Let’s accept the following: Donald Trump will not be impeached before Jan. 20, and Vice President Mike Pence will not succeed, even if he were to try, in an effort to get Trump ousted through the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Therefore, Trump slinks away from the White House mere hours before Joe Biden is sworn in to replace him, and Pence almost certainly will represent the administration at the inauguration.
What follows is a summation of what Trump might do once he’s out of office. Understand, the items listed below are not mutually exclusive; in fact, it’s highly likely there will be a combination of actions involving Trump. And, yes, that could include something not on this list.
Here we go:
- He launches a political insurrection. Under this scenario, an angry and unhinged Trump seeks to overthrow the government. He’d need multiple allies inside and outside of government to make this happen, and all parties are risking jail (or worse) if the coup fails. The treasonous actions that unfolded at the Capitol a few days ago affirm Trump would need to say or do very little in order to spur his frenzied supporters into action. However, Trump would be out of office and unable to delay a federal response to any insurrection, and that means the chances for a coup succeeding are quite low. Trump likely knows that; the people closest to him definitely do (I think). An insurrection isn’t happening.
- He announces within hours of exiting the White House he’s seeking the Republican Party‘s presidential nomination in 2024. Under this scenario, someone or more than one person levels out Trump’s emotions and convinces him that he remains the leader of the GOP. More than 70 million Americans voted for Trump in November 2020, and that figure will remind Trump of the political force he can still be. Even if we accept the Trump brand is tarnished, he’s likely to maintain enough support to make him a viable candidate in 2024. Furthermore, remember, Trump would be announcing now, not in a couple years, and now he still holds significant sway over millions of voters. Count me among those who firmly believes there will be a Trump fighting for the Republican nomination in 2024. If not Donald, then Ivanka.
- He starts a TV (and perhaps social media) network. Under this scenario, Trump the showman gets a guaranteed and consistent loyal audience to promote his beliefs. There’s significant doubt Trump can launch the TV network because he’s believed to be deeply in debt, but that doesn’t mean One America News wouldn’t consider a marriage of convenience. The biggest loser if Trump gets a TV network: FOX News. As for the social media platform, why not? The barrier to entry — not to mention the cost — is much lower. TV and social media provide Trump unfiltered opportunities to keep his base fed. All media all the time also enhances any presidential dreams.
- He’s impeached. Under this scenario, enough Republicans join with the Democrats to find Trump guilty of at least one impeachable offense. For some Republicans, dooming any future political ambitions Trump has also advances their own in 2024 or beyond. Remember, if Trump is found guilty in a Senate trial, he could no longer hold political office during his lifetime. If an impeachment effort fails, Trump’s strength, at least in the minds of his supporters, would increase.
- He’s bogged down by lawsuit after lawsuit. Under this scenario, regardless of whether Trump is pardoned for any federal crimes he might have committed (and he’d have to resign before Jan. 20 and then convince a President Pence to issue that pardon before Biden assumes the presidency), attorneys general in one state after another could haul Trump into court. (A self-pardon opens up yet another legal challenge for Trump, so there’s risk for him in going down that road.) One can imagine New York suing him for tax evasion and Georgia going after him for attempting to convince its Secretary of State to find election fraud. Trump would need legitimate representation, not the quack known as Rudy Giuliani, and such representation will cost lots of money. Does Trump have it?
- He goes to jail. Under this scenario, Trump, almost certainly defiant to the end, is convicted of crimes necessitating being sent to jail. Full stop.
As for those of you reading this and thinking “He’s heading into exile!” that answer is a hard no. Forget for a moment the number of countries willing to accept him is low — it would have to have a non-extradition treaty with the U.S. for Trump to go there — and remember that Trump’s ego is too large for him to accept fleeing the country. For him (and his followers), jail could be equated to martyrdom, while exile would be seen as weakness. That won’t do for Trump.
This post has been updated.
Which scenarios do you think are most likely? Reply on this page, and not on Facebook or Twitter. Let’s start a conversation!