Following the 2016 presidential race has often been an exercise in discerning whether a headline is real or originating from The Onion.
The latest entry is a New York Times story published Thursday titled: “Would Donald Trump Quit if He Wins the Election? He Doesn’t Rule It Out.”
Yes, you’re reading that correctly: The premise of the article is the notion that Trump after being elected president of the United States — an office he would’ve campaigned to win for more than 16 months by Election Day — would immediately walk away, triggering a constitutional quandary.
Apparently, Trump didn’t completely dismiss the notion.
The Times cites a recent interview with the presumptive GOP nominee in which a scenario was posed to him about declining the presidency right after defeating Hillary Clinton. Trump, the report says, “flashed a mischievous smile,” then says, “I’ll let you know how I feel about it after it happens.”
The story goes on to say that this could’ve been simply another of the real estate mogul’s bids to gain media attention, though notes that the idea that Trump’s competitive desire to win the highest office in the land might surpass his interest in actually serving in it wouldn’t exactly be wildly inconsistent with how some might look at this most unusual of campaigns.
Though obviously implausible, The Times does explain what would happen in such a scenario, using the guidance of Harvard historian Alexander Keyssar. The timing of Trump’s hypothetical resignation of an office he’d won but wasn’t sworn into would guide the succession procedure, the story notes. If it happened before the Electoral College met in December, the 538 electors would become quite powerful. If no one secured a majority, though, the House of Representatives would get to choose from among the top three finishers, per the Constitution.
However, Keyssar notes in the story that it’s not really clear what the protocol would be if Trump bailed after the Electoral College ratified his election but prior to those electoral votes being tabulated during a joint session of Congress.
“Nothing like this has ever happened,” Keyssar told The Times.
Well, that’s not entirely true. At the end of the 2012 Will Ferrell comedy The Campaign, Ferrell’s character, an incumbent House member, (SPOILER ALERT!) announces he’s relinquishing his seat to his rival, Zach Galifianakis, whom he’d just defeated in his re-election bid.
So for those of you worried about a constitutional crisis or the fate of the Republic, I guess we have our answer.