Could Trump Lock Himself in a Bathroom in the White House?
Raed Saeed Raed Saeed

Could Trump Lock Himself in a Bathroom in the White House?

The US presidential elections took place over three weeks ago, and Trump has yet to acknowledge Biden’s victory, and he still seeks in different ways to confirm election fraud.

The losing candidate usually gives the traditional concession speech, which usually represents (in case the losing candidate is the incumbent president who had just served his first term) the first step in the transition process – it is not constitutionally or legally required that a losing candidate give a concession speech, but it is a deeply-rooted tradition that has become a signal to proceed forward after elections.

Not having given that concession speech yet, has prompted during these last few weeks a lot of speculations and analyses, whether seriously or jokingly, about what would happen if Trump refuses to vacate the White House (by locking himself in the basement or a bathroom in the White House) come January 20, 2021. The implications, however, of what has been going on since November 4 (the day after the elections when it became at least from the media’s perspective that Biden has won) are not solely tied to Trump moving out of the White House and Biden moving into it.

While it is looking increasingly unlikely that Trump will refuse to vacate the White House or not hand over power (no US president has ever refused to vacate the White House to an incoming new president, and it is not looking like 2021 will record the first instance of that), this does not necessarily automatically mean there will be a “peaceful transfer of power”. The way we see it, this long delay in accepting the results of the elections and starting the transition process can in itself negate the “peaceful transfer of power” even if the swearing in goes as planned in January, especially in light of some of the Trump administration’s activities over the last three weeks.

Legally speaking, the presidency term ends at noon on January 20 of the year when the term ends (Amendment 20 to the US Constitution), which means that at that time the incumbent president no longer has the powers enumerated in the Constitution, including being the commander-in-chief, and no longer has the protection or immunity that comes with the office.

In other words, the outgoing president becomes an “ordinary citizen”. This means Trump would be considered a trespasser and would be asked to leave and be escorted out of the White House, and if he does not comply, he would be treated according to the applicable criminal law and end up in an orange jumpsuit as one commentator (perhaps half jokingly) noted.

However, until January 20, Trump is still the president and has all the powers that come with the position. Traditionally, and in the absence of some national or international circumstances that would require otherwise, outgoing presidents have not made major decisions or changes during the period between elections and the swearing-in of the new president. Nevertheless, this has not been the case after these elections, where Trump fired on November 9 the Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, and Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has gone on a long international trip making official visits to many countries. Neither of these examples can be classified as usual activities or level of activity for an outgoing administration.

Furthermore, despite gradually submitting to the results of the elections, the actions of Trump and some members of his administration have been directed at refusing to accept the results. This has included Pompeo saying on November 10 that “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration”, but then yesterday he (Pompeo) announces the start of the State Department transition process. Another example is Trump refusing to give Biden’s transition team access to certain locations and files to start the transition process until a few days ago, thus causing a delay of nearly 3 weeks (out of a total of 11 weeks between the elections and the swearing in, during which there are also major holidays in the US).

This is in addition to the statements and posts on social media, mostly by Trump himself, alleging fraud in the elections and repeatedly declaring himself the winner. All of this has resulted in inciting and provoking his “popular base” even more than prior to the elections amounting to tens of millions of Americans who are for the most part already angry and ready to carry arms to defend their “leader”, and whose anger could have been absorbed by a rational concession speech, but are now far angrier because the elections and their votes were “stolen” from them.

All of these factors have probably reduced the chances of having a smooth and peaceful transition, in the sense that there is already a delay in the process, which from past experiences (like in the 2000 elections when the controversy and rhetoric were far less radical) has according to some analysts affected the incoming administration and caused problems, some even tying the delay in transition after the 2000 elections to inadequate response to the events of September 11th. Today, millions of Trump supporters are already mobilized and potentially ready to take things into their own hands, and some did in protestation of lockdown measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, in a country that leads the world in the number of firearms per capita.

Some analysts predict that a transition of power that is not peaceful would affect the internal situation with regards to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a legitimate fear including possibly delaying the release of a vaccine (although many believe that delaying the release of the vaccine is nothing more than a tool in the ongoing political struggle, and Bill Gates’s public positions may explain this greatly).

We believe there is another potential catastrophe awaiting Americans, with the clearly deepening internal crisis, which has been growing for decades with the increased centering of wealth in a shrinking controlling elite, and which has become even deeper with the US political system that has divided Americans and turned them against each other, and more importantly distracted them away from the root of the problem – that is the system itself and capitalism more generally.

This catastrophe can explode on January 20, even if Trump “peacefully” leaves the White House and Biden gets sworn in, where Trump no longer is the commander-in-chief and can no longer give orders even to the most junior staff member of the government, let alone the army. What Trump can do is incite his “popular base”, which is already agitated, possibly armed, and can be mobilized to riot and cause a great deal of disorder and chaos.

We think all indications point to Trump trying to cause as many problems as possible before handing over the power, even though part of what is taking place may be a calculation by the ruling elites to take advantage of stoppage time to blame the consequences of “crazy” behavior on the outgoing man. This might not be just at the domestic level; and based on some military movements and Pompeo’s latest round in the region, this could mean doing the same abroad as well.

(Arabic version)

Last modified on Thursday, 26 November 2020 13:54
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