What happens if Trump refuses to leave the White House?
Democrat Joe Biden has won the 2020 United States Presidential elections, denying rival Donald Trump a re-election. The President-elect is set to take oath in January 2021. However, outgoing President Trump has refused to accept the election result, alleged fraud, filed lawsuits, and declared himself the winner. So, what happens in the event that Trump refuses to concede and leave the White House?
Of the 44 Presidents who served before Trump, 35 willingly ceded power to their successor after either their two-term limit expired, they lost an election, or that they chose not to run again. Eight other Presidents died and one quit. In US history, no President has ever refused to vacate the White House. But, assuming the worst, here's what could happen.
According to the 20th Amendment of the US Constitution, Trump automatically ceases to be President on January 20. If Trump refuses to physically leave the White House thereafter, he will most likely be physically removed. One former US official and two experts told Newsweek that the Secret Service would physically remove Trump from the White House if he overstayed his welcome.
A former official involved in the Obama-Trump transition told Newsweek, "The Secret Service...would treat him like any old man who'd wandered on the property." Former US Navy intelligence and counter-terrorism specialist Malcolm Nance added, "They may have to put hands on him to remove him. They may tell him if he doesn't make his flight, he may have to contract his own flight."
Georgetown Law professor Rosa Brooks told Newsweek, "If Biden is formally certified as the winner in the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, he is officially going to be the next President, whether Trump concedes or not." "Once Biden is sworn-in on Inauguration Day, power transfers to him, and the Secret Service will indeed escort former President Trump out of the White House."
And Biden's campaign has confirmed as much. In a statement on Friday, Biden's team said that the American people will decide the election, adding, "The United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House."
Additionally, there's no constitutional provision to extend the term of office, the White House Historical Association told Newsweek. It said, "If no President has been chosen by January 20, 2021, then the statutory line of succession begins, which means the Speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi) ascends to the Presidency." (Trump and Mike Pence will cease to be President, Vice President on January 20).
Notably, the Trump campaign has filed at least seven lawsuits in battleground states since Election Day, challenging the result. According to Vox, if Trump decides to stay in the White House until the resolution of those lawsuits, we're in uncharted territory. Normally, Congress certifies the Electoral College results on January 6 (two weeks before Inauguration Day), however, the legal challenges could cause a delay.
If Trump moves the Supreme Court, as he has said, the nation's highest legal body—that has three Trump-appointed justices on it—could issue a ruling in his favor, the report noted. If this happens after Congress has already certified the results, we're again in uncharted territory.