According to a report in the New York Times, Democratic strategists and Never-Trumper conservatives fear Donald Trump will refuse to leave office should he lose in November and are making plans and figuring out their legal options should such an unprecedented state of affairs come to pass.
The report, by the Times' Reid Epstein, begins with one such possible scenario.
"In October, President Trump declares a state of emergency in major cities in battleground states, like Milwaukee and Detroit, banning polling places from opening. A week before the election, Attorney General William P. Barr announces a criminal investigation into the Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr," he suggested. "After Mr. Biden wins a narrow Electoral College victory, Mr. Trump refuses to accept the results, won’t leave the White House and declines to allow the Biden transition team customary access to agencies before the Jan. 20 inauguration."
Admitting that his suggestion sounds "far-fetched," he added, "Not to a group of worst-case scenario planners — mostly Democrats, but some anti-Trump Republicans as well — who have been gaming out various doomsday options for the 2020 presidential election. Outraged by Mr. Trump and fearful that he might try to disrupt the campaign before, during and after Election Day, they are engaged in a process that began in the realm of science fiction but has nudged closer to reality as Mr. Trump and his administration abandon longstanding political norms."
According to Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law professor, no one should put anything past the unpredictable Trump who has played by his own rules for the past three and a half years.
“In the eight to 10 months I’ve been yapping at people about this stuff, the reactions have gone from, ‘Don’t be silly, that won’t happen,’ to an increasing sense of, ‘You know, that could happen,’” she explained.
According to Marc Elias, a Washington lawyer who leads the DNC's legal efforts to fight voter suppression, it's more likely "the Trump administration could act in October to make it harder for people to vote in urban centers in battleground states — possibilities, he said, that include declaring a state of emergency, deploying the National Guard or forbidding gatherings of more than 10 people."
Saying it would depress voter turnout, particularly among Democrats, he added, "That to me is that frame from which all doomsday scenarios then go."
According to Joe Biden adviser Bob Bauer, Americans should be prepared for the president to pull out all the stops to stay in the Oval Office where he is also protected from lawsuits.
“Since 2016, Donald Trump has shown that he is always ready to sacrifice our basic democratic norms for his personal and political interests,” the attorney explained. “We assume he may well resort to any kind of trick, ploy or scheme he can in order to hold onto his presidency. We have built a strong program to plan for and address every possibility to ensure that he does not succeed.”
A spokesperson for Trump 2020, in turn, attempted to make the case that Democrats have a history of questioning election results, before stating that the election will go off on the appointed date.
“Hillary Clinton, Stacey Abrams and the entire Democratic Party refused to accept the results of their elections and pushed the Russia collusion conspiracy theory for years,” explained Tim Murtaugh. “Now Joe Biden’s allies have formed actual conspiracy committees where they’ll work up new hoaxes to further undermine our democracy. They are wasting their time. As President Trump has repeatedly said, the election will happen on Nov. 3.”
Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University, suggested there is one historical precedent for a highly contested election.
"The 2020 election could resemble the contest of 1876, which nearly split the country a decade after the Civil War," The Times reports. "That election was not decided until Gov. Samuel J. Tilden of New York conceded to Gov. Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio two days before the inauguration. The departing president, Ulysses S. Grant, had made contingency plans for martial law because he was concerned there would be simultaneous competing inaugurations."
Added Foley, "We’re setting ourselves up for an election where neither side can concede defeat. That suggests that the desire to dispute the outcome is going to be higher than ever.”
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