The election results tell us Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. Are you sure about that?
And I’m not talking about the ongoing legal challenges the Trump team has mounted to try and overturn the results. I don’t see much hope for success there. Which may mean that Joe Biden may not be the next president.
Biden won’t be sworn in before January. Before then I can see Donald Trump resigning and Mike Pence assuming the office. Most people would say that Trump’s ego would preclude that from happening, but there are both personal and political considerations to be considered.
The US remains politically fractured. I can see the possibility of a Democratic Party controlled House of Representatives bringing new charges against the former president. There is also the potential for criminal charges against Trump for actions both in and out of office.
I don’t know that Donald Trump has committed any crimes, but that isn’t always the consideration. What I do know is that President Pence could offer a blanket pardon before any charges were laid.
There have been suggestions that Trump could pardon himself, but some question the legality of such a move. My impression is that he could do it, though it would be unprecedented. Why take the chance?
In 1974 new president Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for unspecified crimes. His thought was, quite rightly I think, that it would do the country no good to put Nixon on trial.
That type of thinking probably doesn’t resonate well today with Democratic partisans who have endured four years of President Trump. I can see them being out for revenge for slights real or imagined.
Political show trials are common in many countries. They are part of the reasons for peaceful transitions of power being so problematic in so many places. Politicians are reluctant to hand over the reins of power to someone whose first planned act is to arrest their predecessors.
I don’t think America has sunk to that point, as tempting as it may seem to some. Were Trump to be charged with any crimes, the charge wouldn’t be politically motivated.
After all, in 2016 he promised charges against his opponent, but they were never laid. I assume Justice Department officials told him there was nothing there to charge her with. While some might suggest charges of stupidity and incompetence, those are not criminal offences (some might suggest Trump benefits there too).
It will be interesting to see what happens though. The man has a complicated legal history. He may yet face a multitude of charges for actions unrelated to anything he may have done as president. I doubt a presidential pardon would help there.
But he could probably drag things out so long that he would die before the case was finished. He is in his seventies after all.
We’re I setting the odds on President Pence succeeding Donald Trump, I’d say the chance was about one in four. Not likely, but possible.
That thought is one of the reasons American politics is still fun to watch, as two weeks after election day they are still counting the votes.