Trump Has ‘Awesome Coercive Powers’ to Contest Election

With questions swirling about whether President Donald Trump would leave the White House quietly if he were to lose reelection in November, several scenarios could play out between Election Day and Inauguration Day.

FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley spoke with several experts and the common denominator in what they said was that as president, Trump has more power than his challenger Joe Biden to contest the results of an election.

“You have just a tremendous differential between the president of the United States of America, who has just awesome coercive powers at his disposal, and a challenger who really has no power whatsoever in our system,” said Georgetown University Law School professor Rosa Brooks, the co-founder of the Transition Integrity Project.

“Joe Biden can call a press conference; Donald Trump could call on the 82nd Airborne.”

After months of raising the possibility that voter fraud could occur through mail-in voting, Trump has already sowed doubt that the election results could be tainted. And as president, he could dispatch federal agents to watch over locations where votes are being counted, Brooks said.

Both Trump and Biden could contest the election results, which may result in a recount — that’s what occurred in the 2000 election when George W. Bush and Al Gore were nearly even in Florida’s vote count. Ultimately, the Supreme Court stepped in that year and declared Bush the winner.

What is clear, however, is that the Constitution stipulates that someone must be sworn in as president on Jan. 20. If the election results are still in flux, the speaker of the House — in this case Nancy Pelosi — could temporarily serve as president via the Presidential Succession Act, which puts the speaker third in line to the presidency.

Another scenario outlined by Transition Integrity Project could involve some Republicans pushing back on Trump’s efforts to contest the election if it seems like Biden is the legitimate winner.

A group tied to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg raised another possibility: Trump could appear to be the winner the night of the election, but then Biden could earn enough votes in mailed ballots to win the presidency days later.

As of Monday morning, the RealClearPolitics polling average shows Biden with a lead of 7.4 percentage points.

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