Okay, folks, follow me on this one.
Trump is gone from the White House as of January 20, even if he has to be thrown out. (I volunteer for that duty!) And we all know Trump is hot for a presidential pardon.
It’s pretty clear that Trump cannot legally pardon himself. So, to get a presidential pardon requires that he resign sometime before January 20 and allow Pence to pardon him.
New York Attorney General Letitia James agrees:
He can preemptively pardon individuals, and the vast majority of legal scholars have indicated that he cannot pardon himself. What he could do is step down and allow the vice president — Vice President Pence — to pardon him. … I suspect at some point in time he will step down and allow the vice president to pardon him.
(James has something for Trump’s ass afterwards, presidential pardons notwithstanding.)
So far so good, right? Trump resigns, Pence takes the oath, Trump gets his pardon. Slick as a whistle, yes?
Well, maybe not.
Pence has to preside over Congress’s acceptance of the Electoral College’s vote tallies on January 6. He probably doesn’t want to do it, and some idiots are calling for him to challenge the results, but that’s not likely to happen.
What is going to happen is that, after the results are validated and Trump is shitting himself in impotent fury over the outcome, is that Pence is getting the hell out of DC. In fact, he’s getting the hell out of the whole country.
He’s heading to Bahrain, Israel, and Poland, with other possible stops being added to his itinerary. As CNBC reporter Tucker Higgins writes:
He is expected to use his last trip as vice president to tout the administration’s foreign policy achievements, including the normalization of relations between Israel and a number of Gulf states including Bahrain. It will also allow Pence, rumored to be harboring his own presidential ambitions, to get out of Washington after performing the awkward job of announcing his and Trump’s defeat to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
“Foreign policy achievements,” yeah, right, Pence. But, here’s the kicker.
Pence is expected to be gone through January 11. What if he just…doesn’t come back?
As I understand it, Pence has to be on American soil to accept the Office of the President if Trump resigns. He can’t be hanging out in the royal palace with the ruler of Dubai or whatever the hell he has planned for his overseas jaunt. He has to be in the United States proper (or, I assume, in an American embassy or a military base or such) to be recognized as the official U.S. President and take the oath of office.
What if he just doesn’t choose to do any of that?
Short take: Trump is fucked. No pardon from Pence. If Trump does resign the presidency and Pence is too busy partying with Middle Eastern sheikhs to assume the presidency, then the presidency devolves onto the capable shoulders of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi might give Trump a crack in the mouth, but she damn sure isn’t going to pardon him for anything.
All Pence has to do is not be here.
Why would Pence do such a thing? Well, Pence has been careful to maintain a cognitively dissonant balance between dutifully snorkeling Trump’s ass for the last four years while simultaneously keeping a discreet distance between him and the endless tirades and tantrums that have been the hallmarks of the administration. Like his fellow sewer rats, he prefers avoidance to confrontation.
(Will that fool us? Not me and you, certainly, but we’re not MAGAt idiots. The Trump humpers might tag right along behind Pence.)
There are a dozen ways this might not occur. Trump may have already issued himself a pardon, and will defiantly release the kraken when the legality of that pardon is challenged. Pence might come back to Washington before January 20, accept the presidency, and issue the pardon. He might do so from a US embassy or military base. Or Trump might just jack his middle finger at the entire country, say he doesn’t need no steenking pardon, and continue to file garbage lawsuits and baseless legal challenges while prosecutors line up to nail his ass for everything from tax evasion to sedition.
So, we’ll see what happens as Trump and his entourage of grifters, traitors and idiots slouch their way towards January 20. One thing is certain: Trump considers himself a showman. He will try to give the nation something unexpected as the curtain rings down on the Trump shitshow.
To echo Rachell Maddow: stay tuned.
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