What if Trump loses but won't concede? How a constitutional crisis could play out

Trump's refusal to say that he'd peacefully transfer power may just be bluster. But there are steps he could take, and Democrats are on the alert.

9/25/2020 3:03:00 PM

As President Trump has laid groundwork to undermine an election result that does not cast him as victor, Republican lawmakers found themselves in the position of having to reassure Americans there would be a peaceful transition of power should he lose

Trump's refusal to say that he'd peacefully transfer power may just be bluster. But there are steps he could take, and Democrats are on the alert.

These states will probably decide if Joe Biden or President Trump wins the election. And their absentee ballot laws could determine when we find out.The worst-case scenario is that a deadlock drags into mid-January and that the House and Senate are in dispute about who should occupy the White House as the president’s term expires on Jan. 20 under the Constitution.

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Foley previously had mapped out that eventuality with the mind-set of a scientist contemplating a giant asteroid crashing into Earth: a remote possibility, but one to prepare for nonetheless. But the election meltdown scenario has grown considerably less remote, he said, as the rapid shift to voting by mail — and more by Democrats than Republicans — has created outcomes in which a Republican appears to have won on election day but ultimately loses when all the mail-in votes are tallied in the days that follow.

There wereconfusing voters accustomed to having a winner declared the night of the election and creating an opening for unfounded charges of impropriety.Advertisement“Trump has broken so many norms and made such incendiary statements, including about not agreeing to a peaceful transition of power, that my alarm bells are going off,” said Richard Hasen , author of “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy.” “It doesn’t mean this will happen. But it does mean we are right to worry about it happening.”

NewsletterMust-read stories from the L.A. TimesGet all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.Enter Email AddressYou may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.In anticipation, Democratic lawyers working with the Biden campaign are examining the election laws in the battleground states as well as the Constitution’s rules for counting the electoral votes.

They worry that Trump will hold an election-night lead in a crucial state, declare victory before the bulk of the mail ballots are counted, and send his lawyers to court to try to stop a complete count. It is a move Trump has signaled could come, by his repeatedly declaring mail ballots to be fraudulent.

AdvertisementSuch legal action could create an opening for Republican state lawmakers in places such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to declare they will cast their state’s electoral votes for Trump. Democratic governors in each could stand in the way, bringing to Congress a competing slate of electors for Biden, throwing the process into further dispute.

Nothing like this has happened in America since the 1876 contest between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden.Most Republicans appear to have limited appetite to put the country through anything like that again, absent a razor-thin election result and compelling evidence that vote tallies were flawed. Several Republicans in Congress on Thursday made statements vowing a peaceful transition, though they avoided criticizing Trump for his statements.

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Democrats used the controversy to energize their voters, urging them to turn out in numbers so large that there is no dispute about the victor after election day.Advertisement“A landslide victory for Biden will make it virtually impossible for Trump to deny the results and is our best means for defending democracy,” said independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. He said Trump is “sowing the seeds of chaos, confusion and conspiracy theories by casting doubt on the integrity of this election and, if he loses, justifying why he should remain in office.”

Some Republicans speculated that Trump isn’t moving to hang on to power at all costs but to save face should he lose.“The idea a president wouldn’t leave office after losing is obviously alarming, but I don’t think many Republican officials think that’s a serious threat,” Alex Conant, a Republican strategist, said.

“This is more about spinning a loss than trying to maintain power,” he said. “But comments like this will not help him win the election. It’s motivating to Democrats and a turnoff to suburban swing voters who just don’t like the chaos of Trump’s presidency. If this election is about Trump refusing to leave office if he loses, Republicans are going to get crushed.”

AdvertisementTrump’s campaign, which has already burned through $1 billion of the $1.3 billion it has raised, has spent heavily — roughly $30 million over the last two years — on its legal team. It includes in-house lawyers as well as attorneys from law firm Jones Day in Washington and the Los Angeles firm of Charles Harder, which specializes in media defamation suits.

Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden face off in the final presidential debate of the 2020 election from Belmont University in Nashville Thursday.

That he is already announcing fraud and is criminal. He's so selfish and miserable and don't care about the consequences of his false reports. May the universe protect America 🙏🏻 Exactly this is was Trump want.He and his lawyers knows exactly when Trump loses the re-election he can go straight on prison.This is why he fight so desperate to found a way for not accept Biden as winner of the election.

