So, Donald has left the building. Joe has taken the seat and got to work. But that does not mean that we have heard the last of Donald Trump, not by a long shot. New Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced today that Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial will begin next week, when the House of Representatives will deliver the article of impeachment to the Senate. But what will America’s 45th President do now he is out of the White House?
It is well worth noting that Donald Trump could be spending the next few years regularly appearing as a defendant in court. Many cases have been assembled over the course of his presidency that can now be acted upon. It is the long-term view of the Department of Justice that a sitting president cannot be indicted. But Trump is not the sitting President anymore. He does not have the protection of his former office, or Bill Barr throwing spanners in the works as Attorney General.
As already stated, Trump has been impeached for an historic second time. And unlike the previous occasion, it was a bipartisan vote. 10 Republican congressmen voted with the Democrats to impeach Trump for inciting the deadly riot on January 6th. And Senate Republicans are not nearly as united behind him as they were the first time round. For one thing, they no longer hold the majority in the Senate. In fact, the Democrats would need 17 GOP Senators to side with them to be able to convict the 45th President. It is by no means certain that there are that number willing to convict Trump, but Mitch McConnell was reportedly pleased that House Democrats were going ahead with impeachment as he sees it as the best chance for the Republican party to make a clean break with Trump.
Outside of impeachment however, there are numerous civil and potentially criminal cases being built against Donald Trump and his children. His financial details are coming to light and raise some serious questions about where he has got his money from and whether he has been engaging in tax fraud. Trump may be investigated outside the US as well, as Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is currently being pressured to set up an investigation into where the money Trump used to buy Turnberry gold course actually came from. He may even be criminally indicted for his inciting of the January 6th riot. But Trump has been dodging lawsuits for decades so the Senate impeachment trial may be as far as we get with him actually being convicted of something.
And speaking of money, Trump’s long-at-work con of his enormous success and personal wealth may be about to fall down around him. Many of his money-lenders and bankers are now cutting ties and refusing to either lend him money or do any sort of business at all with him. And what’s more, he has personally guaranteed loans to the tune of over $300 million, all of which are reportedly due within the next three to five years as one balloon payment. Many have speculated that this was one reason why he fought so hard to win the election, overturn the election, stay in office any way he could. Because if he was still President when these loans came due, the banks would be less likely to seize his properties. Not to mention that his tax returns that were unearthed by the New York Times last year put paid to the myth Trump has perpetuated of being a wildly successful and savvy businessman. In fact, he is a terrible businessman, saved only by his earnings from The Apprentice and his personal brand strategy; by far the most successful aspect of his business portfolio. There is also the small matter of a decade long audit by the IRS on a $72.9 million tax refund that could mean he would have to pay it back in full, plus interest and possible penalties. The final total could be over $100 million.
Trump’s business career has been one of peaks and troughs. In 1995, he reported losses of $915.7 million, an amount so large it could be used to avoid paying any income tax for the next 20 years. By 2005, he was earning enough to pay taxes. Now however, Trump is heading for another trough, a crash that might not equal his epic wipe-out in the early 1990s but would do serious harm to his image as the self-made business mogul.
Then there is his political future. Trump signalled in the run-up to Joe Biden’s inauguration that he was considering running again for President in 2024, which he would be well within his rights to do. The US Constitution only specifies that a single candidate can hold office for a maximum of two four-year terms, regardless of whether those terms are consecutive. Trump also maintains strong support in rural and white areas of America, although he has almost completely lost those voters in urban areas or with a college education. His support base is fervent, but limited in size. And if McConnell encourages GOP Senators to vote to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, they can also vote to bar him from ever running for office again.
However, as the most recent Republican president Trump will hold a huge amount of sway over the party for the next four years. Now is the time for the GOP to decide if it is willing to step away from Trump’s fanbase to return to a far safer form of politics. Trump has also apparently floated the idea of breaking away from the Republican Party to set up his own. Such a move would certainly rip the Republicans asunder, as it would likely divide their electorate right down the middle. I don’t see that happening though. Trump is far more likely to use the threat of a breakaway party as leverage to pressure establishment Republicans to get onside for a future campaign. His children are also reportedly looking at possible political campaigns themselves and would certainly look to their father’s influence to get voters to the polls.
Although Donald Trump may no longer live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, you can expect to hear his name a lot over the coming years.