Ignore rumors about Trump quitting before the end of his term

One of the features of the current administration of Donald Trump is that it has caused the political rumor mill in the US to go into overdrive. There are non-stop speculations about possible personnel changes, squabbling among aides, indictments by the special prosecutor and US attorneys, and so. Most of these speculations can be safely ignored because they are fact-free and largely serve as fillers to meet the needs of the 24/7 cable news channels. But there is one particular speculation that keeps surfacing from time to time that is particularly absurd and that is the one that says the Trump will leave office before his term is over because of the mounting legal troubles involving convictions of his close associates.

This is purely wishful thinking and will never happen, for one simple reason. We have never before seen an administration that consists of a president and his family who are such open grifters, seeking to milk their positions for personal gain at every opportunity. It is not that past presidents were paragons of virtue. But they at least seemed to care about maintaining the appearance of probity and were thus somewhat circumspect about their actions, focusing more of laying the groundwork for cashing in after they left office rather than while they were still in office. But the Trumps are utterly shameless. They are insatiably greedy. They want money, as much of it as they can stuff into their pockets, and they want it now.

Trump and his family are not the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree but like all grifters they are acutely sensitive to their own needs. They know that they are under scrutiny and what protection they currently have is by virtue of daddy Trump being president. He will know that once he leaves office, he and his family will lose the biggest shield they now have and so he will delay that departure date for as long as he can. So not only will he not quit early, expect him to run for a second term even if nobody in his party wants him to. What will be interesting to see is what he will do in the last days of his office to try and ensure that his grifting is not prosecuted.

He may well do what Richard Nixon very likely did before his resignation and that is negotiate a deal with his vice-president to get a full pardon for him (and his family) after he leaves office. Or it is possible that he will issue pardons for his family, leaving only him to get a pardon from his successor. (He may even try to pardon himself, since nothing it too outré for this bunch of grifters.) But that it difficult too. Such a deal is possible only if he resigns before his term is over and the vice-president becomes president automatically. But if he holds on until almost the end, it will be hard for his successor to argue that there was no deal, the way that Gerald Ford tried to claim with Nixon, though many were skeptical of his denials. Of course, the new president might still brazenly claim it and nothing can be done about it.

One thing that will protect Trump is the practice of presidents shielding their predecessors from criminal prosecution. They all do this in various ways by invoking high-sounding language, such as Ford pardoning Nixon in order to ‘help the nation heal’ after the scandals of Watergate or invoking the need to ‘look forward not backward’ which was Barack Obama’s favored expression for not prosecuting criminality in the Bush administration. But the real reason is that presidents want the freedom to engage in criminality themselves and the practice of each one ignoring the crimes of their predecessor allows them to do that. So it would not surprise me in the least if even in the event that Hillary Clinton were to succeed Trump to the presidency, she did not take any action against him, despite all the humiliations he has rained on her.

The only thing Trump cannot control are the actions of career prosecutors in the states who have some degree of independence because, as I understand it, presidential pardons only cover federal crimes and charges brought by states and local law enforcement agencies under state laws are not covered. That may be where he faces the most serious danger after leaving office.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    What will be interesting to see is what he will do in the last days of his office to try and ensure that his grifting is not prosecuted.

    It’s pretty simple, and I’ve said it before. The US will have its first woman president. And her name will be Trump. Would you bet against her?

    it would not surprise me in the least if even in the event that Hillary Clinton were to succeed Trump to the presidency

    It is axiomatic that Hillary Clinton is the worst candidate EVER to attempt to become President. Evidence: she was beaten to the win by Donald motherfucking Trump. While it is entirely conceivable that she would have the sheer arrogance and lack of self-awareness to try to run again because IT’S HER TURN DAMMIT, and it’s entirely conceivable that the Democrats would be venal and tone-deaf enough to select her as a candidate, it is inconceivable that she’d even win the popular vote next time around, much less the actual Presidency. Trump is a STRONGER candidate as incumbent than he was before -- there is no planet on which Clinton has a whelk’s chance in a supernova of coming close to him. Obviously she and her more rabid fans wouldn’t think that, but there we are.

  2. brucegee1962 says

    I think there are at least three advantages to the US with our system of not prosecuting former administrations:
    1) It encourages peaceful transfers of power. When you look at the world’s dicatatorships, many times their origin is that a grifter gets elected legitimately, grifts away for a while, and then realizes “Holy bleep, if there’s another legit election, not only will I be voted out in a landslide, but I and all my family and buddies will be locked up forever.” That’s a powerful incentive to overthrow a constitution and set oneself up as president-for-life. I’d rather see a former grifter-in-chief living in retirement off his ill-gotten gains than see him and his family try to hold on to power forever.
    I’d love to say it can’t happen here, but lots of things that I thought couldn’t happen here have been happening recently.
    2) I think it was Lindsey Graham who said dismissively last week of Trump’s crimes that everything can be a crime. It was a terrible statement for someone who is supposed to support rule of law, but he also kind of has a point. As we saw with Hillary’s stupid emails, anyone in the public eye is capable of making a mis-step that can be ginned up into a ridiculous scandal.
    And again, there are abundant examples around the world of leaders who figure the easiest way of solidifying power is just to lock up their political rivals. Once we have set the precedent here, it won’t be long before someone uses it for malign purposes. If nothing else, a new US president locking up a former one would provide cover for those elsewhere in the world wanting to do the same.
    3) Wisely or not, voters invest much of themselves in the people they vote for. The country is polarized enough already; if their darling looks as if he’s going to jail, a whole lot of his devotees are likely to go off the rails. Even if these people are fairly horrible, they are still our fellow-citizens, in many cases co-workers and family members, and we still have to figure out a way of staying around the same table. I believe that the best place to thoroughly rebuke these people is at the ballot box; let’s show them that Trump’s so-called values are not those of the country.

    I realize that the counter-argument is that, if there aren’t consequences like jail, that will just encourage future grifters-in-chief. I think, though, that once someone becomes president, their true judge is not the legal system: it is the historians of the future. Trump has already locked up his place there (poor Buchanan may finally rise above last place), and if that doesn’t deter him, what would?

  3. Jenora Feuer says

    Honestly my reason for assuming that Trump won’t quit is simple:

    Quitters are losers. And Trump hates looking like a loser.

    That justification works even without assuming that Trump has enough self-reflection to fully realize how much trouble he’s potentially in.

  4. Mano Singham says

    brucegee @2,

    But countries do prosecute former leaders without falling into chaos, Peru’s former president Alberto Fujimori is one example that immediately comes to mind.

    I think the democratic institutions of the US can survive a prosecution.

  5. Mano Singham says

    file thirteen,

    Passing articles of impeachment requires just a simple majority in the House of Representatives so the new House will have sufficient Democrats to do so on their own if they so desired. But removal from office requires the Senate to convict on the articles and that requires a 2/3 majority which is unlikley to happen given how Republicans are willing to overlook almost anything that Trump does.

  6. file thirteen says

    Even if there is no possibility of a successful impeachment, an attempt at impeachment could be very damaging for a president… if there was sufficient evidence to make the attempt not simply appear as a political stunt (which is how the republicans would undoubtably try to frame it). Conversely, if the evidence wasn’t sufficient it could be the democrats that are damaged.

    To rephrase the question, is it likely that the case for impeachment will become strong enough that an attempt will be made, even if the senate would never convict? Or is it that idea just media hype?

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