Although President-elect Joe Biden has earned 306 electoral votes and has more than a six million-plus vote lead against Donald Trump, the current president continues to deny the results of the election and even pressured state officials in Michigan and Georgia to overturn the will of voters.
Nevertheless, Biden’s margin of victory is enough to prevent Trump from being able to overturn the results. And after the Georgia recount was finished on Friday, Biden’s win became all the more solidified when the state certified its results. The Electoral College will soon meet on December 14 to formalize the result a month before Inauguration Day on January 20.
But what happens if Trump refuses to leave office and pass on the power to his successor? There is nothing in the Constitution that addresses this issue because it was never something the framers of the Constitution could foresee arising.
Jeffrey A. Engel, the founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, asked the post-doctoral fellows and undergraduates affiliated with the center to drop all that they were doing and search for any historical clues into what to do. “They all say they got nothing,” Engel said.
However, what was decided on among the delegates who attended the 1787 Constitutional Convention was that a president’s term would be limited to four years, as stated in Article II, Section I of the Constitution.
When Washington’s first term officially began on March 4, 1789, this date became the the de facto inauguration date until the 12th Amendment made it official in 1804. But in 1933, he 20th Amendment moved that date up to January 20, and further specified a president’s term expires at noon.
As such, when Biden is sworn into the presidency at noon on January 20 to serve his four years, Trump will no longer be president of the United States. If Trump refuses to leave the White House, Biden will have the authority as the new commander in chief to order the military or Secret Service to physically remove him from the premises.
“I don’t imagine Trump ever conceding, but I do imagine him submitting to defeat,” said Lawrence Douglas, a professor of law, jurisprudence, and social thought at Amherst College. The distinction being that Trump is likely to continue to claim victory even after he leaves office so as to maintain a strong sense of loyalty among his supporters and potentially make a comeback in 2024.