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Peter MacLeish was a major antagonist during the first season of the ABC/Netflix series Designated Survivor. He was portrayed by Ashley Zukerman.


MacLeish was the husband of Beth MacLeish and the father of daughters Lexi and Blake. He was a member of the US Army, serving a tour in Afganistan, fighting against the Taliban. After a covert mission to escort CIA agent Nestor Lozano to deliver cash to an Afgan war criminal went wrong, MacLeish felt that the US government had betrayed him and his men by covering it up. Returning home he fell in with the True Believers, a right wing militia group headed by Patrick Lloyd.

Using his war record, MacLeish was elected to Congress from Oregon's 4th Congressional District. Working with Lloyd and other insiders, MacLeish arranged to have a reinforced bunker built within the US Capitol Building during renovations, along with a series of Soviet anti-tank mines. Then US Homeland Security Advisor and fellow True Believer Jay Whitaker blackmailed President Robert Richmond's chief of staff Charles Langdon into naming Tom Kirkman as the designated survivor who would not attend the State of the Union speech. It was intended that after the True Believers carried out the bombing and Kirkman was named President, MacLeish would ingratiate himself with Kirkman and be named Vice President so that Kirkman could be assassinated and MacLeish would be named President.

On the night of the SOtU, MacLeish excused himself during the President's speech and made his way to the bomb shelter. The True Believers detonated the mines within the Capitol, devastating the building. The attack killed President Richmond, his Vice President, nearly his entire cabinet, all but two members of Congress (one of whom was MacLeish), and the entire Supreme Court. As designated survivor Tom Kirkman was taken to the White House and sworn in, MacLeish was found in the rubble of the capitol, rescued and, as planned, presented as a heroic survivor of the attack. In the days following the attack, Kirkman decided to nominate MacLeish as his Vice President, which was confirmed by the reconstituted Senate. Meanwhile MacLeish began to develop a conscience, but was convinced by his wife to continue on with his plan.

What MacLeish and the other True Believers did not count on was the skill of FBI agent Hannah Wells in uncovering the conspiracy. Piecing various clues together, she realized that the foreign Muslim extremists the True Believers were desperate to pin the bombing on were not behind the attack, but fellow Americans were. She was able to find evidence that MacLeish was a traitor and that he and his co-conspirators were going to make an attempt on Kirkman's life. Due to her efforts the assassin failed to kill Kirkman, but did wound him. While in surgery, MacLeish became Acting President under the 25th Amendment. During this time he ordered a raid be carried out to kill the shooter Catalan without even attempting to take him alive.

When Alvin Joyner - who had served with MacLeish in Afghanistan - began to worry about what they did there being exposed. Beth insisted that Joyner had to be dealt with and MacLeish went to meet with him at Arlington National Cemetery. What he did not know was that his wife had followed him to the cemetery after giving her Secret Service detail the slip. During the meeting Agent Wells showed up to arrest MacLeish for perjury to Congress. As she moved to arrest MacLeish, Beth shot MacLeish dead to keep him from betraying the True Believers, and then turned the gun on herself.


Following his death, the FBI raided True Believer cells throughout the United States, arresting over 200 members of the group. Lloyd, however, was able to escape and spent the next several months on the run before being tracked to Maryland and being killed after refusing to surrender.

President Kirkman announced to the world that MacLeish and his wife had died in a murder-suicide but did not go into great detail over what had happened. Their daughters were sent to live with their maternal grandparents. With his death MacLeish became the only Vice-President to ever be assassinated.


           Designatedsurvivor.logo .png Villains

True Believers
Patrick Lloyd | Nestor Lozano | Jay Whitaker | Desmond Lesgarth | Peter MacLeish | Beth MacLeish | Brooke Mathison

Majid Nassar | Peyton Lane | Sybil Sadik | Dax Minter | Valeria Poriskova | Garrett Detwiler | Wouter Momberg | Phil Brunton | Lorraine Zimmer | Myles Lee