The Great Escape: Donald John Trump’s Exit Strategy
Where does the President go from here?
THAT SOUND YOU HEAR is the death rattle of a presidency.
A thousand Americans are dying of the novel coronavirus every day. Volume Five of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report is due for release any day now. Senators, Congressmen, and emeritus members of the intelligence community have stopped pulling punches and are sounding the alarms. Cy Vance announced that his investigation is wider than originally thought, and likely includes tax fraud; the New York Times reported that Deutsche Bank has already turned over Trump’s financial documents to prosecutors. The vaunted economy is falling along with the president’s poll numbers. And the presumptive guy in charge gave the most unflattering interview of all time ever, unequivocally exposing himself as a complete and total moron:
Even the Trump people know they can’t win the election without banana-republic-level fuckery, as the indefatigable historian Heather Cox Richardson writes:
No one is pretending that Trump is going to win the popular vote. He’s not even trying to. He’s doubling down on the culture wars that excite his base in the hopes of getting them to turn out in strong numbers, most recently by sending federal law enforcement officers into cities led by Democrats in order to create images of what looks like rioting, to enable him to set himself up as defending “law and order.”
At the same time, he and his supporters in the Republican Party are working to guarantee an undercount of votes for his opponent by attacking mail-in voting, shutting down polling places, kicking people off voter rolls, undercutting the United States Postal Service, and even, perhaps, by permitting a wave of evictions that will make it significantly harder for displaced people to vote.
It is notable that, as a country, we are not talking about policies or winning majorities. We are talking about how Trump can win by gaming the Electoral College, or by cheating.
Even so, enthusiasm for cheating to keep a low-IQ mobster in office seems to be on the wane, even among Republicans, who must be sick of the guy. There have been many cracks in the facade these last few weeks. Sure, Bill Barr is boss at torpedoing investigations, but he can only do so much—and as Lincoln’s Bible pointed out during his embarrassing House hearing, the AG is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is:
(Sidenote: Being not nearly as smart as one thinks one is is the prevailing character trait of everyone involved with this White House. Other than, you know, pure uncut greed).
So, like, now what? Where does Trump go from here?
We’ll know more by the end of the month. The Republican National Convention is scheduled for August 24-27. Whether it’s in Charlotte, Jacksonville, the South Lawn of the White House (illegally, but whatevs), or the back nine of Bedminster, that’s the moment when Republicans will certify the Trump/Pence ticket—or not certify it.
The Republican National Committee, chaired by the ever-mendacious Ronna Romney McDaniel, decided to eschew a proper primary process, likely fearing that some dark horse candidate, perhaps Ronna’s own Uncle Mitt, would prevail. Last week came the curious report that the convention would be closed to the press. While that original announcement has been walked back, it brought up the obvious question: Why would the RNC opt to go dark at the precise moment when it should want every TV channel in the country broadcasting its propaganda program?
The ostensible reason—concerns over the coronavirus—is laughably ridiculous; this is the party whose leader has worn a mask maybe three times in the last five months, and whose pathetic insistence to hold a rally in Tulsa resulted in the premature death of one of its own former presidential candidates, Herman Cain, who in Tulsa contracted the covid-19 that killed him. Could it be that the RNC is considering changing horses mid-stream, benching Trump in favor of Mitt Romney, or Nikki Haley, or Liz Cheney, or anyone else capable of doing basic math? That the Trump campaign has stopped buying ads supports this theory—although there are plenty of other reasons why the RNC would not want footage of this event to exist. Shame, for one.
As a practical matter, Trump could be withdrawn from consideration up until the night of the election, but after mid-September, it becomes tricky to remove his name from printed ballots, as Ballotpedia explains:
In 2016, the bulk of the dates for certifying the names of major party presidential candidates were in August and September. Mid-August was the point at which either party could have found a replacement nominee and still have been able to get its candidate's name on the ballot in enough states to be competitive in November without having to navigate the courts and ballot access issues. For example, if a nominee had dropped out in late August, his or her name would already have been certified to appear as the party's candidate for president in about 20 states. If he or she had dropped out in late September, that number would have risen to almost 40 states.
