Will Trump resign? Many other presidents have thought about it

Greg Nash

Seven months into his presidency, Donald Trump is at sea in an unfamiliar political world, full of turbulence largely of his own making. It’s nothing like he thought it would be. Being president “is more work than in my previous life,” Trump recently confessed. “I thought it would be easier.” When he was the head of a closely-held private company, he could say whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted and demand quick action and results.

Now he’s finding his unfiltered language, while a formula for his stunning electoral victory, doesn’t work as well as president. He’s also finding that simply dictating an end-result he wants doesn’t automatically translate into action.

{mosads}So what is the president’s state of mind? Surely, he’s realized that he can’t wave a magic wand and make it all happen just like he promised during the campaign. He’s been wistful about what he left behind to become president. “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump said in a rare moment of introspection in an April interview.


Is Trump frustrated enough to quit? Is he scared enough to resign? Worried about the results of multiple investigations into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to tilt the election to him? Concerned about Republicans openly criticizing his words and actions? Even if the president isn’t thinking about resigning now (and it’s probably crossed his mind), others have suggested it.

Former Vice President Al Gore recently had one piece of advice for Trump: “Resign.” Trump’s ghostwriter, Anthony Schwartz, for the mogul’s book The Art of the Deal predicted just days ago that Trump will resign by the end of the year.

Even presidents not under as much siege as Trump have contemplated resigning from the presidency.

Just weeks after his 1797 inauguration, a petulant John Adams confided to his wife that “if the Federalists go to playing pranks, I will resign the office and let Jefferson lead them.”

When he was defeated by Jefferson in 1800, he considered resigning before the House of Representatives broke the Electoral College tie between Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Had he done so, it would have handed the presidency to vice president Jefferson for the remainder of Adams’ term.

In 1862, a tired Abraham Lincoln responded after Republican senators met on a resolution asking him to resign: “They wish to get rid of me and I am sometimes half disposed to gratify them.”

Grover Cleveland almost reached the end of his rope with the constant pressure of those seeking political appointments: “This dreadful, damnable office-seeking hangs over me and surrounds me — and makes me feel like resigning.”

Resignation crossed Woodrow Wilson’s mind multiple times. He threatened to resign if Congress didn’t approve legislation he wanted. He considered resigning after his first wife, Ellen, died. His second wife, Edith, wanted him to resign after he suffered a debilitating stroke in his second term. And he concocted a scheme to resign in 1916 if he lost his re-election bid to Charles Evans Hughes.

Under his plan, the vice president would resign, Wilson would appoint Hughes secretary of state, and then Wilson would resign. Under the presidential succession act then in place, Hughes would have become president immediately rather than waiting for March 4, 1917.

Franklin D. Roosevelt mused about quitting the presidency to head the United Nations.

Dwight Eisenhower told his secretary in 1960 after the U2 incident forced him to admit the United States had been spying on the USSR that “I would like to resign.”

John F. Kennedy promised in his 1960 campaign that “I would resign the office” if his responsibilities required him “to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest.”

Ronald Reagan vowed to resign if his doctors said his mental condition deteriorated.

Will Trump resign? Surely in his private moments he must realize, even with the positive spin he puts on everything, that his presidency has not gone well so far.

His hopes for bold legislative action have been stymied by his detachment from the legislative process and the fine nuances of policies that he is not interested in mastering.

Parts of his agenda have been overturned by the courts.

He’s been livid that the mainstream media has challenged his frequent alternative facts and not praised what he views as his many accomplishments.

He has struggled to impose his America First agenda on other countries that have thumbed their nose at him.

The president is continuing his lifelong bullying tactics on the world scale, frustrated that it’s not turning out how he thought it would or should. His schoolyard threats to North Korea has put much of the world on edge.

And he’s beside himself with the leaks from his own administration and trying to manage the complex federal bureaucracy.

It’s been a hard lesson for the first non-politician or military leader to figure out how to exercise the levers of presidential power in a constructive manner.

There are a couple of conditions that might lead Trump to resign.

If his support from Republicans in Congress continues to evaporate as it has after his intemperate remarks about the Charlottesville tragedy, and if Republicans see him as a drag on their re-election hopes next year, more may desert him.

If the results of investigations into Russian collusion with his campaign prove damaging, or if he knows the release of such facts might prove fatal to his presidency, Trump might get a jump start by defiantly resigning rather than face certain impeachment. He would rather be the second president to resign than the first president to be convicted of impeachment and removed from office.

If he resigned, he would declare it a major victory over the swamp of the establishment. He would cash in his chips proudly stating that he is not a politician, but that he had fixed the problems of the nation by boosting the economy, creating jobs and not forgetting the working men and women of America. He would proclaim that he had made America great again. Resignation would allow Trump to leave on his own terms, not the terms of Congress or the media.

The presidency is a difficult 24/7 job that requires attention to details, something not generally viewed as Trump’s strong suit. Thus far, the predictions about him by critics have been borne out. Former President Obama said that Trump was “temperamentally unfit” and “unqualified” to be president. Jeb Bush said Trump would be a “chaos president.”

If Trump can’t right the ship soon and dramatically, any private musings he may have now about resigning may become a necessity for him in the near future.

Mike Purdy is a presidential historian and the founder of PresidentialHistory.com. 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 Al Gore Donald Trump Donald Trump Donald Trump presidential campaign Mike Purdy
See all Hill.TV See all Video