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Analysis

Donald Trump resigning is the most logical way his presidency could end

President Trump waved goodbye at a campaign rally earlier this month.
President Trump waved goodbye at a campaign rally earlier this month.Scott Olson/Getty

If you are sitting there wondering whether President Trump will physically leave the White House when Joe Biden is sworn into office then you might be asking the wrong question.

What makes you so sure that Trump will even be president on Jan. 20? Biden could have the iconic inauguration day images that show the peaceful transfer of power — with an outgoing first family named Pence.

After all, the most logical ending to the Trump presidency isn’t him hunkering down inside of the West Wing forcing a constitutional crisis. The most logical thing is that he just quits, possibly even a few days before Biden is sworn in.

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Here are three reasons why:

1. Pardons

If one wants to play this scenario out, start with pardons. Trump has issued several during his time as president. Some were rather controversial, ranging from his pardon of former sheriff Joe Arpaio to his commutations of the sentences of longtime adviser Roger Stone and former Illinois governor Rob Blagojevich.

It would make sense if Trump uses his pardon and commutation power for more people before he leaves office, perhaps including his former national security advisor Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and even Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Trump, who hasn’t acknowledged his loss, could also expand the list by giving pardons to people before they have even been charged with crimes, including his most-senior political aides and family members.

But here is the thing: there are a lot of questions about whether a president can pardon himself. Nixon’s Department of Justice ruled that a president cannot.

Once he leaves office, Trump may have a lot of legal issues. Besides civil suits that he is insulated from while president, there is reportedly a wide-ranging criminal probe in Manhattan over his business transactions.

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By quitting, he could make a deal with Pence: you get to be the 46th president for a small stretch and, in return, you pardon me.

Who knows, but Pence could agree.

2. Quitting is a reality television show he entirely controls

By now you know that Trump’s pre-White House success was in show business far more than in real estate. Even before his hit reality television career, he always found a way to make headlines.

The thing about quitting is that he leaves entirely on his own terms. It’s similar to how he likes to fire cabinet members on Twitter even after they submit resignation letters.

Sticking around or trying to use the levers of power to stay in office would be dramatic but is a lot less predictable. Quitting is a script he would get to write.

3. Has Trump already quit the presidency anyway?

Let’s be honest: Trump isn’t acting like he is enjoying the job of president much anymore. It took over a week after the election for him to even have a public appearance. He reportedly hasn’t attended a coronavirus briefing in months, while COVID-19 is raging like never before. Instead, Trump spends his time tweeting about false accusations of election fraud and firing people in his administration.

Possibly the biggest reason that Washington isn’t scrambling to do a coronavirus stimulus package is because the president is so disengaged with it, even as 12 million Americans could lose jobless benefits at the end of the year.

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It is not the biggest stretch to suggest that Trump could just walk away given how little he is doing at the moment.

But this resignation, if it happens, likely wouldn’t take place until January. That provides him several weeks to call officials in Michigan. After all, such drama makes for a good show.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.