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What happens if Trump refuses to leave the White House?

By Tanya Lara Published Nov 06, 2020 10:14 pm Updated Nov 07, 2020 7:33 am

This will be, in a word, unprecedented. President Donald Trump reportedly told people close to him that he has no intention of conceding the election even as he trails behind Democratic candidate Joe Biden in key battleground states.

There have been hotly contested presidential elections in the past, but every sitting American president has accepted the election results, whether it’s decided in the polls or in the courts.

No US president has ever refused to leave office and in no other election has this been a possibility—until now.

In the weeks leading to Election Day, Trump repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power. “There won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation,” he told reporters on Sept. 23 as he continued to broadcast his baseless claims about mail-in voting fraud on Twitter and interviews.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

Post-election reporting indicates that Trump hasn’t changed his stance on the possibility of losing. CNN and other news outlets have reported that he “has not prepared a concession speech and in conversations with allies in recent days has said he has no intention of conceding the election.”

Several political analysts have said he doesn't need to concede—he just has to leave office on inauguration day in January 2021, when the new President and his family move into the White House.

No US president has ever refused to leave office and in no other election has this been a possibility—until now.

Trump has implied that “the only way he would accept a Biden win is through a Supreme Court battle, which is why he moved so quickly in filling Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat with an ultra-conservative judge. ‘I think this will end up in the Supreme Court. And I think it's very important that we have nine justices," he told reporters ahead of Amy Coney Barrett's appointment to the court, The New York Times reported in September.”

Assuming the Supreme Court settles the matter in Biden’s favor, what if Trump still refuses to leave the White House?

Then the Secret Service, which is tasked to protect the president, will have to step in and escort him out.

The White House

According to Newsweek, “The 20th Amendment has it that if Trump, or any other lame-duck leader, loses his presidential mandate January 20 at noon, and, if he tries to stick around after that, the very guard once tasked with protecting the nation's top officeholder now has to evict him.

“‘The Secret Service would escort him off, they would treat him like any old man who'd wandered on the property,’ one former official involved in the transition process between former President Barack Obama and Trump told Newsweek.’

“And whether or not Trump actually attends the Inauguration Day ceremony is irrelevant to the actual transfer of authority—in which Trump would also lose privileged modes of transportation such as the presidential Air Force One and his iconic, fortified limousine, the Beast.”

At a campaign rally last month, Trump told his supporters that he might have to “leave the country” if he loses to “the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics.”

The Lincoln Project, a committee formed by former Republicans with the goal of preventing a Trump reelection, retweeted a video of this speech with a one-word caption: “Promise?”