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  Question regarding a defeated president refusing to leave office
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Author Topic: Question regarding a defeated president refusing to leave office  (Read 408 times)
RedPrometheus
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« on: April 02, 2019, 03:12:13 pm »

Without claiming this can happen any time soon but I'm curious : what would happen specifically if the president refuses to relinquish the office after an election? Perhaps the election was contentious but the EC elects his or her successor and the courts uphold this - who would enforce the law and how specifically?
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President Johnson
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« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2019, 03:39:18 pm »

Well, the presidential term expires on January 20 at 12 a.m. EST. At this time, the old president loses his authority over the federal government and is nothing more than a private citizen without any formal power. The new president, as commander-in-chief and head of the executive branch, could simply order the Secret Service to remove his predecessor from the grounds of the White House if he refuses to do so. Any orders or formal acts by the old president would have zero effect and authorities wouldn't abide by them. His signature on an issued order would be be worth not more than mine or yours.

If the former president committs any crime with his actions, he could of course be indicted.

Between the election and inauguration (early November to January 20), the old president is still in charge with all the powers, but I don't see that he can do anything to stay in office beyond January 20. Unlike in parliamentary systems, the term of the US president is fixed. By comparison, the German chancellor could stay in as acting head of government for an unlimited amount of time if no successor is elected. Just like Angela Merkel was acting chancellor from October 2017, when her term expired, to March 2018, when the Bundestag reelected her.
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Old School Republican
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« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2019, 04:54:35 pm »

The New President could just order the Secret Service to escort the defeated President out of the WH.
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RedPrometheus
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« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2019, 05:02:30 pm »

But isn't the Secret Service part of the Department of Homeland Security? Wouldn't the (acting) Secretary be the person ordering at that point?
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brucejoel99
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« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2019, 09:33:36 pm »

If a defeated president decided that the election was illegitimate, & he was gonna resist actually leaving office, we honestly don't really know what he'd do: for all we know, he could try to have his (victorious) opponent arrested & stopped from appearing to take over the office, or he could just say on January 20th, "I'm not leaving."

At some point, the question would become: whose orders do law enforcement obey? Because it would ultimately become a matter of the use of force in one direction or another.

However, intense congressional & political pressure would also likely force the defeated president out of office quite quickly. Indeed, the first line of defense would be Congress, & the defeated president's party pressuring him out, telling the president that he must resign or leave. If he wants to stay in the White House, however, he would stay in the White House. But, hypothetically, you don't even need the White House. It's symbolic. It's not necessarily *the* seat of power.

Regardless, though, it would certainly still be a constitutional crisis to the first magnitude.
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Del Tachi
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« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2019, 12:28:42 pm »

It's really impossible to game this out without knowing the situation on the ground.  A president who "lost" reelection might have considerable support if the results were seen as illegitimate, or he had the backing of high-ranking military brass and/or Congress.

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President Johnson
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« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2019, 03:40:23 pm »

But isn't the Secret Service part of the Department of Homeland Security? Wouldn't the (acting) Secretary be the person ordering at that point?

The president, as the head of the executive branch, can overrule any cabinet secretary and/or ultimately dismiss him or her from office and install someone who abides by presidential orders.
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Figs
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2019, 07:22:40 am »

It's really impossible to game this out without knowing the situation on the ground.  A president who "lost" reelection might have considerable support if the results were seen as illegitimate, or he had the backing of high-ranking military brass and/or Congress.


Yeah, this is what I was about to say. All of these narrowly legalistic readings are of course correct, but if chaff has been thrown into the air about the legitimacy of the election, it feels considerably less clear that the people in the relevant agencies would all agree on whose orders were properly given.
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