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Prediction: Trump will resign, Pence will pardon him

With high confidence, here is what I see as the most likely ending to the Trump presidency.

First, President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE has been defeated for reelection. The campaign is over. The results are in, and decisive. Donald Trump has lost. His chance of succeeding in being reelected through any strategy or tactic is mathematically zero.

Second, Trump will issue pardons to his immediate family and whoever else he may feel a residual loyalty to.

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Third, Trump will be told by his attorneys that he has no option to pardon himself. He probably has already been told this. The worst case for Trump, both legally and politically, is that he tries to pardon himself, creates a wave of national outrage, and his pardon of himself is overturned by the courts.

Fourth, Trump will resign from the presidency before his term officially ends, and he will be pardoned by Vice President Pence, when Pence becomes president.

A presidential pardon by Pence would not offer protection from cases originating in states, but those cases will be far more manageable if they are not sunk into a morass of federal cases that only a federal pardon can protect him from. 

Fifth, while I suspect we will learn that he is not nearly as wealthy as he claims, Trump can reap extravagant financial rewards from the mother of all business deals which he could conclude shortly after he leaves office.

While Trump will go down in history as a horrifically bad president, whose major legacies will be responsibility for the widespread damage of the COVID-19 virus and his collaboration with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Unemployment gains lower than expected | Jobs report lights fire under coronavirus relief talks GOP senators back Christian school's push for COVID-19 carve-out Bipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package MORE (R-Ky.) to pack the Supreme Court (a subject I will address later and separately), Trump has one humongous asset that is undeniable: He has no upward limit to his profit-making potential if he executes his departure from the presidency and his post-presidency business strategy well.

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Sixth, whatever else one thinks of Trump, he is a genius at brand marketing, media manipulation, audience building and monetizing his humongous audience in television, radio, publishing and social media, selling products that bear his name to masses of customers throughout the empire he is well capable of creating.

Seventh, though it’s been floated Trump could run for president in 2024, he probably won’t. Trump would have much more fun, and make infinitely more money, becoming the mother of all media moguls — a Trumpian Citizen Kane. 

Trump will negotiate a mega-deal with Fox, Newsmax or another television enterprise. He will synchronize his television audience with blockbuster publishing deals, a potential national radio show and a social media audience that would be gigantic on any platform he chooses.

If Trump takes the course I predict, and handles the remainder of his presidency with more discretion than he is showing today, he will emerge with billions of dollars of new and recurring wealth and would be, by far, the most powerful voice in the Republican Party.

What could prevent this scenario from unfolding as I suggest? 

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The biggest issue is that Trump must obtain a pardon for federal offenses, which he can only achieve if he resigns the presidency early and is granted a pardon by Pence. Without a federal pardon, it is almost guaranteed that Trump will spend much of the coming years mired in federal cases that could pose grave legal risks for him and create problems for executing any multibillion-dollar business deal.

It’s also possible that Trump concludes his presidency with a politically disastrous end, pursuing a wrecking ball strategy of mass firings and purges that are widely seen as endangering our national security. This will create permanent anger throughout leading democracies that will sabotage his effort to monetize profits through multibillion-dollar deals with a mass audience and customer base in those nations. 

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.