Donald Trump has strongly signalled that if he loses, he won’t accept the election result. Asked during the fraught first televised debate of the 2020 Presidential Election whether he would tell his supporters to remain calm, and would wait until votes are counted, he said he couldn't promise to do that.
He told moderator Chris Wallace: “I am urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen. I hope it’s a fair election. If it’s a fair election, I’m on board. But if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that.” In a chilling moment, the President added: "This is not going to end well."
Here we look at what could be done if he refuses to step down.
Trump has laid the legal groundwork to undermine an election result, but could he cling on to power?
Trump has no power to hold on to office or cancel the election. Even if he holes up in the White House, his term will end on January 20. 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”.
If he refuses to leave, what action would be taken?
A president immediately and automatically loses their constitutional authority upon expiration of his term or after removal via impeachment. Trump would lack the power to direct the US Secret Service or other federal agents to protect him. While even former presidents enjoy Secret Service protection, agents are unlikely to follow an illegal order to protect one from removal from office. Joe Biden could direct federal agents to remove Trump from the White House forcibly.
Could Trump order the army to protect him?
Trump would also lose his power as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Could he be charged if he refuses to leave?
Now a private citizen and not immune to prosecution, he could be arrested and charged with trespassing in the White House.
What is the most likely scenario?
Most believe he will eventually vacate the White House on his own accord albeit begrudgingly.