Americans fighting Americans at Berkeley California over the presidency of Donald Trump.
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If the moment lawfully arrives for Donald Trump to pass from the presidency in a peaceful and orderly manner, will he do so?
The short answer is: Not if he can avoid it.
The U.S. presidency is a dream job for Donald Trump. There is no shortage of experts lining up to tell the American public that no one is above the law. But that stuff ain't the truth. The truth, effectively, is that with William Barr as attorney general and the legally unproven OLC Memo acting as a prosecution shield, Donald Trump is in fact living above the law for all intents and purposes. It's a place he has wanted to be his entire life.
Cutting directly to the chase, there are really only three ways Trump could resist a legally mandated exit from the Oval Office and its powers: by successfully enlisting the help of the U.S. military to maintain control, managing to incite his supporters to mount an armed insurgency, or litigating.
The various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces remain fairly professional and disciplined. The likelihood that there would be any meaningful, coordinated support for an overthrow of the U.S. government remains quite low. There are certainly Trump supporters on active duty or retired who might independently use their training to aid in his defense, but an effort that would involve organized military engagement is not in the cards right now.
Inciting an armed insurgency is quite a bit more plausible. In fact the argument can be made that a fledging campaign is already underway. At first glance, actors like Cesar Sayoc, Patrick Crusius, and James Fields might seem to have acted independently, but they and many like them are clearly inspired and emboldened by Trump's incendiary rhetoric and are acting-out lethally with what they view as his blessing.
If Trump were facing the prospect of being removed from office by any means he protested, an uptick in violence by his supporters should be anticipated. Whether such acts would coalesce into a coordinated effort is unclear. The chance, however, does exist.
The third and arguably most likely gambit is Trump's favorite, litigation. You can be 100 percent certain that Trump will legally challenge any legal mandate to end his grip on the presidency short of at least eight years. That combined with even random acts of violence by his supporters could make for very tense days.
It also bears noting that any legal challenge Trump might mount to being removed from office would almost certainly end up in the Supreme Court. It's a court that could opt for a redux of Bush v. Gore, regardless of the merits.
Once out of office, Donald Trump would have criminal exposure to a laundry list of federal and state charges. As long as he remains in power he remains functionally immune, and the statutory limits move inexorably toward their expiration date. In addition, he is becoming increasingly adept at using the powers of the presidency to enrich himself and his family members.
Trump has everything to gain by remaining in office and everything to lose by leaving office. This is not a guy who has any intention of going quietly into that good night.
Eviction will not be pretty, but it will be necessary.
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