In Depth

US election: what next for Donald Trump after leaving White House?

The departing president is facing both political and personal court battles

Donald Trump is doubling down on his refusal to accept defeat in the US election, tweeting further baseless allegations of voter fraud after being informed of the result while on the golf course.

The soon-to-be ousted US leader last night returned to his favourite platform, tweeting: “Since when does the Lamestream Media call who our next president will be?” The Joe Biden campaign “stole what [votes] they had to steal” to claim victory, he wrote in another post that has been flagged up by Twitter for containing “disputed” claims.  

Trump’s campaign has launched a slew of legal battles in a bid to cling on to power, but the tide has turned against the Republican, with many of his key advisers viewing the cases as “futile”, Bloomberg reports.

To the courts

Team Trump will be devoting the coming weeks to fighting a litany of lawsuits related to alleged fraud during the election vote-counting, which has yet to be fully completed in some states.

Having initially led in many battleground states after the first night of counting, Trump’s advantage over Biden shrunk dramatically as mail-in ballots were added to the tallies. In response, the incumbent announced that he would be taking action against multiple states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

However, legal experts have suggested that the cases are merely a political ploy aimed at buying time, rather than legitimate challenges.

“They all seem to have no merit whatsoever,” Joshua Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, told The Guardian. “I think the goal is to sow discord and distrust and undermine the people and the integrity of the election. I think giving them additional airtime just plays into that theory.”

White House wipeout

Biden is due to replace Trump on 20 January - meaning the Republican has two-and-a-half months left in the Oval Office. And “after his flimsy legal challenges fail”, we are “likely to see members of the Trump administration take as much as they can on the way out”, says The Independent’s Ahmed Baba.

Expect “last-minute pardons, government contracts approved for Trump allies, and more siphoning of taxpayer dollars into Trump’s businesses”, predicts Baba, who adds that “Trump could also replace career government officials with loyalists, engineering his own deep state before Biden takes office”.

Indeed, the odds of a smooth transition of power appear to be very low.

Multiple sources told Vanity Fair that Trump may figuratively “barricade himself in the Oval Office” and refuse to concede the election.

The Biden campaign is clearly anticipating just such a scenario, warning in a statement on Friday - the day before multiple news outlets declared him the election winner - that “the US government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House”.

Post-presidency legal troubles

“Without some of the protections afforded him by the presidency”, Trump will “become vulnerable to multiple investigations looking into possible fraud in his financial business dealings as a private citizen - both as an individual and through his company”, CNN reports.

These investigations may focus on accusations of tax evasion, defamation and even rape. Writing prior to the election, The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer noted that Trump had already “survived one impeachment, 26 accusations of sexual misconduct, and an estimated 4,000 lawsuits”. But “that run of good luck may well end, perhaps brutally, if Joe Biden wins”, she added.

However, some lawyers have “speculated that it’s possible Trump would attempt to pardon himself from federal crimes before he leaves office”, adds CNN.

Family trouble

Trump may also be heading for the divorce courts. Multiple former White House insiders have claimed that First Lady Melania Trump is “counting down the minutes” until she can go it alone.

According to the The Mail on Sunday, former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman says the couple’s 15-year marriage is effectively “already over”. 

“Melania is counting every minute until he is out of office and she can divorce,” Newman told the paper. “If Melania were to try to pull the ultimate humiliation and leave while he’s in office, he would find a way to punish her.”

Similar claims have been made by fellow ex-aide Stephanie Wolkoff, who says that the first lady has had her eyes on the exit ever since Trump won the 2016 election. Melania waited nearly five months before moving from New York City to join her then-newly elected husband in the White House, claiming that she wanted their son, Barron, to be able to finish out his school year.

But Wolkoff claims that the first lady refused to move because she was negotiating a post-nuptial agreement to give Barron an equal share of the Trump fortune.

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