by Chauncey DeVega, interviewing Constitutional Law Scholar Laurence Tribe:
What would happen if Trump refuses to step down and leave the White House if so ordered? That scenario is often discussed but rarely detailed.
I would highlight the fact that among the statutes that are triggered by the declaration of a national emergency is that the president can control the internet. He can take over the media. The president can arrest people without cause. Under a national emergency, Donald Trump can basically declare what amounts to military law and become the dictator that, in his dreams, he imagines himself to be.
That is scary. This horrible outcome does not happen overnight. The earliest invocations of the emergency powers may look a little bit innocent. But authoritarianism creeps. It doesn’t always gallop. And when authoritarianism envelops us, it may be too late to turn it back.
In this moment, what gives you the most hope? What are you most afraid of?
I am most afraid of the fact that Donald Trump may not leave office peacefully, and that there will be no real transition to a new president. I worry that we are on a downward slide that has no foreseeable end. My hope is that we have survived things that seemed at least as scary, in terms of a civil war and World War II, and that the United States has gotten better.
I am starting a research project examining that question. This is like looking into the face of Armageddon. I simply cannot tell you right now what it would look like. I do not think that Donald Trump would simply hunker down and say, “The Joint Chiefs are going to have to arrest me.” Trump would be a little more subtle than that, stupid though he is. I think Donald Trump would declare a national emergency. He would find an excuse for one. If it looked like Trump was going to lose the 2020 election, he would declare a national emergency as well. This would all be catastrophically messy….