US law enforcement agencies from the FBI down are preparing contingency plans in case of violence after the November 3 presidential elections. These have been triggered by President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful exit from office, arguing the election results will be “rigged” because of his opposition to postal voting.
Ironically, he voted by mail because he will be in Washington DC rather than at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, now his home.
Trump has shocked even hardened Republicans during the campaigning with his language and easy facility with “factual inexactitudes”. He maintains the coronavirus pandemic is “turning the corner” despite rising infection rates in most of the 50 US states. He consistently undermines public health measures recommended by his own officials. He dog-whistles the white supremacists and branded Democrat vice presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris a “monster”.
There are three possible election outcomes. The first is a clean-sweep by Democrat Joe Biden in both the popular vote and the Electoral College. The next is a close result with a win for Biden which Trump refuses to accept. The next is Biden winning the popular vote and Trump the college which would guarantee him office.
Biden has opened a double-digit lead on Trump, although the polls measure only the popular vote.
The biggest challenge would come from a close result which rolls on through court actions. Given Trump’s current tendencies, this could end up in the Supreme Court which by then would have a 6-3 conservative majority, thanks to the appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who is expected to be confirmed on Friday.
The real concern among officials is what happens if Trump refuses to concede to Biden, attempts to stay in office beyond the end of his term on January 20, and calls out his militias.
He could attempt to use the military as commander-in-chief but (as we have reported) the Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, has ruled this out. The only force Trump could legitimately call up is the miniscule District of Columbia national guard which, unlike the 50 states, is under presidential control.
Should Trump refuse to go quietly, there is a mounting belief among Republican grandees that, increasingly as GOP candidates, sitting senators and congressmen and women quietly distance themselves from Trump, they would present themselves at the White House and call on him to depart, possibly assisted by the Secret Service.
The historians reckon there hasn’t been an election like the present one in at least a century, given the conduct, the language and the distortions on top of what all except the White House accepts is a pandemic of epic proportions.