Amid all the uncertainty about what comes next for the nation, there is little clarity about what comes next for Donald Trump.
The nation’s 45th president leaves office at age 74 as one of just four U.S. presidents to be defeated after a single term, reportedly millions in debt, but with millions of supporters having rallied to his side.
The traditional modern path for a post president is to retreat from the limelight, perhaps score a book deal, and dedicate himself to working on a library and legacy – with the occasional paid speech to boost their lifestyle.
In the case of President Trump, he returns to ‘normal life’ having come into office as a celebrity and a billionaire – although press reports this fall have revealed his business is deeply leveraged and has been hit hard by the coronavirus.
Even if Trump wanted to seek refuge at home and focus on his golf game, it is not clear he can afford to to it.
President Donald Trump faces an array of options about what he will do when he leaves the White House, although he claims he won the election ‘BY A LOT’
Trump is still fighting the election results, although networks called the race for Joe Biden Saturday
GET BACK INTO THE HOTEL BUSINESS EVEN AS BOOKINGS TANK DUE TO COVID
Trump can return to his family business, although bookings are down amid the coronavirus
An immediate question is what to do with his business. Trump infuriated critics when he elected to retain ownership of his business when he took office. It has been run in his absence by Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and an executive. He could retake the helm and return to global building deals that were put on hold when he took office.
Complicating this path have been drop-offs in bookings at hotels and golf properties due to the pandemic. The Trump Organization already initiated and pulled back an effort to sell his luxury Washington, D.C. hotel, which has been the source of an emoluments lawsuit.
Trump’s ‘brand’ is still marketable, but tenants and buildings overseas sued to have his name stripped away from some Trump-branded properties after his election.
A pressing part of the equation is Trump’s debt. He owes more than $1 billion, according to Forbes.
The New York Times reported Trump had to personally guarantee $421 million coming due. He called that amount a ‘peanut’ during an ABC town hall.
To make ends meet, his company could liquidate some assets, something that might have given a bad impression while seeking reelection.
MOVE TO FLORIDA
Trump could move to Florida, which he made his official residence
Trump moved his official residence from New York to Florida while in office. It got him a break on state taxes, and may have helped him carry the state.
Moving to Mar-a-Lago would install Trump back in the luxury club where he spent a good chunk of his presidency.
Fellow New Yorker Charles Schumer turned a Florida move into a taunt Saturday. ‘ I say to Donald Trump, you lost. No more games. Go home, go home to Florida. Stop delaying. Stop making up lies about the election,’ he said.
But that might not be so simple. Mar-a-Lago’s bylaws under an agreement from 1993 when Trump converted the facility into a private club. Guests can only stay a week at a time for three non-consecutive weeks each year.
Golf is certainly on his mind – he played at his Virginia course Saturday as networks called the race for Joe Biden.
The size of Trump’s vote could easily tempt him to not give up on politics. Trump’s repeated unfounded claims that he ‘won’ the election don’t just bolster his legal strategy and his fundraising – they set up a potential rationale for running for a restoration.
Adherents and critics agree that Trump build a following greater than himself, with Trumpism to continue even after he leaves office. What better way than to have it headed by Trump?
He’ll be 77 years old when he needs will be actively campaigning if he runs again – the same age Biden is now. The Constitution allows him another four years.
He has already had the coronavirus and pulled through. Biden inherits a nation with millions on unemployment and more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases each day. Depending on factors within and outside his control, the country could be in for a difficult ride.
By keeping himself in the game, Trump also could claim that any ongoing investigations or prosecutions are political in nature as a form of defense.
TURN OVER THE KEYS TO IVANKA
Trump could seek to turn over his political fortune to one of his children, such as Ivanka Trump
Speculation has been rampant about who might be heir to Trump’s political empire. White House advisor Ivanka Trump has always been in the mix. She has softer edges than Donald Trump Jr., who asked supporters to wage ‘total war’ over the vote count.
Her own statement on Twitter was much more open to interpretation. ‘Every legally cast vote should be counted. Every illegally cast vote should not. This should not be controversial. This is not a partisan statement — free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy,’ she wrote.
Such a move would certainly keep Trump’s movement inside the family. But all of Trump’s ‘deplorables’ might not accept the substitution. She is sometimes identified with Trump’s softer causes over the more militant ones. Some forces in Trump-world are already grumbling about her husband Jared Kushner’s role overseeing Trump’s unsuccessful campaign.
After Don Jr. admonished potential 2024 candidates on Twitter, several stepped up to defend his father more forcefully.
