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Francis Joseph “Frank” Underwood (born November 5, 1959) is an American politician who served as the 46th President of the United States from 2014 to his resignation in 2017, when he became the third president to resign from office. He assumed office after the resignation of Garrett Walker on October 30, 2014. Prior to this, he served as the 49th Vice President of the United States from 2013 to 2014, and formerly served as the majority whip for the United States House of Representatives, serving South Carolina's 5th district.

Along with Doug Stamper (Francis' chief of staff), his wife Claire Underwood, and publicist Seth Grayson, he gradually began to get revenge for being snubbed as Secretary of State by President Walker and eventually manipulated his way to becoming the 49th Vice President and after a time, the 46th and current President of the United States.

As President, Underwood initiated the America Works program, which lasted for several months until it was defunded by Congress. Underwood also negotiated with Russian President Viktor Petrov to relinquish his hold on the Jordan Valley, by negotiating Claire's resignation as U.N. Ambassador. Underwood has also passed a Gun Control Bill, which was inspired after his assassination attempt in March 2016.

In the 2016 presidential election, he and his wife and running mate Claire ran against Republican challenger Will Conway and his running mate Ted Brockhart. Although neither candidate received a majority of electoral votes, Underwood would go on to win new elections in Ohio. He was sworn in to his second term on February 17, 2017.

Underwood's short-lived second term, however, was riddled with scandal. He and his administration was investigated by the Declaration of War committee, which led him to resign the presidency on March 15, 2017.

Early life

Frank was an only child born on November 5th, 1959. Frank's father was a peach farmer in Gaffney, South Carolina, who died of a heart attack at the age of 43. (Chapter 3) Underwood has stated that he and his father had nothing in common whatsoever, and upon his father's death, he felt neither regret nor remorse. He also speaks about his father's cowardice, weak personality and drunken behavior.

Raised in impoverished circumstances, he found his hometown suffocating at the time. (Chapter 3)

Frank attended military college at "The Sentinel", based on The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He began attending the academy "just after Jimmy Carter had been elected president" (1976).  In his senior year, his grades suffered when he volunteered for a U.S. Senate campaign in the fall 1980 and was nearly expelled from the military college. Despite his poor grades, Underwood was accepted and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1984. It is shown that he had a sexual and romantic relationship while in military college with another cadet, Tim Corbet. (Chapter 8). The incident and others put Frank's sexuality into question.

Marriage

On September 3, 1987, Frank married Claire. It could be inferred that Frank met Claire while attending law school at Harvard due to the incomplete pamphlet shown for the Underwood Library opening ceremony stating "Harvard Law School... in 1984, where he met...". (Chapter 8) Although Claire was interested in having children, Frank soon decided that it would be cruel to bring a child into a world of pain.

Claire became pregnant during Frank's early campaigning years, but the child was aborted to help further Frank's political career. In 2014, Claire declares in a TV interview that she had the abortion because she was impregnated from being raped by her boyfriend early in college, a man who later became a decorated general; this, however, is a lie, as the rape did not result in pregnancy.

Frank is bisexual or pansexual. He engaged in a long-term relationship with Tim Corbet during their time at the Sentinel. In Season 2, Frank and Claire have a threesome with Secret Service agent Edward Meechum. In Season 4, Frank reveals he had feelings for Tom Yates.

South Carolina State Legislature

Frank was first elected to public office in 1984 at the age of 25 as a member for the South Carolina State Senate, as one of the youngest state legislators in state history. He was re-elected in 1988 before successfully running for Congress.

