
    – user5155
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 13:33
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    Also, don't forget that there was quite a bit of contemporary critcism of FDR and his policies (specifically economic ones) that has lasted even to today.
    – user5155
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 13:45
  • I don't think that section 4 would be needed, as the President cannot do his job from a North Korean concentration camp. It's more for the President being tinfoil hat crazy but still in the grasp of the United States. It wouldn't hurt to have the extra documentation though.
    – hszmv
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 16:04
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    @JeffLambert: Cabinet need not be available. President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in by U.S. District Judge Sarah T. Hughes and took the oath of office on a Catholic Missal (hymn book) taken from President Kennedy's Air Force One desk. By law, the President cannot name people to his cabinet until he is sworn in as President (though they do announce who they intend to name prior to the oath of office). As the Kennedy Assasination was feared to be a conspiracy against the U.S. Government at the time, the urgency of the situation demanded Johnson be sworn in under less than ideal circumstances.
    – hszmv
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 18:13

The line of succession if the president is disabled, killed, impeached, kidnapped, or otherwise unable to fill the office, is: vice president, speaker of the house, president of the senate pro tempore (the VP normally fills that spot, but if they're gone, the senate appoints a replacement), and then the various cabinet heads, starting with secretary of state.

  • 1
    The VP is not the President of the Senate pro tempore. The VP is the President of the Senate. The President pro tempore is constitutionally the person who presides when the VP is not there. The President pro tempore is not selected when the VP is "gone" but at the start of the Senate and generally serves for the entire two-year Congress. It's mostly a ceremonial position, as the power to preside is usually delegated to a junior Senator.
    – Brythan
    Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 14:46

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