Cross Country Checkup·Q&A

Trump's reaction to Biden victory like 'a train wreck in slow motion,' says law professor

U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed baseless claims of voter fraud after he was defeated by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election. Law professor Lawrence Douglas says the incumbent president's response shouldn't come as a surprise.

'Over the next several weeks, we could certainly see him sow discord in the nation'

Democratic nominee Joe Biden defeated U.S. President Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election on Saturday. Trump has since said he would challenge the results in court. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Lawrence Douglas predicted U.S. President Donald Trump's reaction to the presidential election results months ago.

The Amherst College law professor and author of Will He Go: Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020 told Cross Country Checkup in August that "ugly times" were on the horizon if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden did not win the election with a decisive margin.

Since the Nov. 3 election, Trump has pushed baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud and claimed that his opponent was trying to seize power.

On Saturday, Biden defeated Trump to become the 46th U.S. president after close races in several key states delayed the results for days. Trump has yet to concede and has stated his intention to challenge the election results in court.

Douglas spoke with Checkup host Ian Hanomansing on Sunday about the incumbent president's response, and what happens next.

Here is part of that conversation.

Biden is president-elect. Trump, though, is clearly not letting go. Have you seen anything that could possibly change the result of this election? 

No. I mean, he will continue to file these lawsuits, but I think they're largely meritless. 

They have very little chance of prevailing legally. And even if they did, they wouldn't have any kind of material effect on the outcome of the election. 

The last time I checked, I have not seen a shred of evidence in any of the lawsuits that have gotten to the court stage — because some of them have moved pretty quickly — no evidence offered up by the Trump campaign of actual fraud. Have you seen any? 

No, I haven't seen any evidence whatsoever — and it's not surprising that there's an absence of evidence. But no, none whatsoever. 

'Time to heal in America': President-elect Joe Biden's victory address

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9 months ago
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President-elect Joe Biden spoke directly to Americans who didn't vote for him during his victory address in Wilmington, Del., saying it's 'time to listen to each other again' and to stop treating opponents like enemies. 1:42

The President of the United States' office is often described as the most powerful in the world, and Donald Trump holds that office until Jan. 20, 2021. Is there anything in his executive powers he can use to disrupt or delay the transition of power? 

Certainly I don't imagine that Donald Trump is going to try to barricade himself in the Oval Office and need to be frog marched out by members of the military come Jan. 20. So I don't imagine that we have to worry about any kind of nightmare scenarios along those lines.

Over the next several weeks, we could certainly see him sow discord in the nation by continuing to engage in this very toxic messaging — that he has actually won the election and that essentially the deep state, or the Democrats, or both, in cahoots with the mainstream media, are essentially committing a coup. 

That is a very toxic message to be emerging from the White House. And it's certainly possible that without issuing any real directives, members of his base could act on the messages that they're hearing from him. 

Do you think that the presidency, the office, has been damaged with what's been going on in the last few days? 

What's happened the last few days is a part of what we've seen for the last several years.... I certainly was not alone in predicting that Donald Trump would try to leverage whatever lead he had on Nov. 3 into a claim of victory and then try to dispute the mail-in ballots as contaminated by fraud.

In a sense, this is a train wreck in slow motion. He had telegraphed that that's basically what he was going to do, going all the way back to the early part of the summer. So I think the degradation of civic discourse, the fantastically unpresidential behaviour ... we've seen all of this for the last four years. And this is simply kind of a confirmation of behaviour. 

So I guess I would put it this way: it's shocking, but unsurprising. Shocking because exactly as you say it, you just don't associate this with the president of the United States, of basically disputing an electoral result, baselessly. And yet, unsurprising because it really is of a piece with everything we've seen from Donald Trump in the last several years. 

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump have protested the election results, claiming without evidence that Joe Biden's victory was the result of voter fraud. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

In terms of the specifics of how it played out this week, is there anything that came out in a way you weren't expecting? 

One thing that I think we should also bear in mind is this election — Trump's statements notwithstanding and the statements from his supporters notwithstanding — this was an incredibly well run election. A very smooth election. 

We had worries about the election based on some of the things that we saw during the primary season. During the primary season, we saw various states kind of suffering from malfunctions in their electoral software. We saw these long lines. But this was an incredibly smooth election. 

I don't know if you had an opportunity to watch any of the webcams, which were showing election officials counting the vote, but I really found those very moving images. 

These are people who are working in a time of pandemic, under a lot of pressure, and these were really kind of like unspoken heroes of the system — people who really believed in the integrity of our system, in contrast to the president himself. 


Written by Jason Vermes with files from CBC News and Alejandrina Alvarez. Produced by Kirthana Sasitharan.

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