So if they are going to dump Trump, and have any hope of competing in November, the RNC has to do so at the RNC.
If the president survives August, and retains the lickspittle Mike Pence on the ballot, he will face the challenge of several debates with Joe Biden—or, more likely, refuse to face that challenge, while lying to his supporters that it’s Biden who’s afraid to debate him. (For what it’s worth: Biden has experience winning debates in which his opponent is a clueless imbecile.)
Election Day is the next milestone for Trump. Unless the Russians attack our election systems and alter vote totals, poisoning the result and grinding the country to a halt, the president will lose bigly. We rightly assume Russia will do this—and don’t get me wrong; we should take this very very VERY seriously—but it’s no sure thing. Consider: Joe Biden is already pissed at Putin for dragging his son Hunter into the public eye; it’s now his personal mission to destroy him. If Russia attempts any more election fuckery, that will only give Joe even more incentive to go hard at that little KGB twerp, which means confiscating the hundreds of billions of dollars Putin and his cronies have parked in Western banks. Putin’s hold on power in Russia is tenuous right now; there have been massive protests in some of the eastern oblasts. Can he afford to risk all that cheddar for four more years of Trump? Furthermore, even if Russia does do its thing, cheating only works if the vote totals are close—and this is going to be a blowout. Think Reagan-Mondale, Nixon-McGovern, Cowboys-Bills.
Trump will huff and puff and cry foul, but if he goes down, nothing he says or does will change the result. His cultists will be angry, but—newsflash—they’re angry already. (And really, after four years of MAGA, they can go fuck themselves.) Meanwhile, for the rest of us, the catharsis of a Biden victory will be off the charts. There will be joyful shouting, hollering, and weeping. There will be dancing in the streets. There will be sex. There will be nights of restorative, Ambien-free sleep.
But even after he loses the election, Trump will remain in the Oval Office until noon on January 20. He has the New York indictments looming, and the rape case the press never talks about, and god knows what all when Biden takes over and appoints an AG who isn’t a foreign spy and mob toady. That gives him two full months to concoct an escape plan to avoid a post-presidency of litigation, prosecution, asset forfeiture, and prison.
There are three ways to elude that fate:
First, Trump could resign and have Pence pardon him—the Nixon template. That won’t work, because, first, Pence is a co-conspirator, and second, some of the crimes are state crimes, and a presidential pardon doesn’t work with state crimes. Also, if you’re Pence…why would you even do that? Mother will allow him to pardon Trump for rape?
Second, Trump could drop dead. The novel coronavirus seems not to bother him, but he’s in his seventies, morbidly obese, and in poor health due to shitty diet and rampant drug use—plus the stress must be brutal, even for a narcissistic sociopath. He is pretty obviously unwell. Would anyone be surprised if he stroked out? (If there is an afterlife, of course, he will be delivered to Hell instantaneously, where his infernal torment—maybe a vegan yoga retreat and sweat lodge that goes on for all eternity?—will be worse than prison, but let us confine ourselves in this space to temporal matters).
Third, he could flee. That would look like this: In December, he makes one last state visit to Saudi Arabia. He brings his namesake son, his charity-cheating son, his feckless daughter, and her criminal husband. Once in the Kingdom, he formally resigns, gets political amnesty, and the Trump family lives out their lives as guests of Jared’s BFF, Mohammad Bone-Saw. (Or maybe he’d go to the UAE, where Betsy DeVos’s brother now lives. Crown Prince or Eric Prince, pick your poison.)
That’s what a smart man would do—but Trump is not smart, as the Axios interview conclusively shows. Because he’s never faced any real consequences for his lifetime of crimes, Trump will likely assume that this will also be the case going forward. Odds are, he will ride it out and hope for the best, giving We The People the opportunity to indict him, try him, convict him, and lock him up—and in so doing, make America great again.
Photo credit: President Donald J. Trump gives a thumbs-up as he disembarks Air Force One at Tampa International Airport in Tampa, Fla. Friday, July 31, 2020, where he was greeted by state and local officials. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)