If Donald Trump refuses to leave office after losing the 2020 presidential election — or if he is removed from office via impeachment — there is simply “no meaningful plan to address that,” according to Dahlia Lithwick, winner of multiple awards for legal journalism. Lithwick issued her warning in a Wednesday column for Slate, in which she says that Trump “would like to be president forever.”
Aside from Trump’s seeming desire to remain in office beyond the end of his term — or even past the end of a second term, should he win one in 2020 — Lithwick warned that the president is, more importantly, “bending the law to his will.” This, she wrote, is in order to guarantee he has no effective opposition if he refuses to step down from the White House.
Under the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was ratified in 1951, no president may serve more than two terms in office. But Trump has frequently made remarks seeming to express his desire to serve indefinitely, and even become “president for life,” CNN reported.
The president and his supporters usually dismiss those remarks as “jokes.” But according to CNN.com political columnist Chris Cillizza, “this is a ‘joke’ Trump tells all the time — and he doesn’t do it to be funny.”
Trump has even posted on Twitter appearing to say that he will continue to remain in office beyond the end of his hypothetical second term in 2024.
Lithwick’s warning that “no meaningful plan” exists to prevent Trump from seizing the presidency beyond the constitutionally mandated end of his term follows a prognostication by Georgetown University law professor Josh Geltzer earlier this year.
Geltzer wrote that because Trump has repeatedly taken steps to extend the powers of his presidency, Americans must now face the possibility that he will attempt to “cling to power in ways previously unimaginable” by any previous president.
The Georgetown professor said that the United States system contains four “checks” on a president who attempts to remain in power indefinitely. Those “checks,” he said, are the Electoral College, Congress, state governors, and the U.S. military. But none of those institutions have yet to demonstrate that they are “taking seriously this concern,” about Trump refusing to leave office, Geltzer said.
Lithwick, however, wrote on Wednesday that Trump himself has already taken steps to render those “checks” ineffective. Even the military, she wrote, has been “redefined” by the president “as an appendage of his own desires.”
In addition, Lithwick cited Trump’s statements at a campaign rally on Tuesday night in Florida, in which he characterized military officials who oppose his decisions as agents of “the deep state” who are engaged in a conspiracy against him.