I have not spent a lot of time worrying that Trump won’t admit defeat and leave office if he loses the 2020 election. Our institutional strength, the weight of history, is simply too strong, I thought.
I am starting to wonder why it is that I am so confident, and becoming less confident by the day.
Obviously, one can say: “No president could possibly get away with it, once the loss is official, through the electoral college, it simply isn’t possible.”
And yet, who could possibly have thought that a president could name his own digs as the site of a massive G7 meeting, something so obviously corrupt and against the rules of self-dealing, and “get away with it” anyway? Trump certainly hasn’t gotten away with the G7 zoo-break, yet. But that might be beside the point. Trump is in the worst political trouble of his life, and yet still went ahead and decided to reach into the treasury and pay himself anyway? Oh, and “no,” the pledge to do it “at cost” carries no weight because who is to define “at cost” anyway? And who believes him? The entire operation is as big an F-You to the American system as one can imagine, short of selling one’s country out for profit, which …
Let us get back to leaving office. Bill Maher addressed it last night on Real Time, and he has no doubts, via Rawstory:
After Rice said she worried about election officials in some conservative-leaning states disenfranchising voters, Maher said it might not matter because Trump would dismiss the election results if he loses.
“I’ve been saying for a very long time now that I don’t think he’s leaving, the HBO host began. “I mean, he’s wasn’t going to leave the first time. It’s all about it’s rigged, he could lose by a landslide in 2020 and I still think he would say it’s rigged, fake news, deep state. I just think you’re going to get him out of there.”
It gets a little scary the more one thinks about it. There are many conservative states out there that could possibly be convinced to not participate in the electoral college (even if Trump won those states), as some form of “objection” to the election results. That would put people in a bind. Moreover, we can expect the Russians to flood the net with stories, most wholly fictional, to provide a rationale for Republicans to support Trump. In that scenario, one could conceive of Trump attempting to start an investigation that would find out “who really won the election.” The investigation would be led by Trump’s people, be corrupt from the beginning, and never finish.
Obviously everything above is illegal and would face massive blowback. But if Trump is charged with weakening the nation at all costs – as we believe he is, and would continue to be – what better means to weaken the United States than to weaken the legitimacy of government? If Trump were to hold on to office in such a scandal, he’d be weakened in facing resistance like never before. If he is not successful and is removed, but it happens over and above his objections and cries it’s all “rigged,” the government is again weakened. Fully 25% to 33% of the nation could believe that Trump truly did get removed by a “coup.”
It almost doesn’t matter if Trump is successful or not. If Trump refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of his defeat, the result is the same, a vastly weakened United States. It is for this reason that I believe it is more critical than ever to obtain Trump’s real financial documents, including taxes. None of the above is possible if it is proven that Trump is acting as someone indebted to Russian oligarchs, possibly to Erdogan, too. I remain convinced that even Republicans will drop their support of Trump if it is proven that he’s been lying about his commitments all along.
I am not sure anything matters more. It casts the entire impeachment inquiry and election in a new light. If one assumes that Trump will not concede an election, and will fight it at every step, then we are at a point as a nation where Republican support for removal becomes necessary regardless whether it is through the impeachment process, or through an election.
Remarkably, two men might hold the fate of American democracy in their hands. Chief Justice Roberts would likely represent the majority vote in ordering Trump to turn over his taxes and/or financial documents. It is possible that one other conservative on the court might also vote to disclose because it’s not really a close question of law. But Roberts would be necessary to get that Justice on the side of disclosure. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell likely has the power to muck things up either before or after the election. But, McConnell faces his own issues in Kentucky, and he certainly is sensitive to the #MoscowMitch moniker. As it stands right now, Trump cannot count upon Mitch protecting him, though it is still plenty likely that McConnell would support Trump at all costs, it is hard to tell.
It is critical that these issues get talked about well ahead of time. Trump should be asked at near every press conference whether he will acknowledge the legitimacy of an election loss. Get the public chewing on the fact that Trump may use any excuse to stay in power. Such conversations also increase the likelihood that the SCOTUS rules to disclose the documents. The supreme court is made up of human beings who know they have to answer to history. They will be humiliated if the documents come to light through a leak, documents they had an opportunity to get released to the nation. It also puts both the Russians and each secretary of state on notice; they are being watched, closely.
If I were the Democratic nominee, I might state beforehand that, should it be proven that Russia again acted to throw the election one way or another, and the Democrat is elected, the nominee will consider it an act of war, and promise retribution. That might cause Russia to pause if they are planning on going after databases, or mucking with official results in some way. I am not sure Russia is wiling to risk war with the U.S., shooting or economic, to draw out another four years of Trump, not when Trump has already been severely weakened.
We do need to talk about it and discuss possible ways to avoid it. Trump is capable of anything, as we have seen over the last two weeks. It is time to start living with that reality, and planning accordingly.
firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @MiciakZoom