It’s not as ridiculous a question as it seems. Trump has already hinted at the possibility of not leaving office; even if he completed two full terms in office. Of course, there are two distinct means by which he might not serve more than one term. He could be voted out of office in the 2020 Presidential Election, or he could be Impeached. The ongoing Impeachment investigation has reached the public hearing stage. America is learning more daily about Trump’s back-channel diplomacy and apparent extortion of Ukraine to improve his chances of staying in office.
“We’re cutting record numbers of regulations — we’ve cut more regulations in a year and a quarter than any administration whether it’s four years, eight years, or in one case 16 years. Should we go back to 16 years? Should we do that? Congressman, can we do that?”
The immediate threat to his presidency is the Impeachment inquiry. After the first week of public hearings, there is the testimony that Trump blackmailed Ukraine to force them to make public statements about an investigation of a political rival and his son; in order to receive hundreds of millions in military aid. Trump’s engaged in an unprecedented level of obstruction; refusing to let administration witnesses testify or release records and documentation. We’ve seen how an Ambassador was demonized, forced out, and even intimidated while on the stand testifying. He told a foreign leader she was “bad news,” and that:
“She’s going to go through some things!”
The official Impeachment inquiry began after a September 25th phone call during which Trump demanded a favor from the Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky; immediately after he brought up his willingness to purchase additional javelin missiles. An opening statement from closed-door testimony shows on September 26th, Trump talked by phone to Ambassador Sunderland and pressed him on the progress of Ukraine releasing the statement Trump wanted.
It is fairly certain, that the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will formally Impeach the President and send the case to the Senate for a trial. Less clear is whether the Republican-controlled Senate will do anything other than to vote by Party line. Impeachment requires a two-thirds majority in order to oust the President and currently that isn’t likely. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says he “won’t even read the transcripts” from the House investigations. He may not be alone.
There is a precedent, however; Republican support to impeach Richard Nixon was even less than it is for Trump. Yet televised hearings and public opinion pressured them to the point that Republicans went to Nixon and told him he “didn’t have the votes” to survive Impeachment. Nixon ultimately resigned “for the good of the country.” From what we know of Trump, the good of the country won’t cross his mind and resignation is unlikely. So what if he won’t leave?
“You know the last time I jokingly said that the papers start saying, ‘He’s got despotic tendencies, (staying in office longer) “No, I’m not looking to do it. Unless you want me to do it, that’s OK.”
The first thing Trump would likely do is to file lawsuits. Sue the House of Representatives, the Senate, the whistleblower; everybody. That he has no chance on the merits won’t bother him. He has claimed that the President has absolute immunity while in office and that the President cannot even be investigated; in his legal filings. He said publicly that he could “shoot someone on 5th Ave.,” and get away with it. People thought he was joking.
We’ve all seen how long he’s been able to avoid releasing his taxes as various lawsuits wind their way through the court system. He’s lost on every lower level, including appeals to the Federal courts. All that remains is the Supreme Court which these days is highly unpredictable. The goal for Trump won’t necessarily be winning, although he would like that. It would be the delay, up to two years. Certainly long enough to run in the next election. If Impeached during one term is there anything to stop him from running in the next election? He wouldn’t be a felon as he wouldn’t have been prosecuted or convicted while President.
“Do you think the people would demand that I stay longer?”
The other possibility where Trump might try to go against tradition and stay in office; is if he is defeated in November 2020, but decides not to stay. He would have no problem declaring it a “rigged election” and either declare himself the winner or demand a whole new election (or recounts in only the states he lost). He’d declare (as he did in 2016) that millions of illegal voters were allowed to vote, provide his own set of unverifiable numbers which would be instantly be backed up by his surrogates and Fox News. Because of our built-in transition period between the election and inauguration. For over two months after the election, Trump would still be President; with control over the Justice Department, the Secret Service, and the military.
America has always set itself apart from the rest of the world with its history of peaceful transition of power. Despite Trump’s constant declarations, there has never been a coup with a leader forced out of power. Usually, an attempt to illegally take power or stay in power involves the military. Whatever Trump believes, the military is not so ingratiated to him that they would obey any order. There’s also the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits American troops from acting on American soil. That doesn’t apply to the National Guard which is controlled by individual states. We might see some Governors call out soldiers in an attempt to defend the President. Trump has had a loyal base of 30–40 percent of the nation. Would they stick with him even in an attempt to unconstitutionally remain in power?
The one thing we can’t say is that Trump would never consider it. He put himself ahead of the country’s interest in Ukraine. He’s indebted to the Russians to a degree we’ll never know until his financial records are released. He will lie, cheat, and steal to stay in power. Overstaying his term will seem relatively minor in his view. He’ll do what he always does; make statements to test the waters, measure the level of resistance… act. Speaking of Chinese President Xi Jinping he said: