What Is Lame Duck President and What Can Trump Do If He Loses Election?

An outgoing president continues to hold the same power for the next two months and if Trump loses, it would be interesting to see the decisions he takes

Despite projections favoring Democratic nominee Joe Biden to win the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, incumbent President Donald Trump has a favorable outcome. While Biden is leading with 238 electoral college votes against Trump's 213, the race is still on as millions of votes are yet to be counted. There is a chance that the lead can flip by Friday and Trump can surge to the 270-mark. But if the trend continues and Biden becomes the President-elect, what's going to happen to Trump and his policies?

The answer isn't simple. For argument's sake, if we assume that Trump will lose the election, he will still be the president for the next two months until the midday of inauguration on January 20, 2021. During the period when a president is due to vacate the White House is called a lame duck. The outgoing president is expected to do nothing but enjoy the last few days at the White House. However, historically, it has never happened. The president still holds the power as the commander-in-chief and the executive power to do anything including launching a nuclear missile.

President Donald Trump
Even if Donald Trump loses, he will have all the power in the next two months to make crucial decisions Official WH Photos by Joyce Boghosian

Past History

A president's job doesn't end on the election night and history tells us that none of the outgoing presidents relaxed for the next two months. President George HW Bush after serving just one term as the President lost his re-election against Bill Clinton in 1992. But HW Bush used his last two months to issue presidential pardons to six officials of the Ronald Reagan administration. The former officials were charged for their involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal. The officials included former Defense Secretary Caspar W Weinberger.

Clinton too pushed his agenda in his last two months before George W Bush took over in 2000 after a controversial election that was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Clinton tried to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. He also signed an agreement with North Korea to limit missile development. But both the deals broke apart later and still are two crucial world peace issues today.

Bush, on his part, bailed out two carmakers General Motors and Chrysler who were facing bankruptcy due to the 2008 financial crisis. With a total of $17 billion, he saved the two. He also pushed through environmental "midnight regulations", making it easier for the industries to look past environmental laws before Barack Obama took office.

Barack Obama
Former President Barack Obama sanctioned Russian officials and organizations for election interference in his last two months at the White House Barack Obama Presidential Library/obamalibrary.gov

Obama's contributions in the last two months were not specifically aimed at the U.S. Instead, he sought to take action against alleged Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. He issued multiple sanctions against Russian officials and organizations. Besides, he expelled over 30 Russian officials from the U.S. Apart from that, he took an important decision that blocked a missile deal with Saudi Arabia to stop furthering its agenda in Yemen.

How Would A Lame Duck Trump Do?

While it is too early to say who will be the next U.S. President, if it is assumed that Biden wins the election, Trump will still hold a lot of power. Trump isn't shy about issuing executive orders. Since January 20, 2017, Trump has issued a total of 193 executive orders that include some massive undoing of the Obama administration. Those include reversing the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), suspending visas from Muslim majority countries, sanctions on Venezuela among many others. He also announced his decision to withdraw the U.S. from Iran nuclear agreement, Paris Climate Change Agreement and the World Health Organization (WHO).

While the formal withdrawal process has completed for the Iran nuclear deal and Paris Agreement, if Trump loses, it will be up to Biden to either continue with the WHO withdrawal or undo his decision. But the President has hinted that he would not agree to a peaceful transition of power. Instead, he would fight until January 20, 2021, to keep his power and take Biden to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Michael Moore
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore said that the next two months would be hell even if Donald Trump loses his reelection Wikimedia Commons

Michael Moore, a documentary filmmaker, said that the next two months would be "hell" if Trump loses. "You don't even want to think of the fact that a soldier who goes with him everywhere with a briefcase is still going to be with him for two-and-a-half months, with the nuclear codes. Just that alone — it might be something we have to fix in the future," Moore told Moviemaker.

So, even if — by any chance — Trump loses the election, he will not shy away from taking key decisions. The top agenda could be issuing the second Coronavirus stimulus package. But considering Trump's short history in politics, nothing is guaranteed. He might make a decision that could stun even his GOP followers.

Related topics : Us election 2020