Presidential Campaign

Trump won’t make it four years — here’s how he might leave the White House


Donald Trump’s presidency is in shambles after just four months into his four-year term.

Consistent with the reputation he built in his television celebrity days when “you’re fired” was his catchphrase, the president has fired his national security advisor, the acting attorney general, the FBI director, along with diplomats and US attorneys.

The president himself intimated that he fired FBI director James Comey because of “this Russia thing,” the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to tilt the election to Trump. The firings bring to mind the infamous Saturday night massacre in 1973 when Richard Nixon canned officials who refused to fire the special prosecutor investigating Watergate.


{mosads} But more serious are the allegations that Trump may have obstructed justice in asking former FBI director Comey to end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia. Obstruction of justice was part of the articles of impeachment against both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

The president has also taken heat for reportedly disclosing classified information to the Russians when he met with them in the Oval Office. Such an action may put informant lives at risk.

Add to the mix the president’s dismal approval ratings by the public. The most recent Gallup poll shows that just 38 percent of Americans approve of the president’s performance – the lowest of any president at this point in their term.

The litany of self-inflicted wounds by the president continues to grow – the result of the president’s temperament and inexperience in governing. He is the first man to assume the presidency without either political (elected or appointed) or military experience. Trump is finding that governing the country is far different than ruling over a closely held family corporation.

Will Trump complete his four-year term? The odds at this point are that he won’t. What are the options for exactly how his term might end early? There are five Oval Office exit paths: impeachment, use of the 25th Amendment, death by natural causes, assassination and resignation.

Many Democrats and some Republicans in Congress have begun to talk about impeachment to remove the president from office. Of course, while there would have to be documented impeachable offenses – what the Constitution describes as “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” – ultimately impeachment is a politically driven process.

Only two presidents have been impeached and neither were convicted.

Andrew Johnson was an abrasive personality who offended many with his behavior and actions – similar to Trump.

Bill Clinton, who became the second president impeached, saw his popularity actually rise during the impeachment process. That’s unlikely to happen for Trump who is already trolling at the bottom of the approval ratings.

And Richard Nixon resigned rather than face almost certain impeachment and conviction over the scandals and cover-up of the Watergate affair.

Many other presidents have been threatened with impeachment, going back to John Tyler, derisively termed as “his accidency.” Tyler assumed the office when William Henry Harrison – then the oldest man in the presidency at 68 – died after just a month in office.

If Trump’s Republican support in Congress erodes due to their fears that Trump will be the cause of a Democratic landslide in the 2018 mid-term elections, Republicans will gladly sacrifice a president that many have never fully embraced. A President Pence would provide far greater stability, less drama, and an ability to accomplish some of the GOP’s policy goals.

A second method by which Trump might not complete his full term is implementing the untested process outlined in the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. Under this unlikely scenario, the vice-president and majority of the cabinet could essentially stage a palace coup by declaring that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” The president could report to Congress that he is able to function as president. If the vice president and cabinet notified Congress of their disagreement with the president’s assessment of his abilities, Congress would make the final decision whether the president should remain in office or not. As it might play out for Trump, it looks a lot like impeachment with Congress making the decision.

The weight and burdens of the presidency prematurely ages occupant of the Oval Office, and Trump could die in office. Four presidents have died of natural causes while in office: William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren Harding and Franklin Roosevelt – all younger than Trump who is the oldest man ever to assume the office for the first time.

Depending on what medical records are considered, the president is either overweight or obese. Weighing in at 236 pounds, he is the third heaviest president, behind William Howard Taft and Grover Cleveland.

Trump is not a believer in exercise and his diet is considered less than healthy, by many experts.

In the vicious and violent world of the 21st century, death by assassination is always a threat to the president. Four presidents have been assassinated: Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy. There have been countless assassination attempts against presidents including Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt (as ex-president campaigning for another term), Franklin Roosevelt (as president-elect), Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan. And the Secret Service has thwarted countless assassination plots over the years.

Finally, Trump might resign the presidency before his term is up. He might resign if he realized he faced almost certain impeachment, if his health were affected by the office, or if he just became tired of the duties. He recently noted his surprise that the presidency is a lot harder than he expected.

Because winning is everything for Trump, and because he is a master marketer, he would put a positive spin on his resignation. He would declare that he had made America great again. He would list all his accomplishments, noting that no president had ever done so much in such a short period of time. He would say that he was not a politician and was returning to the people after having drained the swamp of Washington, DC. He would say that he had stood up for the forgotten men and women of our country. Whether any of such statements were actually true or not, the president would say they were, and it would be the reality that he would construct to justify his resignation.

Trump would create a face-saving narrative to allow him to resign and go back to the life he enjoyed so much as a real-estate developer and celebrity. He may, in fact, now be contemplating the framework of such a resignation narrative.

The word “unprecedented” characterized Trump’s campaign and his unlikely election as president. Similarly, “unprecedented” describes the serious challenges and threats to Trump’s presidency, especially after just four months in office. At this point in time, it is highly probable that Trump will join the ranks of the nine previous presidents who did not complete their term – although he could become the first president convicted of impeachment and removed from office.


Mike Purdy is a presidential historian and the founder of He is a frequent and popular speaker and is often quoted by the media about presidential history and politics, including CNN, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Reuters, Bloomberg, The Huffington Post, BBC and others.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Bill Clinton Clinton scandals Donald Trump Donald Trump Donald Trump presidential campaign Impeachment in the United States Mike Purdy Politics Politics of the United States President of the United States The Apprentice Watergate Watergate scandal
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