Donald Trump May Refuse To Leave Office, And Democrats Must Answer What They Will Do About It, Columnist Says

Democratic presidential hopefuls have yet to discuss what they plan to do if any one of them defeats Donald Trump and he refuses to step down.

Donald Trump waves.
Mario Tama / Getty Images

Democratic presidential hopefuls have yet to discuss what they plan to do if any one of them defeats Donald Trump and he refuses to step down.

One day after the 10th Democratic debate of the 2020 presidential campaign, a columnist for a leading online political magazine has noted that there is one question that has not been asked of any candidate. With President Donald Trump seemingly claiming that he will remain in office past the end of his term as a regular part of his campaign rally speeches, Democrats must publicly state how they will respond if he refuses to leave office after losing the election, according to columnist Chauncey DeVega.

Writing for the online magazine Salon on Wednesday, DeVega noted that the 10 debates have largely been “tedious” because there are “too many candidates,” most of them with “no real chance of defeating Trump.”

Yet despite the wide range of questions that the candidates have been grilled on, none have been asked “the most important” one.

“What should happen if Donald Trump is defeated and then refuses to leave office?” DeVega wrote.

Only one candidate has been asked that question in any public format, according to DeVega — former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who responded as if the possibility was a joke.

“If he won’t leave, I guess if he’s willing to do chores we could work something out,” Buttigieg quipped, as quoted by The Hill.

Democratic candidates arrive on stage.
2020 Democratic presidential candidates (l-r) Mike Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar. Mario Tama / Getty Images

Reportedly, Trump is currently “purging” his administration of any official he perceives to be placing public service over “personal subservience to him,” and generally acting as if he were “a king or dictator.” Those behaviors indicate that he may make a serious attempt to defy the results of an election that went against him, DeVega argues.

DeVega’s concerns echo those stated last year by legal expert Dahlia Lithwick, who wrote that if Trump simply refused to leave the White House once he was constitutionally required to do so, Democrats have “no meaningful plan to address that,” and neither does anyone else.

Georgetown University Law professor Josh Geltzer sounded a similar alarm earlier last year, saying that he expects Trump to “cling to power in ways previously unimaginable” by previous presidents. None of the institutions that could compel him to leave office — Congress, the Electoral College, state governors, and the United States military — have yet put any measures in place to halt such a power-grab by Trump, Geltzer said.

Forcing Democratic candidates to answer the question — in serious fashion — of what they would do if Trump refuses to leave office would serve as a “final exam” for Democratic candidates. The answers would enable voters to determine if a particular candidate is willing to put in “the long, hard, difficult and necessary work to restore and repair America” following Trump’s ultimate departure, DeVega wrote.