2020 Election, Opinions

Can Trump actually refuse to leave office on Jan. 20, 2021?

In the weeks since Joe Biden became the president-elect, President Donald J. Trump’s actions and rhetoric have incited fear among observers. However, constitutional law scholars ensure that safeguards protect the American people from growing authoritarianism within the executive office. 

The Electoral College certification is in process, but Nov. 7 revealed Joe Biden as the clear victor. Even the recounts Trump demanded reaffirm election security, leaving Biden with a 306 to 232 win in the Electoral College, and a more than six million vote lead in the popular vote. 

Every president in American history who lost by drastic margins has gracefully stepped down. 

Trump has refused to concede, filing more than twelve lawsuits in crucial swing states on claims of unsubstantiated voter fraud. In response to Trump’s falsehoods, key Republican establishment figures have emerged condemning his actions, as well as election security experts. Many of his lawsuits have already been dismissed. 

So, will Trump refuse to surrender power come Jan.20, 2021?

“That’s constitutionally impossible,” Trevor Potter, President of the Campaign Legal Center, and former Federal Election Commission chairman said in an interview with NBC.“The president’s term expires, and there is no way for him to continue in office beyond Jan. 20 without being reelected.”

The traditional election certification process is still underway. Our Electoral College means that when you cast your vote for the president, you are actually casting it for a designated elector, who does it on your behalf. These delegates to the Electoral College will meet on Dec. 14 to officially cast their vote. 

On Jan. 6, Congress will count the total electoral votes. If Trump refuses to leave office following Congress’s count, the Constitution provides the presidential transition guidelines. 

During a presidential term, the two ways to remove a president is by impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment. The latter permits lawmakers to remove the executive, who is deemed unfit for office due to illness or as unable to fulfill their duties. 

While the Constitution’s language is often ambiguous, it is clear that presidents are confined to at most two consecutive four-year term limits and to leave office on Jan. 20, following the previous election cycle. 

On Jan.20, 2021, Joe Biden will be sworn into office.

 “I think the decisiveness of Biden’s victory [is] substantial enough to withstand any kind of recounts,”  professor of law Lawrence Douglas said in an interview with National Geographic.

,He also noted that recounts typically change state votes by small margins, and Biden is ahead in each of the battleground states he won by tens of thousands of votes. Trump’s election lawsuits are, according to Douglas, “really meritless and frivolous, without any kind of realistic prospect of having any impact on the election.” 

The Trump administration has no evidence. There is no argument they can concoct to allow him to step over the Constitution once his term ends and the Electoral College results finalize. Conservative American scholar John Yoo acknowledged that Trump has the right to raise legal challenges, but likened them to a desperate ‘Hail Mary’ pass by a losing football team. 

Trump never has to concede, according to Yoo. He can refuse to accept the legitimacy of the presidential election. 

“The thing about the American Constitution is that it doesn’t require the sitting president to do anything one way or the other,” Yoo said in an interview with CNBC’s “Capital Connection”. “On Jan. 20th, Donald Trump’s term ends, and Joe Biden’s, I believe, will begin.” 

The Trump administration and his MAGA cronies may continue to spew election fraud claims well after Biden leaves office. But when the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, several GOP officials and Constitutional lawyers refute fraud claims, it is time to reevaluate their validity. 

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