For the second time in three days, Donald Trump held a campaign rally at which he told a crowd of supporters that he may not leave office even after two terms, as required by the United States Constitution. Trump has repeatedly made what he calls jokes about refusing to leave office after eight years, or even more. But at Tuesday’s rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Trump took his “joke” a step further, telling his fans that he may not leave office for up to 29 years — when the now 73-year-old will reach the age of 102.
“Should we give it a shot? Maybe we will,” Trump told the Pennsylvania voters, as seen in the video below on this page. But Trump quickly added, “I’m only kidding.”
“This is a ‘joke’ Trump tells all the time,” wrote CNN commentator Chris Cillizza in an online column published in June. “And he doesn’t do it to be funny.”
Trump’s frequent remarks indicating a desire to remain in the White House well past the expiration of his term have raised worries among political and legal experts, however. Even his own former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified to a congressional committee that his ex-boss would likely not allow “a peaceful transition of power,” if he were to lose the 2020 election, as quoted by Vox.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also said that she fears Trump will refuse to step down, even when constitutionally required to do so.
“We have to inoculate against that, we have to be prepared for that,” Pelosi has said, according to Vox.
But experts say that neither Democrats nor the country have “inoculated” against what would amount to a coup by Trump, in which he seizes the office of the presidency and refuses to let it go. In a published column last month, legal expert Dahlia Lithwick warned that Trump apparently “would like to be president forever.”
But if Trump decides to act on that desire, “no meaningful plan” yet exists to stop Trump from simply refusing to step aside from the Oval Office, Lithwick warned.
As the Vox analysis noted, Trump has not simply “joked” about remaining in office — he has apparently laid a groundwork for the plan by his repeated claims that elections are “rigged” against him, and that any opposition to his actions constitutes a “coup” against the U.S. government.
If Trump does attempt to remain in office even after losing the 2020 election, “the possibility he’ll be successful can’t be summarily dismissed,” wrote Vox.com reporter Aaron Rupar, citing the “justices he’s installed on the right-leaning Supreme Court,” as well as Trump-appointed attorney general William Barr, who could attempt to formulate a legal rationale for Trump’s refusal to leave office.
Barr has “bought into the autocratic delusion that Trump equals America,” wrote New York Times columnist Frank Bruni on Tuesday. “He’s Trump’s advocate, come hell or high crimes.”