U.S. Congressional Career (1991 - 2013)

Early Congressional Career

Frank was first elected as U.S. Representative from South Carolina's 5th congressional district in 1990 and was sworn into office in January of 1991.  He has since served for 12 terms, winning re-election for his 12th term in 2012. Frank steadily rose to higher power within Congress, eventually becoming the House Majority Whip for the Democratic Party in 2005. (Chapter 1)

Secretary of State Passover

While beginning to announce his ideas to White House Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez for when he becomes Secretary of State, Vasquez informs Frank that President Walker had passed him up for the position, breaking a promise that he had made to Frank and angering him. This led to him attempting to bring down the nominee for Secretary of State, Michael Kern, an incompetent politician, and replacing him with a person he deemed a tougher, smarter candidate: Catherine Durant. (Chapter 1)

Frank begins his overture by orchestrating a fall from grace by Kern. Through Peter Russo, a morally torn congressman, Frank is able to manipulate a drug addicted editor of the Kern's former college newspaper. Kern is then pelted by media for a piece he allegedly authored regarding the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. This subsequent negative media attention leads the President to select someone else, a personal friend of Frank's, Catherine Durant, Senator from Louisiana.

Peter Russo for Governor

Taking the young representative under his wing, Frank Underwood´s seemingly grooms Peter Russo for Governor of Pennsylvania. He asks Russo to give him one month of sobriety, not for Frank, but himself. While it does appear that Frank truly wishes for Peter Russo to succeed, he knows his true plan will not come to fruition if he actually wins. Frank and the campaign team decide to portray him as a phoenix, in some respects; an alcoholic who was once at the very bottom of his life, now arisen from the ashes, via his children's and God's love. He pretends to be open with his former addictions and problems, but reveals only a small portion of his past. However, this does not work and voters slowly start turning away and losing interest.

Peter eventually manages to gain trust and respect in his state, first by partnering with his old friend with the unions, then by putting the Vice President in his place after he (the beloved former Governor of Pennsylvania) begins meddling in the campaign. However, he eventually relapses due to Doug Stamper 's influence in the reappearance of the call girl, Rachel Posner, who Russo was previously associated with. Russo even had another short affair with an unnamed male prostitute that was hinted to be under aged. The morning after Peter relapses, he absolutely ruins a morning radio show where he is clearly drunk and confused. With the election thus slipping from Russo's grasp (as Frank knew would occur and cleverly planned for), Frank quickly takes control of the situation and implies the Vice President could take back the governorship of the state. Underwood then murders Russo, planting it as a suicide, either accidental or not, by carbon monoxide poisoning when he realizes Russo is out of control and is no longer afraid of Frank.  

Education Bill

Meanwhile, Frank gains publicity with a controversial education bill. The bill makes teachers go on strike and they begin to riot over the contents. He makes a damaging appearance on a news debate with Marty Spinella. Frank himself even admits that Spinella "schooled" him. It is later mentioned that memes and a techno song were created because of Frank's performance.

Season 1 Chapter 6

Frank debates the teacher strike.

Either way, after the debate Frank takes charge and garners support when a child dies during school hours. He arranged a meeting with Spinella to come to a compromise which Frank had promised. Once they arrive at the meeting though Frank declares that does not plan to compromise. He provokes Spinella into punching him and Frank makes him end the strike or he will file charges. Allowing Frank's bill to pass.

Vice Presidential Attempt

After Frank secures an open spot in the Pennsylvania Governorship race (by killing Peter Russo), he begins to influence the Vice President to run. Previously, he had gotten Jim Matthews to campaign with Peter Russo, where he (the Vice President) was reintroduced to the love and adulation of a constituency that loved him. This reminded the Vice President of his glory days as a politician, the glory days that had not continued in his Vice Presidency. Knowing that he was unhappy, and very eager to feel important once more, as well as having freed up a space for Governor, Frank suggests the Vice President as Governor. The President and V.P. heartily agree, a decision further amounted to, because of an evident dislike for one another. Frank ensures they are both aware of this mutual dislike, by mentioning their comments told in confidence to him, to the other. 
Season 1 Chapter 13

Frank accepts the nomination for Vice President.

As the V.P. campaigns for the certain victory, Frank and White House Chief of Staff, Linda Vasquez, create a fake list of Vice Presidential nominees.The nominees are incompetent and definitely not appropriate. This leads the President to become desperate and be ready to say yes to anything. They cross off every name, as they attempt to build up to Frank becoming the Vice President. 

After being vetted by billionaire business magnate Raymond Tusk, a confidant and old friend of the President, Walker officially offered Frank the Vice Presidency, which Frank quickly and heartily accepted. Meanwhile, Frank's phone, left at home, rang as Doug attempted to inform him of Zoe Barnes' (a journalist working closely with Frank) betrayal.