Trump also could seek to prop up whoever he determines to be a political heir, like Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, who helped deliver his state.
LEAVE THE COUNTRY
Trump said last month he might have to leave the country if Joe Biden won
Among Trump’s most die-hard opponents, those who consider him a criminal, a Trump third act outside the territorial U.S. has emerged as something that could happen.
Trump is being probed by prosecutors in New York for potential bank and insurance fraud, there are active lawsuits from women who accuse him of rape or assault, and he has been under continuous audit from the IRS from before he took office.
Setting up shop in a country friendly to him could provide a measure of insulation and protection, and Trump has a multitude of stamps on his passport – plus a list of leaders he cultivated while in office.
Trump actually spoke publicly about this prospect in October. ‘Could you imagine if I lose? My whole life, what am I going to do? I’m going to say, “I lost to the worst candidate in the history of politics.” I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country?’
GET HIS LAWYERS TO MAKE A DEAL
President Donald Trump watches from the motorcade as he returns to the White House in Washington, DC, after playing golf on November 7, 2020. Trump could instruct his attorneys to try to seek a plea bargain with prosecutors in New York, who are investigating him over allegations of tax and insurance fraud, which Trump denies
Trump could seek to get a pardon from Joe Biden to avoid the divisions of a former president being prosecuted – even though he spoke openly during his own term about locking up Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and others.
He also could seek to pardon himself, but it’s not clear he has the power to do so.
An easier path might be to seek a plea agreement with prosecutors, and reach a negotiated settlement with the government over millions in tax refunds he claimed that may not be legitimate.
CONSULT MELANIA FIRST
First Lady Melania Trump gave up her life in New York to move to the White House
An X-factor in Trump’s plans is first lady Melania Trump. She was secretly recording complaining about having to deal with White House Christmas decorations in conversations that came out this fall – an indication she was not thrilled with every aspect of her life in the White House.
She gave up a career as a New York model, left a Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment where she was raising school-age son Barron, and according to a book renegotiated a pre-nuptial agreement.
Her role vouching for the president gave him a political assist.
She accompanied her husband on trips around the world, traveled to visit victims of hurricanes, started her ‘Be Best’ program, and stood by him during an array of accusations from Democratic impeachment to the Stormy Daniels scandal. She even campaigned for him weeks after testing positive for the coronavirus after attending a Whtie House pep rally identified as a superspreader event.
It may be Melania’s turn to make the next big life decision such as where the couple lives.
BECOME D.C.’S OTHER EX-PRESIDENT
Trump is not popular in Washington, DC, but his son Barron attends school in the area
It might seem unlikely for a president who went to war on the ‘swamp’ and is despised in D.C. proper, but Donald Trump could elect to set up shop in Washington.
Barron, 14, goes to private school in the Washington area, and may have broken records for staying out of the media save for occasional appearances boarding Marine One and comments about his height from his dad. Even when he contracted the coronavirus it was swallowed up in the story of the campaign.
It is a difficult age, and Barron already was uprooted from New York to move to the White House.
Trump could take the lead from former President Barack Obama, who ended up buying a house in the swank Kalorama neighborhood to see his children through school.
GET A NEW GHOSTWRITER OR PEN A MEMOIR
The Obamas landed a book advance that was reportedly worth $8 million. Although he lost to Biden by around 4 million votes, Trump has millions of fervent followers.
Although he established a reputation for skipping briefing books and demanding charts and short explanations during meetings, now could be the time for Trump to hit the books and pen a memoir.
He has regularly complained about others who benefit from appointments he gives them, only to later cash in. This time it could be Trump getting paid to spill secrets.
START THAT TV NETWORK
Trump has been fuming about Fox News, and could start a network to rival the one owned by Rupert Murdoch
Trump has been in a rage about Fox News, which he complained about during the final days before the election. He years for the days or Roger Ailes. Trump and his team were reportedly infuriated when Fox made an early call for Arizona going for Joe Biden – making it much more of a stretch for him to declare victory Tuesday night.
He could seek to set up a rival TV network, an idea that went around in 2016 in the event that he lost. There are a range of Trump loyalists he could seek to pluck from Fox if he is able to match their big salaries. He could also get constant bookings from allies seeking to curry favor with Trump-world to boost their own political prospects.
It could be a platform for Trump or his kin to launch political campaigns, or find ways to monetize the MAGA movement when he is out of the White House. Trump has regularly complained about how TV ratings would tank if he left office.