There exists, in some circles, a fantasy in which President Donald Trump is impeached, and Hillary Clinton is somehow named president. Those circles tend to be Republican ones, and one can argue they exist as some sort of nightmare fuel for conservatives itching for a reason to back Trump in his prolonged fight against special counsel Robert Mueller.
But a day after the president and his party tried to publicly shame the press with the term "fake news," Newsweek gave us a story that makes absolutely no sense — one in which Trump was impeached, Vice President Mike Pence was impeached and Paul Ryan somehow gifted the presidency to Clinton instead.
That fantasy was borne out of a blog post in October penned by Harvard Law professor and activist Lawrence Lessig, who wrote that Mueller's investigation would eventually lead to Trump's impeachment. While that is improbable, it's not completely impossible.
But Lessig took his theory a step farther, saying that, in some world, the presidential chain of succession would reach Paul Ryan, who would literally hand the most powerful office in the nation from himself to Clinton — a member of the opposite party and his party's enemy number one.
Soak in this magical fairytale:
[If collusion is proven] the first step is obvious. Trump should resign or, if he doesn’t, he should be impeached.
The second step should be obvious as well: Pence should resign or, if he doesn’t, he should be impeached. He benefited from the criminal (and treasonous) conspiracy just as much as Trump. He shouldn’t benefit even more by becoming the residual President.
Under the law as it is, this leaves Paul Ryan as President. And the hard moral question that Ryan would then face is whether he should remain as President. By hypothesis, we’re assuming the office was effectively stolen from the legitimate winner by a criminal and treasonous act of the (previous) leader of Ryan’s own party. Ryan’s being President is just the fruit of that poisonous tree. So should he just ignore that? Or should he acknowledge the wrong, and act to make it right?
President Ryan would have the right to nominate a Vice-President. That right is specified in the 25th Amendment. That nominee then becomes Vice-President once confirmed by a majority of both houses. That’s how Gerald Ford became Vice President. And that’s how he eventually became President without ever running for that office.
If Ryan became President because the Trump/Pence campaign committed treason, who should he nominate as his Vice President? The answer seems unavoidable: He should nominate the person defeated by the treason of his own party, and then step aside, and let her become the president.
The theory is, to put it mildly, bonkers. No one should give it more than one second of thought.
But that's exactly what Newsweek did on Thursday, revisiting Lessig's old blog post to advance it with one simple question: Does he still believe that? That question is the only reason the Newsweek article exists. It was answered with a sure, why the hell not? Per Newsweek:
On Wednesday, Lessig told Newsweek this scenario was still a possibility.
"This is one way it could happen," Lessig said. "But that’s very different from saying I think it will happen, or should happen, or [that] the evidence is there for it to happen."
Since the essay was published, there hasn’t been "any evidence that’s come out that’s resolved the question, whether there was some conspiracy to steal the election," the professor said.
So there you have it. Nothing has changed whatsoever. Indeed, if anything, improbable scenario has become less probable, as Lessig admits (he also concedes that there is no grounds for thinking it would be probable). The only possible news value here is that Newsweek asked Lessig if something has changed, and found out that nothing has. It's pure air blowing in the wrong direction.
Many online came to that same conclusion.
To make matters worse for Newsweek, the article comes out a day after the publication ran a piece saying that Trump was taking a "hair loss drug even after research revealed it causes erectile dysfunction and depression," which upset some staffers at the publication.
Newsweek did not return requests for comment.