If Donald Trump Refuses to Leave the White House, Secret Service Will Escort Him Out
President Donald Trump prematurely declared victory, even as former Vice President Joe Biden appeared set to win.
Trump has since claimed the race was rigged and shows no sign of conceding.
Biden’s team said in a statement Friday: “The United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”
And the Secret Service would be the ones to do it, one former U.S. official and two experts told Newsweek.
The scenarios Newsweek discussed with its sources are hypothetical. No network has called the race and the votes are still being counted. Trump has a narrow path to victory in the electoral college. He has never said or implied that he would continue to occupy the White House after exhausting any legal challenges to the vote.
Still, this is what happens when a sitting president doesn’t stand up to pass the baton to his or her successor. There is a plan in place to prevent a transition in power crisis.
The 20th Amendment has it that Trump loses his presidential mandate January 20 at noon, and, if he tries to stick around after that, the very guard tasked with protecting the nation’s top officeholder now has to evict him.
“The Secret Service would escort him off, they would treat him like any old man who’d wandered on the property,” one former official involved in the transition process between former President Barack Obama and Trump told Newsweek.
Trump would also lose privileged modes of transportation such as the presidential Air Force One and his iconic, fortified limousine, the Beast.
“As of noon of January 2021 [sic] the Beast doesn’t belong to him, AF1 doesn’t belong to him, and the White House doesn’t belong to him,” former U.S. Navy intelligence and counter-terrorism specialist Malcolm Nance told Newsweek. “If he doesn’t have a designated place, they’ll decide for him.”
“If he says he will not physically leave the White House, they will physically remove him,” Nance added. “They may have to put hands on him to remove him.”
Such a scenario would be unprecedented.
Overstaying his Oval Office welcome after an election would truly be unparalleled.
“This would indeed be yet another example of how Trump is systematically breaking the norms that make felicitous governance and cooperative policymaking possible—in this case by traducing the symbolic performance of the idea that the US government is a government of all Americans, not just the government of a single party,” Berggruen Institute Vice President of Programs Nils Gilman said.
An incumbent Trump unwilling to walk away has been imagined by Gilman and other experts concerned about the potential for a break in the United States’ so far uninterrupted democracy.
Earlier this year, Gilman and Georgetown Law professor Rosa Brooks established the Transition Integrity Project, an exercise involving a bipartisan group of experienced individuals from various government, media and academic backgrounds to establish four scenarios for the 2020 election.
These involved Biden winning the electoral and popular votes by a healthy margin, Biden winning the two metrics by a narrow margin, Trump winning the former but losing the latter and a too close to call case where the victor is not established the following day.
Needless to say, the final scenario has become reality, as did predictions of widespread efforts by the Trump campaign and friendly media to amplify “stolen election” and “voter fraud” narratives.
This hypothetical series of events quickly turns ugly, with Trump refusing to concede and mass nationwide demonstrations potentially turning violent as a new uncertainty grips an already tumultuous country. Trump presents himself as the “law and order” option.
Despite these attempts to overturn his rival’s victory through propaganda and social media smears, officials and even some Republicans quietly begin to discuss backing Biden.
“Biden’s electoral victory was certified but Trump refused to leave the White House. He began to burn documents and potentially incriminating evidence, and continued to launch attacks against the legitimacy of the election. President Trump released a series of pardons for members of his administration as well as himself before the Secret Service escorted him out of the White House,” the scenario goes.
“Once Biden is sworn in on inauguration day, power transfers to him, and the Secret Service will indeed escort former President Trump out of the White House,” Brooks said.
Her colleague, Gilman, agreed. “At some point the Secret Service will simply escort him out.”