Frank eventually had a few discussions with Zoe, before meeting with her in a subway station. After having her erase their digital history together, she began to question and probe the death of Peter Russo. With her becoming too close to discovering his scheme, Frank threw her in front of an oncoming train, killing her.

Vice Presidency (2013 - 2014)

Way of Money

As Vice President, Frank first set out to sever the close ties and drive a wedge between President Walker and Raymond Tusk. He did this by back channelling with China regarding the building of a Port Jefferson Bridge and successfully lobbied the President to go against Tusk's interests in the project.

Season 2 Chapter 16

Frank, as Vice President, presides over the Senate.

Tusk started guiding his money to the Republicans and Frank ordered Seth Grayson to assist a reporter in revealing Xander Feng's connections to the money. The ensuing investigation led to Tusk's implication of President Walker and Walker's resignation. Frank ensured that Jackie Sharp whipped up enough votes for impeachment in the house by having Claire rework the Military Sexual Assault bill and he convinced Michael Kern to help him whip votes in the Senate by hinting at an eventual nomination as Secretary of the Treasury.

With connection to China exposed, President Walker was trapped and resigned his presidency. Frank was promptly sworn in as President.

Presidency (2014 - 2017)

Main article: Presidency of Frank Underwood

A Rocky Start

The presidency of Frank Underwood began on October 30, 2014, immediately following the resignation of Garrett Walker. His first act as President was to renounce the asylum of Xander Feng, resulting in his deportation back to China and almost certain execution.

Chapter 26 Inauguration

Frank is sworn in as President.

Within a week of taking office, the Republicans gained a majority in the 2014 midterm elections.

As the third season began, the Underwood presidency was off to a rocky start. Frank, in an attempt to reverse his poor approval numbers, begins working on a program designed to bring unemployment to virtually undetectable levels, a program called America Works.

In April 2015, Underwood, under pressure from congressional leadership to not run for the nomination, made an address to the American people, stating he would not run for re-election in the 2016 presidential election, and would spend the rest of his term trying to make a difference, including initiating America Works.

Russian Tensions

Underwood hosted his first state dinner with a world leader on May 5, 2015: Viktor Petrov, President of Russia. Underwood and Petrov used the visit to discuss an American troop movement to the Jordan Valley. Petrov says that he will only support the American troop movement to the Jordan Valley if the US will dismantle their air defense system in Europe. After some consideration, Underwood refuses the offer and holds a press conference stating that the US will achieve peace in the Middle East with or without a partnership with Russia.

Season 3 Chapter 32

Frank on Air Force One, reeling from the trip to Moscow.

In July 2015, Frank launched the America Works program during July 4th weekend in Washington D.C. That same month, Frank and Claire visited Viktor Petrov in Russia to negotiate the return of Michael Corrigan, a gay man who was arrested for protesting Petrov. Despite urging from Claire to read a forged apology, Corrigan hung himself in his jail cell, prompting Claire to publicly shame Petrov.

Frank goes to the Jordan valley to meet with Petrov months later, and Petrov agrees to relinquish control of the Jordan Valley if Claire steps down as ambassador to the United Nations. Claire ultimately steps down, though this strains the relationship between Claire and Frank.

2016 Democratic primaries

Main article: Democratic Party presidential primaries, 2016

In September 2015, Frank announced he would run for the Democratic nomination, despite claiming that he would not earlier that year. He ran against Heather Dunbar and Jackie Sharp.

At the first primary debate in December 2015, Underwood, who was collaborating with Sharp, faced fierce criticism from Dunbar. Days later, Jackie withdrew her candidacy and endorsed Dunbar for President. As Dunbar continued to gain traction, Frank discovered that Dunbar had a journal, claiming that Claire lied about having an abortion, which was given to her by Doug. Doug, however, burns the journal.

Season 3 Chapter 37

Frank and candidates at the first primary debate.

Tension continues to grow between Claire and Frank, just as the Iowa caucus approaches. Frank comes out on top in the Iowa caucus, though Dunbar vows to fight on.

