On the assumption Donald Trump will fail in his reelection bid, prognosticators are busy trying to piece out what he would or could do.
Would he challenge the validity of the election? Of course he would.
Would he outright refuse to leave the White House on January 20? That’s an interesting question posed recently on Quora.com, a newish question and answer website on all sorts of issues whose major drawback is that answers do not necessarily come from experts. Some of the answers are downright amusing, such as the one posted in response to the question, “Can a president refuse to leave office after losing an election?”
“Absolutely! The President can legally refuse to leave office. The housekeeping staff will politely pack them up and remove their goods to the curb, and the Secret Service will come into the White House and remove the now ex-President to the same curb - or to the local hoosegow - and the new President will move in and take control. But, the old President can pout and thrash and proclaim that he or she is still the President - legally - and they will be cheerfully ignored.”
That’s all well and good on January 20, 2021, but from November 3, 2020, until noon January 20 Trump would still be president, with all the powers ascribed to that office.
For example, he would continue to be in control of the nuclear codes until Joe Biden takes the oath of office on inauguration day. That, of course, is an extreme example of the delayed transfer of power.
During those full 77-1/2 days after votes are cast, he would remain commander in chief of the armed services. He could end our membership in NATO, though that order would be rescinded by Biden on his first day as president. He could order an air strike against Iran, and any subsequent military action it provoked. Cleaning up that mess would be Biden’s responsibility.
He could declare martial law at will. Indeed, some fear he might exercise that power in advance of the election to prevent voters in Democratic districts in swing states from being able to turn up at polling precincts.
There would more than enough time for Trump to wreak additional havoc on government institutions and international alliances that he has already weakened.
The potential for chaos is extreme.
Which brings us to the Rod Rosenstein solution, commonly known as the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. After Trump dismissed FBI director James Comey with its potential obstruction of justice issues, Rosenstein, as the deputy attorney general of the United States in charge of overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, is alleged to have suggested Trump could be removed from office under provisions of the 25th Amendment. For the record, Rosenstein denies he ever seriously considered the idea.
But it may be worth thinking about now. Section IV of the amendment empowers the vice president and a majority of cabinet secretaries to remove the president from office, at least temporarily. The section reads, “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.”
Within 21 days both chambers of Congress would have to ratify the action or the powers would revert back to the president (https://www.businessinsider.com/25th-amendment-how-can-you-remove-president-from-office-2017-3).
Trump clearly has been exhibiting anti-democratic tendencies, even going so far as to tweet the idea of postponing the November 3 election, a suggestion that prompted a founder of the conservative Federalist Society to call his actions “fascistic” and grounds for impeachment (https://nyti.ms/33azE6H). Not so strident but soundly in opposition to Trump’s idea were Republican Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
If Trump loses, will Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet invoke the 25th amendment to safeguard against scorched earth actions such as a pardon of Ghiselle Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s enabler?
Mostly, but not entirely overlooked by the public and some media because of coronavirus and political campaign news, Donald Trump was asked at the tail end of a recent news conference if he was concerned Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged-sex-scandal-with-underage-women-enabler Maxwell might reveal names of famous people.
Unspoken, but clearly implied since Trump had consorted with Epstein and Maxwell before he was president, was whether he feared she would implicate him in the sordid activity, as Britain’s Prince Andrew has been. Maxwell is in custody on six federal charges for allegedly facilitating Epstein’s sexual abuse of minors. She has pleaded not guilty.
“I don’t know,” Trump replied. “I haven’t really been following it too much. I just wish her well frankly. I’ve met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach. I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well. Whatever it is.”
The vagueness of that comment and his well wishes to Maxwell prompted the following Facebook message from “Ridin’ with Biden”: “I’m voting for the guy who didn’t just go on live TV and send best wishes to a woman accused of running a child sex trafficking ring.”
By now we are creepily familiar with his repeated protestations of ignorance about his affair with Stormy Daniels and the payment to her of hush money.
We also should all be creepily familiar with Trump’s evocation of positive feelings toward friends and supporters charged with, and even convicted of, illegal activity. Paul Manaford. Roger Stone. Gen. Michael Flynn. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Rod Blagojevich, Michael Milken, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik.
If he speaks fondly of someone, expect some form of executive clemency in the near future. So Paul Manaford and Retied General Michael Flynn, sit tight, your freedom awaits a propitious moment.
That could be sometime after November 3, whether Trump wins or loses the election. And let’s not count on Penche and the Cabinet doing the right and patriotic thing after four years of serving as his toadies.