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What Potus could do after his January White House exit

By Kagundu Njiru | November 12th 2020

Outgoing US President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Donald Trump will remain in office until January 20, when he is expected to hand the job over to his successor and join the exclusive club of former US presidents. So what next for the politician and business mogul?

There’s a lucrative speakers’ circuit, the penning of a memoir, the planning of a presidential library. Jimmy Carter took up humanitarian causes and George W Bush a paintbrush. But Trump has never been a traditional politician.

“Donald Trump has broken many norms as president,” says Tim Calkins, professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“There’s no reason to think that Donald Trump will act like any former president that we’ve ever seen.”

He could run again

It may not be the end of Trump’s political ambitions - he could always pull a Grover Cleveland and run for a second term. Cleveland is the only president to leave the White House and return four years later, taking on the top job in 1885 and then again in 1893.

The US Constitution stipulates that “no person shall be elected to the office of the president more than twice. However, there’s nothing about terms needing to be consecutive. And former aides have suggested Trump may seek to do just that.

“I would absolutely put him on the shortlist of people who are likely to run in 2024,” former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said recently.

Trump clearly loves campaign rallies and he received 71.5 million votes in the election - a record total for a losing candidate and one that clearly demonstrates a significant base of support among the American public.

“He will leave with a brand in some ways just as powerful as it was when he came into the presidency,” says Calkins.

There has also been speculation the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr is interested in the top job, conjecture he hasn’t tried to tamp down.

Become a media mogul

Trump is no stranger to television, after a bankable stint on The Apprentice reality show.

So there’s a lot of speculation that his ambition is to get involved in the news media, either by launching his own channel or collaborating with an established conservative network. “He’ll definitely have a potential audience,” says Henry Schafer, executive vice-president at Q Scores Company.

Trump succeeded in building his brand as a “love-to-hate personality” like the Kardashians or Howard Stern, he says.

And Schafer expects him to “fall back on what works best for him - that’s controversy”.

“He thrives on controversy, he spins controversy to his advantage, that’s his ‘MO’ (modus operandi).” 

Rescue his business empire

Before he was a politician, Trump was a real estate mogul, a reality TV star and his own brand ambassador, using his name for lucrative licensing deals.

He may be keen to pick up where he left off four years ago and get back into the world of business. The New York Times has reported that Trump has over $400m (£300m) in loans coming due over the next few years - though he has said that represents “a tiny percentage” of his net worth. The Trump Organisation has numerous hotels and golf courses.

There are Trump-branded properties in Mumbai, Istanbul and the Philippines - and of course, Washington, DC - and golf courses in the US, the UK, Dubai and Indonesia.

But if that is the course he chooses in January, he’ll have plenty of work ahead of him.

Many of his business ventures are in the travel and leisure industry, which was badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Forbes has reported his wealth could have taken as much as a $1b hit due to Covid-19.

Based on two decades of tax papers seen by the New York Times, the newspaper also reported “chronic losses and years of tax avoidance”, saying he paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years, “largely because he reported losing much more money than he made”.

Both the Trump Organisation and the president criticised the report as inaccurate.

Calkins said the president has proven time and again he has an incredible ability to keep his brand “in the conversation” and it remains strong - but not unchanged - by the presidency.

“It’s become far more polarising and distinctive, which in some ways makes it less appealing as a business brand,” he says.

“Now if you’ll have a wedding at a Trump hotel, that is really making a statement; that was not the case prior to the presidency.”

First daughter Ivanka Trump’s now-shuttered namesake brand faced boycotts and was dropped by some major retailers once she took on her senior adviser role at the White House.

His sons Eric and Donald Jr were overseeing Trump’s hundreds of investments in real estate, brands and other businesses during the presidency, but are also deeply involved in their father’s political career.

“One of the things they will all be thinking about is, ‘What is the best road forward (for the family)?’” says Calkins.

[Jessica Murphy, BBC News]

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