The day after Frank's Iowa victory, Claire says that she is leaving Frank, and flies to Texas to stay with her mother. Frank, while in New Hampshire, continues his campaign under much stress without Claire. Often he would fantasize or dream about beating Claire. Into a mirror he would throw her, creating cracks. She pulls a piece of the broken mirror and stabs Frank in the gut.

Frank flies to Texas to check in on Claire, and uses his mother-in-law's cancer as an alibi for going to the state. Frank loses New Hampshire to Dunbar that night.

Claire states her intention to run for a congressional race in Texas. During the 2016 State of the Union address, Frank endorses another candidate, preventing Claire from announcing her candidacy. Claire, in retaliation, finds a photo of Frank's father with a KKK klansman, costing him the South Carolina primary. Claire tells Frank she wants to be his running mate or she will announce publicly that they are getting a divorce.

Assassination Attempt

Main article: Attempted assassination of Frank Underwood

On March 17, 2016, while greeting protestors following a rally at Hammond University in Washington, D.C., Frank and Secret Service Agent Edward Meechum were shot and wounded by Lucas Goodwin. While Underwood ultimately survived, Meechum was killed. Goodwin's motivation for the shooting were to avenge the death of Zoe Barnes, whom he claims was murdered by Underwood.

After the assassination attempt, Underwood was rushed to Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. The first lady Claire Underwood was in Texas at the time, and flew to D.C. immediately. The Vice President Donald Blythe was authorized as Acting President of the United States at 12:38 pm.

Underwood remained in the hospital for nine days, and was released on March 26, where he resumed all the duties of the presidency.

Weeks earlier, Dunbar had a meeting with Goodwin while she was campaigning in Ohio. With no way out, Dunbar withdrew her candidacy on May 16, allowing Underwood to become the presumptive nominee of the party. 

2016 presidential election

Main article: United States presidential election, 2016

After making a full recovery from the assassination attempt, Frank believes that he and Claire are stronger together, and fully supports her effort to become Vice President.

Chapter 48 Frank and Conway

Frank and Conway hold a meeting during the DNC.

To do this, Frank sets a plan in motion, the first step being to get Vice President Blythe to agree not to seek the position of running mate at the Convention. In the midst of looking for a running mate, Frank proposes a Gun Control Bill to congress, and uses one of his running mate contenders to vote for the bill. Frank eventually convinces the party leadership to not announce a candidate and to hold an open convention.

During the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Frank publicly endorsed Catherine Durant for the position of running mate, but was secretly supporting Claire. After pulling strings with superdelegates, the votes stack up with Claire. Catherine Durant announces that she is withdrawing at the stage, and encourages the delegates to vote for Claire. Claire becomes the nominee for the vice president.

During the DNC voting, Conway calls Frank out for his failure to act on the terrorist group ICO. Frank decides to meet with Conway to call his bluff. The private meeting results in no change of policy, but instead a tense conversation. Conway reminds Frank he is behind in the polls by double digits and says that Frank is desperate to win. 

Chapter 52 Frank and Claire

Frank and Claire, having just announced "war" with terror.

With just weeks until the election, Hammerschmidt meets with Frank to get a comment on his story, which tells the truth of Frank's rise to power. Though it has no factual evidence, it does have the word of Walker, Jackie Sharp, and Remy Danton. 

Frank hammers down on ICO. After a hostage crisis escalates, Frank announces that he is going to war with terror as a fear tactic to win the election. Having given up on negotiating, one of the hostages is killed as a result, with Frank and Claire staring coldly at the horrific footage. 

Frank demands that Congress declare war formally on ICO. However, he does not receive much support. 

On election night, the Underwood camp is concerned when voter turnout is worryingly low. Frank, however, insists that they are not going anywhere, and forges terrorist threats in an attempt to get states to not certify their election results. He is successful as Ohio and Tennessee refuse, as neither Frank nor Conway receive 270 votes. 

Months later, Congress is to vote on President. However, neither Frank nor Conway receive a majority of votes there, so the Senate chooses the Vice President, who will automatically assume to the Presidency until Congress votes again. In the Senate, Claire is chosen, and is sworn in as Acting President on January 20, 2017. 

