Wednesday, 25 Nov 2020

What happens if Trump refuses to go as his allies ‘prepare for second term’

Donald Trump has rejected the outcome of the US Presidential election and has threatened to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

Joe Biden may be President-elect in the eyes of the majority of US voters but Trump and his inner circle are circling the wagons and they are making it clear they will not go quietly.

And on Tuesday, Mike Pompeo – the former CIA director who is currently serving as the Secretary of State – has announced that there would be a "smooth transition to a second Trump administration".

The incendiary comment raises the spectre of a major clash between the President-Elect and the former President.

A statement from President Trump on Saturday said: "We all know why Joe Biden is rushing to falsely pose as the winner, and why his media allies are trying so hard to help him. They don’t want the truth to be exposed.

"The simple fact is this election is far from over," he added. "Legal votes decide who is president, not the news media."

On December 14, the Electoral College is due to formally confirm Biden's victory, but all current evidence points to a comfortable win for Joe Biden.

The 20th Amendment of the US Constitution says a president and vice president’s term "shall end at noon on January 20… and the terms of their successors shall then begin".

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Theoretically, unless something major changes between now and January 20, Donald Trump, his family, and his inner circle of advisers should leave 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at that time.

Trump will become a private citizen and no longer immune to prosecution.

The 45th President will have lost the authority to order the Secret Service, or the US Army, to carry out his orders and he could potentially be escorted out of the building by security staff.

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To remain there after 12pm on January 20 is technically trespassing.

Asked during the debates if he would accept defeat and step down if the vote went against him Trump refused to commit himself: "What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time," he said.. "I’ll keep you in suspense. Okay?"

Most observers believe he will eventually vacate the White House on his own accord – although without much good grace.

But insiders are preparing for the worst. Tom Coleman, a former Republican congressman from Missouri, said: "From what we have experienced during Trump's three-and-a-half years in the presidency, one must assume he is capable of doing anything to stay in office."

Richard Nixon rather begrudgingly gave way to John F Kennedy in 1960, amid accusation s of vote-rigging on both sides, and Al Gore eventually accepted a Supreme Court decision about George Bush's victory in 2000, but the atmosphere around this election is potentially the most explosive on record.

Nils Gilman is a historian who was involved in a ‘War Game’ planning meting to outline what would happen if Donald Trump refused to give up the Oval Office.

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He predicted that "unless Biden wins by a landslide, there's going to be a constitutional crisis and likely political violence".

Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired army colonel who was chief of staff to George W Bush’s secretary of state Colin Powell, told the Telegraph that he used to think the idea of Mr Trump mobilising armed gangs of supporters would be impossible.

But now he’s not so sure, saying: "I don't think it's probable, but just the fact that it's possible scares me."

Joe Biden, interviewed by Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, was asked if he had thought what he might do if Trump refused to give up the presidency.

"Yes, I have," he said, adding: "I promise, I am absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch."

But if it comes to that, the US will have entered a dangerous period of political uncertainty that it hasn’t seen at least since Watergate – and arguably not since the nation was founded.

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