The election may not be over until the fat lady sings, but President Donald Trump has made it abundantly clear that in the event he loses the election, he won’t go down without a fight. “We could well see a protracted postelection struggle in the courts and the streets if the results are close,” UC Irvine School of Law professor Richard L. Hasen told The Atlantic. “The kind of election meltdown we could see would be much worse than 2000’s Bush v. Gore case.”
If Trump refuses to concede, Joe Biden has said that authorities “will escort him from the White House with great dispatch” (via The Atlantic). In the worst-case scenario, Trump could reject the election outcome, and we could be in for months of a legal woes. “We are not prepared for this at all,” Princeton professor Julian Zelizer, told The Atlantic. “We talk about it, some worry about it, and we imagine what it would be. But few people have actual answers to what happens if the machinery of democracy is used to prevent a legitimate resolution to the election.”
Despite what may happen until the final vote is counted and then thereafter, there are a variety of rules presidents must follow when they leave office. While following the rules was never Trump’s thing, these are the stipulations he must adhere to if he loses his place as president.
Donald Trump must bite his tongue and refrain from criticizing the new president
Although Donald Trump has become infamous for slamming his foes on social media, he must curb his rhetoric according to an unwritten rule to not bad-mouth the sitting president (via The New York Times).
This rule has clearly been bent, especially with former President Obama’s criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “Donald Trump isn’t suddenly going to protect all of us,” Obama said at a campaign rally for Biden following Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis (via Reuters). “He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself.” At the same rally, Obama continued to take jabs at the president and his previous career. “This is not a reality show. This is reality,” Obama said. “And the rest of us have had to live with the consequences of him proving himself incapable of taking the job seriously.”
Former President Jimmy Carter also broke protocol when he called the Bush administration “the worst in history” in 2007 (via The New York Times). Additionally, former President Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t fond of William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson and even called Taft a “puzzlewit” and a “fathead.”
Donald Trump will never be able to drive a car again
While Donald Trump is probably used to being chauffeured around, he will no longer have the option of hitting the road solo. Former presidents are not allowed to drive because of the lifelong Secret Service detail that comes with being an ex-president. Since American officials are a constant target, the Secret Service must be in charge at all times.
The rule was implemented following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 (via Grunge). To date, Lyndon B. Johnson was the last president to drive on the open road.
Although we have seen Trump drive his golf cart on the putting green, according to George W. Bush, that is A-OK. The former president told Jay Leno he is only allowed to drive on his private property in the safest of conditions (via CNBC). Other than that, he must be driven everywhere by Secret Service agents who are trained in “evasive and defensive driving maneuvers.”
All of Donald Trump's technology usage will be monitored forever
While the intelligence community has received some flack about snooping through the devices of US citizens, the protocol is often necessary for former and current presidents. Although warrants are now required in many situations, the Secret Service got exempt from warrant laws in regard to “stingray” devices that can monitor a cell phone’s location, according to The Hill. In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security argued that it was “impracticable” to obtain a search warrant in order to oversee the president and other high-ranking personnel.
Despite understanding the ins and outs of Twitter, Donald Trump may not have to worry about this rule since he isn’t known for being computer-savvy. “He doesn’t use a computer. Someone is doing the googling but not him,” Times correspondent Maggie Haberman tweeted after Trump made remarks about Googling himself (via People). “Sometimes Trump reads things on a iPad that he calls ‘the flat one,'” ABC White House reporter Tara Palmeri echoed at the time.
Donald Trump must have all his mail searched
In addition to having his technology combed through, Donald Trump’s mail must be searched by Secret Service agents before packages and letters ever land in his hands. While the measure may sound extreme, you never know what could be inside a brown box. Most recently, the Secret Service identified explosives in packages sent to presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, along with several other targets in 2018, according to Bloomberg Law. While the procedure is definitely necessary, they take extra precautions to have all presidents’ mail screened off-site by personnel trained to deal with explosives, dangerous chemicals, and other hazards.
Trump may be critical of the United States Postal Service, but the branch also takes steps to ensure that the contents of each package don’t pose any danger. Through a program called Dangerous Mail Investigations, they have a right to monitor all packages no matter who the recipient may be.
Donald Trump will be followed by the Secret Service for the rest of his life
As we previously stated, the Secret Service must always be in tow, making it impossible for a former president to ever drive on the streets. In addition to public events and transportation, the Secret Service is on the job 24/7, every day of the year. Since a former president is always being watched, former Secret Service agent Jonathan Wackrow said the job is “the most intrusive thing that anyone could ever experience,” in an interview with NBC News.
Employing the Secret Service also comes at a great cost. “You put a price tag on anything around the president, then you’re putting a price tag on his life, and that is priceless,” Wackrow said. Even on intimate holidays like Thanksgiving, Secret Service agents are always around, sacrificing their lives and being apart from their own families to protect America’s finest.
“We experience parts of your life, but we’re also there in those private times when things aren’t good — family arguments, family loss. We’re there when staff goes away and the military goes away. The only ones left are the Secret Service agents,” Wackrow said. “We’re there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
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