Chapter61

Frank is sworn into his second term.

Claire convinces Mark Usher, of the Conway campaign, to support holding new elections in Ohio and Tennessee, rather than letting Congress decide. Usher agrees. After spending a weekend at an elite getaway known as Elysian Fields, Frank is given an incriminating tape of Conway. Frank collaborates with Usher to win Ohio and Tennessee, becoming the President-elect of the United States. He is officially sworn into his second term on February 17, 2017. 

Damaging Depositions

Shortly after being sworn into his second term, the committee that was investigating Frank's declaration of war is revived to investigate Frank, an act by Congressman Alex Romero after being snubbed in Frank's inaugural address.

Frank is informed that Garrett Walker will be testifying before the committee. Though he is expected to plead the fifth, tension arises when Frank and Walker meet before he testifies. Walker testifies and breaks his silence, revealing that Frank was the one who got Walker involved in the China/money dealings.

The next day, Hammerschmidt discovers leaked information: that the White House staged a terrorist attack on Election Day. Seth panics in his office while Frank discusses spying on all White House personnel to find out who the leak is. Frank is confronted by Bob Birch and Terry Womack, who want Frank to consider the idea of resigning. Frank is speechless, partially because Womack himself is under investigation.

An article breaks the next day: that a source from within the White House confirmed that Frank used questionable intelligence to close voting centers on election day. Frank confronts Cathy about this, who is cooperating with Alex Romero.

Frank later states that he believes Cathy is the leak, and that he has held on to her resignation.

News breaks that Cathy will testify in front of the Declaration of War committee. Hammerschimdt is given a "birthday card" with a computer chip in it from an unknown source.

In the Executive Residence, Frank tries to convince Cathy to not testify, to no avail. Frank then pushes Cathy down a flight of stairs, and calls for help, claiming she's fallen. Cathy is hospitalized and thus prevented from testifying in front of the Declaration of War committee.

Frank is informed that Hammerschmidt is investigating the death of Zoe Barnes, and believes that it is not an accident. This prompts him to throw Doug under the bus.

Chapter64

Frank testifies before the Declaration of War committee.

LeAnn and Nathan Green give their testimony. Frank, watching, debates whether he should go down and give his testimony. While he is urged not to, Frank goes to the committee and testifies. Frank admits to doing nothing wrong, but claims to respects the office of the presidency to allow the investigation to go on. As a result, he announces he will resign the following day.

Claire is furious that Frank announced he would resign without consulting her before. Frank states that this was the only way out, and that everything has gone according to his plan, a plan that was developed at Elysian Fields. Frank plans on holding on to power with Frank on the outside in the private sector and Claire on the inside in the White House. Frank also reveals that he was the leak, and has been working with Doug to feed Hammerschmidt information. Frank says that Claire will have to pardon him and Doug, however.

Frank talks to Claire and asks about why she hasn't moved forward on his pardon. Claire says that she will pardon him when the time is right. Frank signs his resignation. That afternoon, in the Oval Office, Claire is sworn in as the 47th President of the United States.

Post-Presidency (2017 - present)

Frank Underwood's presidency ended on March 15, 2017, following his resignation. The Vice President Claire Underwood assumed office shortly afterwards.

Behind the Scenes

Appearances

Season 1
"Chapter 1" "Chapter 2" "Chapter 3" "Chapter 4" "Chapter 5"
"Chapter 6" "Chapter 7" "Chapter 8" "Chapter 9" "Chapter 10"
"Chapter 11" "Chapter 12" "Chapter 13"
Season 2
"Chapter 14" "Chapter 15" "Chapter 16" "Chapter 17" "Chapter 18"
"Chapter 19" "Chapter 20" "Chapter 21" "Chapter 22" "Chapter 23"
"Chapter 24" "Chapter 25" "Chapter 26"
Season 3
"Chapter 27" "Chapter 28" "Chapter 29" "Chapter 30" "Chapter 31"
"Chapter 32" "Chapter 33" "Chapter 34" "Chapter 35" "Chapter 36"
"Chapter 37" "Chapter 38" "Chapter 39"
Season 4
"Chapter 40" "Chapter 41" "Chapter 42" "Chapter 43" "Chapter 44"
"Chapter 45" "Chapter 46" "Chapter 47" "Chapter 48" "Chapter 49"
"Chapter 50" "Chapter 51" "Chapter 52"
Season 5
"Chapter 53" "Chapter 54" "Chapter 55" "Chapter 56" "Chapter 57"
"Chapter 58" "Chapter 59" "Chapter 60" "Chapter 61" "Chapter 62"
"Chapter 63" "Chapter 64" "Chapter 65"

