Will Losing in the Supreme Court be Enough to Send Trump Home?

It’s not as simple as you think it is.

Sikander Hayat Khan
6 min readNov 13, 2020

When Al Gore lost the Supreme Court case of 2000, he said: “While I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it.”

Remember those last three words. Because I’ve got a feeling Trump will lose in court, and it’s going to be what he does afterward that will decide the presidency's fate.

But before we get into that, let me walk you through why he’s going to lose in the first place.

Firstly, there is still no evidence. Secondly, the poll worker whose story the Trump campaign was using to allege fraud has now recanted. Thirdly, with the amount of international coverage the post-election drama has gotten, the spotlight is undoubtedly on the Supreme Court. If they swing this in Trump’s favour now, this is going to be nothing short of an out-and-out coup. And that will destroy the credibility of the U.S. judicial system beyond repair.

And whilst the first two reasons were factual, the last is logical.

Yes, I know why Amy Coney Barrett was nominated in such a rush. But here’s the thing. If Trump loses this case, he’s gone. And I doubt his chances of winning come 2024. Barrett and the other justices, however, have their jobs for life. Do they really want to spend the rest of their days being called “puppets” and “frauds” wherever they go? Do they want every single one of their subsequent decisions being challenged in the media? Do they want people investigating every action they take for potential collusion or dishonesty?


This is why I feel it’s more important to focus on what should happen once Trump loses because the likelihood of the opposite happening is very slim indeed.

Right off the bat, I can tell you he is not going to do the honourable thing. Gore knew there was more at stake than him becoming president — it was upholding the rule of law. And if anything, his race was tighter, to begin with. The difference between Bush’s and Gore’s vote tallies in Florida was a mere 0.01%, with Bush’s lead standing at 327 after the recount. Trump is simply screaming “fraud” because he lost.

And what worries me is that this is a tactic used at nearly every election in my country. And the people who use them are what I call “democratic dictators.” They’re elected, yes, but all hell breaks loose after that. However, what separates them from Trump is that, because of my country’s parliamentary democracy, governments change hands almost instantaneously. And that’s why, despite their hue and cry about the count being rigged, nothing happens. It’s the next dictator’s time to rule, and there’s no way he’s giving up his throne.

Trump, however, is still commander-in-chief. And this poses a few problems.

The one that comes straight to mind is declaring a state of emergency. And although this may allow Trump to hang onto power for a short while, no one can say what happens after that — simply because it hasn't happened before. But if one thing is for sure, if that happens, Americans are going to be worried at every single future election if the president they elect is even going to become president. And what even is democracy at that point.

The next option, and far less likely if not impossible, is that of a violent coup. Yes, I’m aware the military isn’t going to consider getting involved to prevent their next commander-in-chief from taking office simply to protect the outgoing one. But because I’ve lived in a country with multiple military coups, I can’t find myself ruling that one out completely.

And thirdly, commander-in-chief means he’s still going to be the most powerful man in the free world. I can’t characterise exactly what that will mean, but I firmly believe Trump is not an idiot. Couple those two factors with the fact that he’s going to want to avoid going to jail, and it doesn't take much to realise he’s going to be doing everything he can to save himself and his family. And I really mean that. I’ve seen politicians in my country turn to treason to save themselves and their families from going to prison.

And if none of this works or Trump realises he can’t get the job done himself, then he’s still got his “Trump army” to lean on.

His supporters are planning what they call a “Million MAGA March” to Washington, D.C. The agenda is to support their president. What that “support” could entail is anyone’s guess. And I say that because they’re calling this a “nice Saturday drive” — and we all remember how just how peaceful their “peaceful escort” in Texas was.

But what really makes me think Trump has got something up his sleeve is how he’s going about his business.

Trump has already told federal agencies to get moving with his February budget. And I highly doubt this is simply down to him forgetting he’s supposed to be leaving office the month before that. What makes matters worse is that it seems as if this is an administration-wide approach. When asked about a transition of power, Mike Pompeo said: “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” Quite a few saw that as a joke, but in a later interview on Fox News, Pompeo categorically reinstated the Trump narrative that the “true winner” remains to be determined.

And these aren’t empty words. They’re treating Biden as if he’s lost. I’ll give you an example. Biden isn’t receiving intelligence reports because the Trump administration doesn’t recognise him as the winner.

Larry Pfeiffer, a former senior CIA official, stated:

All it would take is a presidential head-nod to make it happen. It’s in the interest of national security for Biden to receive the full PDB — this was done in 2000 for George Bush even as election challenges continued.

The Biden camp maintains this will change next week despite the Trump administration's wishes, but whether that happens remains to be seen.

If anything, this just shows that Gore and Bush were contesting the results in good faith. They knew that whoever lost, American democracy couldn’t. What you see happening now is a sitting president trying to hang onto power by hook or crook.

And I do mean hook or cook. Because Trump is now filling the Pentagon with his loyalists to make it easier for him to use force to quell “protests.” Firstly, this is right out of an authoritarian’s playbook. I’ve written about this before, but dictators have a habit of using force to quash rebellions. And it seems I’m not alone.

Professor Natasha Lindstaedt, from the department of government at the University of Essex, stated: “These sort of stand-offs happen frequently in authoritarian regimes that decide to hold moderately free and fair elections, such as more recently in the Gambia and the Ivory Coast.”

Use the words “authoritarian regimes” to describe where a democracy is headed, and you realise why a court ruling may not be enough.

Nevertheless, I have to admit that none of these plans are foolproof, whether it’s Trump or the MAGA army. But the damage they can do to American democracy could last for decades.

And with all that in mind, what do the next few months look like?

The answers you get to that question will range from analysis and speculation to opinion. Yes, some outcomes may be more probable than others, but no one can give a definitive answer because no one’s seen this before.

But still, “surely there has to be a way to get him out, right?

Well, when it comes to having any mechanisms in place to remove Trump from office, the U.S. Constitution leaves one rather disappointed. And before you say it, yes, the 20th Amendment does allow him to be evicted from office. But, and as I said earlier, how’s that going to play out if he’s already instituted a state of emergency?

And the truth is, even if he hasn't, the fact that we’re not dealing with just a rogue president on his own makes things more complicated.

Professor Lindstaedt stated: “It is hard to predict who will forcefully remove him when the secretary of state and attorney general are on board with Trump’s false statements about the elections.

You know, I often give examples of the Third World and how American politics is going in that direction. But even I can’t think of an example in my country’s turbulent political history where a sitting president has refused to leave office.

So I now find America at a stage where the most accurate conclusion one can reach about the future of its presidency is “it remains to be seen.”

And whilst that may not sound like a conclusion that heralds the arrival of the apocalypse, this is the presidency we’re talking about. Think of it this way — the office that the rest of the free world looks to for direction has itself no idea where it’s headed come January.

And that, in no uncertain terms, means that a democracy that began over two centuries ago is now being held hostage. And all it took for that to happen was four years of Trump.

It doesn’t take much to imagine what would happen if it gets four more.



Sikander Hayat Khan

Law and politics grad. Masters in Law. Nuance over ideology. Published in The Friday Times. Twitter @SikanderH8.