Here’s what could happen if an ex-president refuses to leave office
September 30, 2020
For months, President Trump has been noncommittal about accepting the results of the 2020 election, alarming many Americans.
Since Trump took office in 2017, he has repeatedly discussed the possibility of staying in office for longer than two terms.
It remains unclear whether or not the Secret Service would play a role in removing a president who refuses to leave the White House premises.
If a president who lost the election refused to leave the White House, top military leaders have emphatically stated that civilian authorities would have to resolve the election.
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With President Trump continually making conflicting statements on whether he’d leave office in January 2021, the notion of a peaceful transfer of power is becoming murkier by the day. The question of who would be responsible for physically removing a president from the White House is relevant for perhaps the first time in modern history.
At the moment, it is unclear who would have to manage such a nightmare scenario on Inauguration Day, but possible players include the newly-elected President and the Secret Service.
If a losing president still occupies the White House after his term expires in late January, the newly-elected President would likely have the power to direct the Secret Service to remove that individual from the premises, since any federal agents would no longer report to the old president. Even though former presidents retain a Secret Service detail, they are private citizens after their terms end and would no longer have presidential powers.
Last week, when asked by a reporter, Trump refused to ensure a transfer of power if he felt like the election wasn’t honest, pivoting to mail-in ballots, which he feels are rife with fraudulent votes.
“We’ll have to see what happens,” he said. “You know that I’ve been strongly complaining about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster. Get rid of the ballots and we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly, there’ll be a continuation.”
This past June, Biden appeared on “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah and said it was his belief that military leaders wouldn’t let Trump stay in the White House past his term if he lost.
“You have so many rank and file military personnel saying, well, we’re not a military state, this is not who we are,” he said. “I promise you, I’m absolutely convinced, they will escort him [Trump] from the White House in a dispatch.”
However, contrary to Biden’s statement, the military would not involve itself in election conflicts. In response to a House query to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, he made a commitment to that effect.
“In the event of a dispute over some aspect of the elections, by law U.S. courts and the U.S. Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the U.S. Military,” he said. “We will not turn our backs on the Constitution of the United States.”