What really happens if Donald Trump tries to refuse to leave office after he loses

A hallmark of the United States government is our peaceful transition of power. Between Election Day and Inauguration Day, the sitting administration helps prepare the incoming one for the job ahead, paying the prior administration’s cooperation forward. No matter how heated an election season becomes, we normally don’t panic over the idea of a losing incumbent refusing to let the winning party take over. The question is, if Biden wins this November, should we panic that Trump won’t leave?

Given Trump’s maniacal obsession with winning, his insistence on declaring his losses as rigged, and his bleak future fighting criminal charges once he is out of power, this is a question well worth asking. Joe Biden addressed it for the first time last night on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” His comments, though brief, were both newsworthy and comforting.

When Biden brought up the possibility that we might not know who wins Pennsylvania until a month after the election, Noah asked if he has thought about what would happen if Trump refuses to leave if Biden wins. Biden’s answer, “Yes, I have,” confirms that we aren’t crazy to be concerned about such a possibility. More importantly, the quickness and confidence of Biden’s reply tells us his team is taking such a disturbing possibility seriously and planning accordingly.

As for what those plans may entail, Biden appears certain that the U.S. military will step in, if necessary, to ensure a peaceful transition of power in January. Biden assured Noah, “I promise you—I’m absolutely convinced—they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.” Without mincing words, Biden also expressed how proud he was of four Chiefs of Staff “coming out and ripping the skin off of Trump” along with “so many rank-and-file military personnel” refuting the idea that we are a military state in the wake of protests following George Floyd’s murder.

Lending even more support for Biden’s words, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff apologized this morning for participating in Trump’s shameless photo op at Lafayette Square. Gen. Mark Milley told graduates at National Defense University’s commencement that his “presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics,” as reported by the New York Times. Milley called his appearance “a mistake that I have learned from” and added that “I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.”

President Clinton did not try to block George W. Bush from taking office after the hanging chad debacle. President Obama and his staff graciously helped the Trump team transition into power, despite Hillary Clinton’s popular vote win and mounting allegations of Russian interference. When it is time for President Biden to move in on January 20, Trump should think twice about relying on the military to help him stick around and avoid answering for his crimes. Better yet, he can do the country a favor and leave today.

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