The final countdown is on with just under a month to go until Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day takes place in Washington D.C. on January 20, 2021. The incumbent President is set to host his Inauguration Day amidst a constant surge in COVID-19 cases ensuring the celebration will look a little different to normal. But the pandemic isn’t the only factor that may hamper the swearing-in of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. Donald Trump’s refusal to officially concede the election threatens to undermine a typically peaceful transition of power.
In true Trump style bailing on Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day is just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s what we can expect.
No show: Trump may not attend
From the moment the election was called for Joe Biden talk turned to his Inauguration Day, more specifically, how would Donald Trump handle attending. In the past month, much of Trump’s focus (and fury) has been directed at challenging the election results through the courts. But in the past week, the final legal avenues have been extinguished with the Electoral College officially recognising Biden as the winner, with a majority of 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.
Now his narrative has shifted to Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day. Trump has consistently refused to confirm he will attend, which makes sense given he doesn’t believe he lost the election.
The good news for Joe Biden is that Trump or no Trump, the Inauguration Day will go ahead and at noon on January 20 (4:00 am AEDT January 21), he will be sworn in as President. Only five outgoing presidents have chosen not to attend their successor’s inauguration, the last being Richard Nixon in 1974, but breaking with tradition is pretty on-brand for Trump.
During an appearance on Fox News last week, Trump was quizzed on his plans for Inuagurant Day by host Brian Kilmeade.
“Would you show up at the inauguration?” Kilmeade asked, to which Trump replied: “I don’t want to talk about that.”
— The Hill (@thehill) December 14, 2020
Double booked: Trump 2024 Re-election campaign.
Instead, it seems that Trump is planning to steal the limelight from the President-elect by using Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day to hold a mega rally. A Facebook event spruiking Trump’s Second Inauguration is already doing the rounds; more than 300,000 people have clicked attending.
Perhaps even more fittingly is the idea that Trump intends to announce his run for re-election on Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day.
With tens of millions of dollars raised since his defeat, President Trump has a pile of cash he can spend with few legal limits to quell rebel Republican factions, reward loyalists, pay legal bills and lay the groundwork for a 2024 run. https://t.co/fcBbTTplD4
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 18, 2020
According to sources quoted by The Daily Beast, “the president has talked to close advisers and confidants about a potential 2024 run to reclaim the White House, and in the past two weeks, even floated the idea of doing a 2024-related event during Biden’s inauguration week, possibly on Inauguration Day.”
A Trump re-election announcement makes sense on two fronts. Firstly, the President has shown an insatiable appetite for attention and relevancy, so announcing plans to run again keeps Trump in the conversation, which is like oxygen for him.
Secondly, running for President is good for business, and if there’s one thing Trump loves more than power, it’s money. Trump is staring down the barrel of severe debt and the New York Times investigation into his finances painted a grim picture. Even if he has no intention of actually registering to be a candidate, floating the idea could buy his some breathing room with the banks.
Meet and greet: Handover of the highest office
Despite Trump’s denial of the U.S. election result, there have been some official signs that a transition is underway. This week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was set to meet with Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to be Secretary of State.
Pompeo has since been quarantined after coming into contact with a suspected case of COVID-19 so the meeting will happen on Zoom. As for whether or not Trump intends to sit down with Biden, remains to be seen. In 2016 Barack Obama hosted Donald Trump in the White House two days after the election. Similarly, Joe Biden hosted incoming vice-president Mike Pence.
— ABC News (@ABC) November 11, 2016
Eviction notice: What happens if Trump doesn’t leave the White House?
Perhaps the most pressing question surrounding the events of next month is: what happens if Trump doesn’t leave?
The President has already hinted he may stay, and at this point, no act of disruption can be taken off the table. Technically a U.S. president’s term ends at noon on Inauguration Day. That means at 12:01 pm on January 20, 2021, Trump cedes the protection of the office of the President and reverts to being a civilian (and TV star, and billionaire and ex-host of The Apprentice).
Should Trump opt to chain himself to the White House gates, Biden has the authority to remove his former President for trespassing.