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Trump would be sore loser

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Douglas Cohn

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

If President Trump loses his bid for reelection in 2020, will he peaceably relinquish the office? It’s a legitimate question to ask given Trump’s open defiance of Congress and his disregard for the normal checks and balances in our democratic system.

When the polls pointed to his losing the 2016 race against Hillary Clinton, Trump talked about how the election was rigged against him, laying the groundwork to contest the outcome.

When he won the election, surprising even himself, he claimed that millions of people had voted illegally, which was how Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million ballots.

When his former fixer, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress earlier this year, he said that if Trump loses the next presidential election, “there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

We have learned that with Trump in the White House, almost anything is possible, including the likelihood that he will contest the results of the next election if he doesn’t win.

He is campaigning at a fever pitch, holding rallies that attract thousands of people and telling them that the Mueller report is the product of an attempted coup he thwarted. He hints at “Second Amendment remedies” and tells audiences that the Democrats will take away their guns.

These statements are not true, yet Trump regularly repeats them. The Washington Post’s fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, last month documented more than 10,000 false or misleading statements that Trump has uttered since he took office.

If he loses on Election Day in November 2020, it would be characteristic of him to challenge the results if he’s not the winner, and to bring multiple lawsuits against the winner, against local and state election officials, and even perhaps the national Democratic Party for alleged election fraud.

That would all be in character for a man who is litigious in both his private life and public life. He recently sued his own accounting firm and Deutsche Bank in an effort to prevent them from turning over his financial records to congressional oversight committees. As a businessman, he initiated countless law suits, so for Trump this would be business as usual.

Depending on the outcome of the election, if he lost clearly and decisively, the litigation might be deemed frivolous and any fair court would quickly dispense with it. But if the election is close and comes down to one or two states, there would be many opportunities for legal mischief.

There is time between Election Day in November 2020 and the Inauguration on January 20, 2021 for Trump to contest the election results, and to bring lawsuits that might be resolved in his favor. There is precedent even though the Supreme Court Justices said in their Bush v Gore ruling in 2000 that the case should not be seen as setting precedence in future electoral impasses.

Trump seems to think that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court which he cemented with two confirmations will rule in his favor. He also seems to think he can count on Fox News and a conservative media to rally behind him should he attempt to make the case that the 2020 election was wrongly decided should he not win.

If his legal challenges fail, the greater danger is that Trump will incentivize his followers to take to the streets and challenge what he will describe as a coup generated by the deep state of embedded Democrats. He could incite civil unrest and do great damage to the country.

But he cannot stay in office if he does not win the election. The Secret Service will escort him out the door perhaps to the waiting arms of gendarmes from the Southern District of New York, which is overseeing multiple investigations into his financial dealings and mis-dealings. The presidency will no longer serve as a shield from the rule of law.

Washington Merry-Go-Round, the nation’s longest-running column, presents today’s events in historical perspective. Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift are veteran journalists and commentators.

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