What if, after having moved into the White House and gotten comfortable, Donald Trump refuses to check out when his term ends?
Preposterous, you say. No president, not even Trump, would dare to defy 200-plus years of political tradition—not to mention the Constitution—to illegally overstay. But how sure can we be that our norm-busting president won’t attempt to shatter this inviolable standard, too?
He and his lawyers have already advanced the specious legal idea that the chief executive can’t be charged with obstruction of justice, thereby placing him above the law. Who’s to say that Trump’s legal advisers might construct some pretext—a national security crisis or charges of election fraud—that would place him above the Constitution and cement his place in the Oval Office?
The fear that a president might not go at his appointed time has a precedent. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, encouraged by columnist Walter Lippmann, contemplated taking dictatorialpowers at the beginning of his first administration, but then reconsidered.
Almost a half-century ago, the prospect of impeachment and conviction sent President Richard Nixon’s innate paranoia to a sub-basement of suspicion and distrust. As the lights started going out around him, he raged, he drank, and raged some more. In one sober moment, he called CBS News reporter Nancy Dickerson in the middle of the night to ramble on and on about how the press was mistreating him.