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The Long Version of Trump's Possible Succession Plan

The Long Version of Trump's Possible Succession Plan

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  • 6 min to read
He has it perfectly set up not to, should he choose to go that route.
This isn’t going to be good news to a lot of you reading this article. This will go over with my Hardee’s breakfast club about as well as charging 75-cents for a cup of “senior-coffee.” 
You might get used to the notion; however, because it is looking increasingly likely, the further we move along toward November. Trump is going to lose to Joe Biden.
Many national experts, the kind who regularly conduct or interpret polling data, predict Trump’s losing is not an “if” as much as a “by what margin?” The other question being bantered about is how many other Republicans in the down-ballot races will go with him?
So, here’s the question I have for you. When Trump loses, should the margin be somewhat slight, will he peacefully turn over the presidency to the winner? Will Donald Trump concede?
As Dylan Thomas might well ask, will Trump go gently into that good night or will he rage, rage against the dying of the light? I think he will go to extraordinary lengths to remain in power and for very personal reasons some of you, out there, have completely forgotten. 
I have recently read an excellent piece on that very question. The article was in the Washington Monthly, and was an editorial crafted by its editor, Daniel Block. The piece was entitled, "How Trump could Lose the Election and Remain President.” You too should read it. 
Foremost, the article reminds the reader that Michael Cohen told the congressional panel before whom he gave testimony that, “Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear if he loses in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power.” Mr. Cohen worked high up in the Trump organization, as the “fixer,” for over a decade, if my memory serves.
Michael Cohen has been sentenced to prison for violating campaign finance laws by paying a porn star to not disclose her affair with Donald Trump at a time the knowledge might well have impacted the 2016-election. Cohen thoroughly implicated Donald Trump as having directed each and every action constituting the basis of that crime.
Trump was an “unnamed co-conspirator” in that indictment. The Justice Department in the Southern District of New York successfully prosecuted that case. 
What’s to stop SDNY from arresting and charging Donald Trump under the same indictment with which they charged and convicted Michael Cohen? What’s to stop them from taking Trump into custody the second Trump leaves the White House? 
Nothing! Matter of fact, that is exactly what people close to the situation believe to be the plan.
That is why, at the eleventh hour, with his political future in the job insulating him from prosecution looking ever suspect, Trump had Barr fire the head of the Attorney General’s office in the South District of New York. That is why it was critical to replace Geoffrey Berman with one of Trump’s regular golfing buddies, Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Clayton could have spent his time prior to the inauguration (should Biden win as expected) burying the case in which Trump is the un-named co-conspirator. The same case to which Michael Cohen, Trump’s-fixer, has both plead guilty and thoroughly implicated Trump.
Berman raged against the dying of the light, refusing to step-down and making someone fire him. Barr says it was Trump. Trump says it was Barr. 
Regardless of whom pulled the trigger, Berman didn’t go gently into that good night. Owing to that, his deputy, and not Trump’s crony, got appointed to the post created when Berman was fired. 
Berman, who had been a republican, life-long, but who won over critics with his willingness to investigate the Trump organization (including its charities), the president himself, the president’s lawyers, and the president’s friends, has engineered Audrey Strauss’s ascension to the head of the office. The president, undoubtedly, found this news disturbing.
Strauss was the head of the Cohen investigation and prosecution. She is a 72-year old democrat who is only the second woman to ever lead that office which is famous for mob trials, terrorism cases, and probes into both Trump and his allies. 
Her friends describe her as a thoughtful, careful lawyer with decades of experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney. The worst news for the Trumps…she’s no Jay Clayton.  
So with Strauss waiting for the opportunity, an indictment already sitting out there implicating Trump, and with a Department of Justice memorandum, from August 5, 1974, holding a president can’t pardon himself (Better get Barr busy on the re-write of that baby), there remains only two ways to stave off prosecution post the recent attempted coup d’état of the SDNY Attorney General (Geoffrey Berman), which was only partly successful. One is to remain president. The second is to get Joe Biden to pull a “Gerald Ford.”
For those too young to remember, Ford, the only US president in history to have never been elected to the post, pardoned Nixon “for the good of the country.” He lost his opportunity to be elected president in 1976 to a young peanut farmer from Georgia, Jimmy Carter. Many believe it was the Nixon-pardon which doomed Ford to defeat. 
Biden is not likely to make that mistake. Trump has to stay in office. Trump can either win in November, and have another 4-years to make the outstanding indictment “go away,” or refuse to leave office, should he lose.
So, how would he stay in office? Is it even possible? According to Mr. Block’s editorial, Trump may have already meticulously laid the foundation to do that very thing.
The Block op-ed cites two definitive experts on the topic. Steven Levitsky, a comparative political scientist at Harvard and coauthor of "How Democracies Die," says autocrats pack electoral authorities, jail opponents, and silence unfriendly media outlets. Dr. Joseph Fishkin, a law professor at the University of Texas who studies elections says “I think we know that Trump will certainly, no matter what the result is, be likely to declare that there was fraud and that he was the rightful victor.” 
If you really think about it, hasn’t Trump been pretty much doing all of the above since first taking office? There are some basic avenues he could take to remain in power. 
He could dispute the election results in the courts. This requires the results to be close, but “close” is a comparative term, open to interpretation. Trump claimed voter fraud led to the mid-term “blue-wave” and, should he make the same claim in 2020 and remain in office until it gets sorted out, we don’t have any present constitutional mechanism to deal with that contingency. 
Trump could refuse to concede. Most people believe his friends in the Senate would go along with him in this.
Why not? They seem to go along with anything Trump does no matter how foul to the concept of republic or democracy it happens to be. 
Trump could get his friend Hannity to cry fraud on TV, and Limbaugh on radio. If Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell and his gang aren’t willing to “defect,” we would have a real crisis on our hands.
All of this would mean the results would be challenged in court. The Trump campaign would sue the Democratic-leaning counties in swing states alleging “irregularities.” They would then ask the courts to toss the results and, thereby, award Trump those electors in the critical states, giving him electoral college victory. 
There is a precedent for this. Remember Bush v. Gore? The U.S. Supreme Court’s republican-appointed majority shut down the Florida recount, giving the 2000 election to George W. Bush. 
Autocrats abroad often rely on packed courts to cling to power. Trump has made a substantial imprint on the present judiciary, and intentionally. The Constitution gives legislators in Republican controlled states the ability to require its electors to vote the same way as the people. However a Republican controlled legislature and governor could, in theory, pass a bill which strips this power away from citizens. 
The way this might work is a GOP-controlled state passes a bill giving the legislature direct power to appoint the state’s electors. The Governor signs it claiming the fraud allegations and controversy over the tallies make the popular vote untrustworthy and that, by signing the bill, he is implementing the actual “will of the voters.” 
Should that happen, the 12th-Amendment gives Congress the final say over who becomes president. If there are three or more candidates and nobody wins a majority of electors, the House decides who wins. In a two-person race, where both claim an Electoral College majority, there is no clear precedence for which chamber of Congress, House or Senate, would have the last word. 
There would likely be a long, drawn-out crisis between the House and the Senate, where the outcomes would be different assuming the respective chambers stay as presently constituted. Even if Trump were forced out, we would be left with a sizable portion of the population believing the election was rigged.
Now none of this paints a very pretty picture. However, ask yourself this. If this were the plan, perhaps all along, hasn’t Trump laid the perfect foundation to accomplish any or all of the above set forth? I can’t speak for any of you, but I don’t like the answer which comes so readily to my mind.   
You can take this for whatever you find it worth, but THAT’S THE LONG VERSION!


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