Now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has begun arresting and flipping people in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, it seems just a matter of time before Trump’s presidency topples, and his freedom and fortune come under great risk. Trump initially used two allies to float the idea that he may not seek a second term, sending a signal that he may be trying to find a way out. Now comes a report that he’s begun inquiring about resignation.
Trump has a lifelong history of walking away whenever he’s concluded that he’s unlikely to succeed. His six corporate bankruptcies over the years, and litany of abandoned business deals along the way, serve to spell that out rather clearly. So this tweet from Democratic Coalition co-founder and MSNBC guest commentator Scott Dworkin doesn’t come as a surprise: “Fmr RNC staffer told me Trump’s asked about the resignation process—it’s the 4th person who’s told me this & WH hasn’t denied.” (link) The question now is what that process would look like for him, in real world political terms.
First, let’s be clear about the parameters. Just because Donald Trump is asking around about resignation, that doesn’t mean he’s planning to do so. It simply means that he’s now so concerned about his situation, he’s trying to get a serious grasp on what his resignation options would look like. The process of resigning is as simple as his signature, so he’s most likely inquiring about how the process of his resignation would play out in political terms. He may not like the answer.
Even if Donald Trump resigns, his criminal liability will not go away. The Feds will still continue to arrest and flip his underlings in order to get to Trump on his Russian collusion, his obstruction of justice, and his lifelong history of financial crimes. Mike Pence could be hesitant to pardon him, considering how Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon crippled his presidency out of the gate. Moreover, Trump would still be on the hook for state crimes in New York, which can’t be pardoned by the president. In short, resignation would suck for Trump – but it may be the least bad of his limited remaining options.
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