WASHINGTON — It’s two weeks after Election Day, and President Donald Trump still refuses to concede that he lost the battle for the White House. Recounts underway are not expected to change the result. Democrat Joe Biden captured enough electoral votes to become the next President of the United States at noon on Jan 20.
But what if Donald Trump refuses to leave the White House and keeps fighting?
Seem far-fetched? Perhaps. But Monday morning, Trump tweeted, “I won the election!” And then, a little later, “The Radical Left Democrats, working with their partner, the Fake News Media, are trying to STEAL this Election. We won’t let them!”
The Radical Left Democrats, working with their partner, the Fake News Media, are trying to STEAL this Election. We won’t let them!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2020
So, what may have once been unthinkable seems like a valid question to ask.
PIX11 put the question to five leading election law scholars. What would happen if President Trump refused to leave, assuming the electoral votes cast on Electoral College Day (Dec. 14) go as expected and Joe Biden gets more than half the 538 available.
“The important thing is not whether he is physically in the White House,” said Michael Dimino of Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg, PA. “The important thing is who is permitted to exercise the powers of the presidency. The Constitution establishes a procedure for deciding that question.”
That means Donald Trump no longer would have any authority.
Professor Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles told us, “The states will certify their results, the electors will cast their votes, Congress will count those votes … and then we’ve got a new President. And at noon on the 20th. … the only way that Donald Trump will be permitted on White House grounds is if he’s invited.”
Richard Briffault, an authority on election law at Columbia Law School put it this way, “I also assume that at noon on January 20, he becomes a trespasser and possibly a security risk and could be removed.”
Presumably, any forced removal would be handled by the same agency that protected President Trump during his term, the Secret Service.
Rebecca Green, the co-director of the Election Law Program at William & Mary Law School, described what the new president could do to resolve any problem.
“If Joe Biden is duly elected president and Trump refuses to leave the White House, Biden will order that Trump be escorted from White House grounds,” Green said.
Another expert, whom we’re not naming because the professor is under contract as an election analyst with another media outlet, agreed that if Donald Trump stays in the White House, he’d be a trespasser and “he’d be escorted out if it came to that.”
"Nobody can retain the powers of the presidency by refusing to leave,” Professor Dimino summed up.
He underscored that the country is a nation of law.
“It is the votes of the electors -- as counted by Congress -- that determine who can exercise the powers of the presidency," Dimino said.
So, one way or the other, Donald Trump would have to vacate the premises.