Personality

Frank is a patient, cold, duplicitous, cunning, and ruthless politician that knows exactly how to take what he wants. Almost machine-like in his approach, he is known to be "extremely effective at what he sets his mind to" according to the likes of Raymond Tusk. Displayed as a power-hungry man with the skills and the resources to match, his quest for power and vengeance leads him to break old alliances and trample on and destroy those that stand in his way. We later learn that he is even willing to kill those who become a threat, as shown through his murder of Peter Russo after he threatened to expose Frank along with himself and Zoe Barnes when she realises that Frank murdered Russo. He is a more than capable political maneuverer and can act warm, jolly and caring to people to gain their trust. He has no qualms of killing people or ruining their lives and careers if it serves his goals.

Despite these traits, Frank can be warm and gentle to those he truly cares about, particularly to Claire Underwood and to a lesser extent Zoe Barnes. He protects and takes care of those around him such as Doug and Steve and Edward Meechum, his bodyguards.

With fellow schemers and politicians who understand his game, he has a definite respect for, such as Catherine Durant or Raymond Tusk. However, they can very easily become his enemies if they interfere with his plans. With others who are oblivious to his intentions or less intelligent, he adopts a different façade, acting more caring and generous than he really is to mask his true personality.

Quotes

  • "There are two kinds of pain. The sort of pain that makes you strong, or useless pain. The sort of pain that's only suffering. I have no patience for useless things. Moments like this require someone who will act. Who will do the unpleasant thing, the necessary thing. There, no more pain."
  • "The nature of promises, Linda, is that they remain immune to changing circumstances."
  • (about Claire Underwood) "I love that woman. I love her more than sharks love blood."
  • (about Michael Kern) "I almost pity him. He didn't choose to be put on my platter. When I carve him up and toss him to the dogs, only then will he confront that brutal, inescapable truth: "My God, all I ever amounted to was chitlins.""
  • "That's how you devour a whale, Doug--one bite at a time."
  • "Power is a lot like real estate. It's all about location, location, location. The closer to the source, the higher your property value."
  • "We're in the same boat now Ms. Barnes. Take care not to tip us over, I can only save one of us from drowning."
  • "If you don't like how the table is set, turn over the table."
  • "Forward, that is the battle-cry. Leave ideology to the arm-chair generals, it does me no good."
  • "I have zero tolerance for betrayal which they will soon indelibly learn."
  • "I must not lose my resolve. I will march forward even if I have to do so alone."
  • "It only takes ten seconds to crush a man's ambitions."
  • "I pray to myself, for myself."
  • "For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: Hunt or be hunted"
  • If we didn't do the things we shouldn't do we'd never feel good about doing the things we should.

Trivia

  • Underwood is named probably after the actual first Democratic party Whip in the House of Representatives: Oscar Underwood. John Kern created the first Whip in the Senate.
  • Check UK USA similarities for the changes from the British counterpart.
  • Frank has met all of the main characters, except Janine.
    • He was aware of Janine.
  • The Sentinel is a fictional stand-in version of The Citadel.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bob Birch
House Majority Whip
January 3, 2005 – November 10, 2013
Succeeded by
Jackie Sharp
Political offices
Preceded by
Garrett Walker
President of the United States
October 30, 2014 – March 15, 2017
Succeeded by
Claire Underwood
Preceded by
Jim Matthews
Vice President of the United States
November 10, 2013 – October 30, 2014
Succeeded by
Donald Blythe

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