Former Intel Official To Americans: ‘Prepare For The Worst’ As Trump May Not Step Down If Defeated In 2020
Former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council Josh Geltzer is sounding the alarm about the possibility that President Donald Trump may refuse to leave office were he to be defeated in 2020, warning that “we should be prepared for the wort.”
The notion could sound far-fetched, but Geltzer, now a Georgetown Law professor, isn’t a conspiracy theorist. He recently wrote an essay suggesting that perhaps it was time to start preparing for if Trump, who has repeatedly shown a willingness to overstep his constitutional authority, simply refused to leave the Oval Office.
When Michael Cohen warned in his March testimony before Congress, “given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 there will never be a peaceful transition of power,” he was met with awkward silence. But the anxieties gradually began to grow.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fretted about this possibility in a May interview in the New York Times. When Politico probed the question this summer, it noted: “Constitutional experts and top Republican lawmakers dismiss the fears as nonsense, noting there are too many forces working against a sitting president simply clinging to power—including history, law and political pressure.” But experts now seem less confident in those forces.
On Thursday, Edward Luce at the Financial Times noted how often Trump jokes about having a third term, observing that, because of Trump’s belief that he could face prosecution after he leaves office, “no other US president has faced the prospect of being re-elected or going to jail.” He added that for Trump, losing the 2020 election is an existential threat, and he has openly invited foreign interference, while Mitch McConnell refuses to even consider legislation to secure the vote.
And even if Trump is truly joking when he tweets that he deserves to be credited two extra years in his existing term, years he believes were lost to the Mueller probe, or riffs on staying on the job long after he’d been term-limited out, the tweets send a dangerous message to his loyalists.
Concerns about a peaceful transfer of power shouldn’t have to occupy Americans’ minds. We need political leaders—especially Republicans—to make clear, both publicly and privately, that for Trump to contest the valid results of an election would be a redline, and that he’d have zero support from them—indeed, impassioned opposition from them—should he cross it. We need it sooner rather than later, too.