Trump’s defiance threatens smooth transition

Trump’s defiance threatens smooth transition
US President Donald Trump returns to White House after playing golf. (AFP)
LONDON, NOV 8 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 11/8/2020 1:47:33 PM IST

A defiant Donald Trump was pictured leaving the White House as he headed back to his golf course in Virginia, still insisting he had won the US presidential election. The president has so far refused to concede the race to president-elect Joe Biden, who, four nail-biting days after the election, finally amassed enough electoral college votes needed to win the White House.

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney claimed Mr Trump, despite having a “relaxed relationship with the truth”, will eventually “accept the inevitable” that Biden is the president-elect. 

Donald Trump falsely declared victory on the night of the election and vowed to go to the Supreme Court to stop vote counting - confirming some Americans’ worst fears that he would undermine the democratic process.  This isn’t the first time the question has become one of national importance: Each time the president has suggested he will only accept the results of an election if they were in his favour, media outlets have explored the constitutional limits he would face in disputing his dismissal from the Oval Office.

President-elect  Joe Biden has prepared his own army of attorneys and constitutional law experts to counter the president’s legal challenges on everything from expanded mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic to alleged instances of voter fraud, which Mr Trump has claimed without evidence. Biden has insisted federal officials “will escort [Trump] from the White House with great dispatch” if he loses the election. 

The Democrat took the lead over Trump in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Nevada for the first time on Saturday, winning the White House. Three days after polls closed, Biden has a 290 to 214 lead in the state-by-state Electoral College vote that determines the winner, according to most major television networks.  What’s perhaps most concerning about the president’s apparent threats not to concede in the election is how the country lacks precedent for dealing with such a scenario. The peaceful transition of power is a bedrock of American society, and in past examples of contentious elections, resolutions had been made long before any refusal to concede. On previous occasions in the history of the United States, when the presidency was in any way contested, cooler heads have prevailed in the interest of the peaceful transfer of power.

Richard Nixon conceded to John F Kennedy in 1960 amid several accusations of vote rigging for the Democrat, for instance. Vice president Al Gore accepted the Supreme Court’s ruling that George Bush had won the 2000 presidential election even though there were significant questions about the integrity of the results in Florida. Paul Quirk, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, previously told The Independent it would put law enforcement in an awkward position.  

“At some point, the question would become: whose orders do law enforcement obey? Because it would ultimately become a matter of the use of force in one direction or another.”

The US constitution makes no mention of how a president should be removed if they lose an election and refuse to hand over power to their opponent. So, it is hard to say if anyone would have the appetite to send the FBI, or navy seals, or whatever law enforcement agency, storming into the West Wing to arrest a recently defeated Donald Trump.

Trump supporters refuse to accept defeat: Chanting “This isn’t over! and “Stop the steal,” supporters of President Donald Trump protested at state capitols across the country Saturday, refusing to accept defeat and echoing Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations that the Democrats won by fraud. From Atlanta and Tallahassee to Austin, Bismarck, Boise and Phoenix, crowds ranging in size from a few dozen to a few thousand — some of them openly carrying guns — decried the news of Joe Biden’s victory after more than three suspense-filled days of vote-counting put the Democrat over the top. Skirmishes broke out in some cities.

In Atlanta, outside the state Capitol in the longtime Republican stronghold of Georgia, chants of “Lock him up!” rang out among an estimated 1,000 Trump supporters. Others chanted, “This isn’t over! This isn’t over!” and “Fake news!” The streets were awash with American flags and Trump banners.

No immediate violence was reported, though at one point, police moved to separate Trump opponents from supporters. Biden held a slim lead in Georgia, which hasn’t gone for a Democrat since 1992.

Underscoring the hard feelings on both sides of the nation’s deep political divide, anti-Trump protesters in Washington booed, yelled obscenities, shouted “Loser! Loser!” and gave the finger to Trump’s motorcade as the president returned to the White House from a golf outing Saturday.

Two signs posted in front of Trump’s Washington hotel read “Don’t be a sore loser” and “Face Reality.”


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