Hanging chads anyone? What if he wins and Biden’s handlers refuse to concede? Yay, more riots. DEAR L.A times we know that you are paying off low life us POSTAL workers to hide or destroy mail in BALLOTS because that's how SICK YOU PEOPLE AT THE L.A. TIMES ARE, JUST LIKE THE FACT YOU GUY'S KEEP INCITING VIOLENCE AGAINST THE POLICE FORCE ACROSS AMERICA

What if Biden loses and won’t concede Hillary told Joe to not concede under any circumstances. Stop amplifying stupidity. Dems are projecting again. They still haven't peacefully conceded the last election. Concession is not required for a transfer of power. Will cover the stunning russia collusion with Hunter Biden?

You don’t have to keep elaborating this fake scenerio in your heads every day until Nov. 3. Trump WILL win. No votes after number NOv3 rd should be counted, hope the SCOTUS rules on this after the new one is confirmed. I trust the Chinese leaders word more than any republican. You’re an F’ng JOKE. Thats not what he said.

Mission accomplished, the left and the media getting their drawers in a knot once again as the left and the media falls for the samething as back in 2016! Getting played again and too stupid to see it! LAW & ORDER president using his own 'standards' can stop the protests instantly by using 'LAW & ORDER' and demand an investigation into Breonna's death (A standard investigation was not done) BUT NO he wants ppl fighting on the streets to muster election support - patriot?

Commies are trying to ruin the election so they can cry NoT mUh PrEzIdEnT another 4 years like they did with MuH RuSsIaNz the last 4. Commies are pitiful creatures. What about Hillary saying Biden should never concede? More lies! Big ManBabyTrump ... 🙄 what adult says, “If I don’t win, you cheated” because he can’t own his own poor performance?

He could hole up in the WH bunker with enough canned goods and ammunition to last till his legions of extremist white supremacist nationalist racist extremists arrive. While Putin threatens to launch ICBMs if his demands aren't met. and they didnt do that and in fact are now rallying around trump's sick denigrating of/attack on american democracy

Hey hey GOP Sore-loser Hillary also said that Biden shouldn't concede under any circumstances. Still struggling with becoming A Profitable Forex trader? I can help you out,Make $3000 in just 3 days,No need to pay for Signals,Learn how to invest and generate income all by yourself.Become a successful forex trader today📊💰.DM for more info Markharrisfx

It sounds like some banana republic in Africa It will be as peaceful as the last one promise how quickly LA times forgets 2016 Senators. I don't trust you. this article sounds like groundwork when the left loses.

'The Department of Trump': Biden bashes Trump, Barr for DOJ interferenceJoe Biden accuses President Trump and AG Barr of politicizing the U.S. Justice Dept., saying the president uses the agency as his 'private law firm.' Joe Biden just announced he’s the second gunman on the grassy knoll. Probably Bashes..really? He can hardly finish a senrence

Mehdi Hasan says ‘let’s call it the Trump virus’ because Trump is ‘objectively pro-covid’On coronavirus cases continuing to climb and the president’s mishandling of the pandemic, Mehdi Hasan says, 'Fine, let's call it the Trump virus ... Put it this way: if you wanted to spread the coronavirus, if you were trying to get people to get the virus, what would you do differently that Donald Trump's already not doing right now?' Go and question the Mulla in your home country that if the virus will be destroyed if the faithful offers namaz? Yes Trump is pandering for Herd Immunity more death his cult does not care we care we want trump removed start the impeachment HouseDemocrats RepJeffries the AG in Kentucky is with senatemajldr granddaughter SenateGOP corrupt ABC donlemon AC360 DavidMuir JoeBiden AG conf COVID_19isTrump

President's Niece Mary Trump Sues Trump Family For MillionsMary Trump's father, Fred Trump Jr., was the president's older brother. Did not make enough money selling the book, so now is plan B. Good for MaryLTrump as she should get what was rightfully hers that Benedict Traitor realDonaldTrump and his siblings stole from her. Its an outrage that this happened to her and I look forward to how this will play out.

Mary Trump: Take It Seriously That Trump May Not Hand Over PowerHow far is he willing to go to remain in office if he loses? 'Farther than you can possibly imagine,' warned the president's niece. Wow Says a niece who has admitted to not being close to him for decades. If the man loses he is leaving the White House whether he wants to or not Probably far.

Mary Trump: Take It Seriously That Trump May Not Hand Over PowerHow far is he willing to go to remain in office if he loses? 'Farther than you can possibly imagine,' warned the president's niece.

Trump has 'shady political motives' in blaming China for pandemic, Beijing official saysChina’s foreign ministry on Wednesday accused President Donald Trump of having “shady political motives” and engaging in a “futile” effort to smear Beijing for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Well Trump always blames it on somebody else. It’s never his fault. Both Trump and China are Shady to the utmost