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What next for Donald Trump? The options before the 45th president after January 20
If Trump does not contest the next presidential election himself, he could back the candidacy of a member of his family
In the last four years, Donald Trump threw away the rule book on how presidents should conduct themselves. Once he is out of the White House on January 20, don’t expect him to behave like other former presidents. Historians will study the impact the Trump presidency had on American politics and society for decades. But as for the man himself, it is far from certain that he is done with politics altogether. Whether he contemplates a second run for the top job in 2024 will depend on the outcome of his trial in the Senate. But, assuming he does not face overwhelming legal and financial problems, he could still be a force to reckon with in the Republican Party.
As Trump prepares for a post-presidency, the Grand Old Party (GOP) is being pulled in different directions. Many of the old guard establishment Republicans want to distance themselves from the Trump era, especially after the violent insurrection of January 6. But Trump remains a popular figure among Republican voters and the party base. If he decides to continue dabbling in politics – for instance, by giving his blessings to House and Senate leaders who are up for re-election in a couple of years – he could possibly decide the fate of dozens of Republicans.
At the same time, Brand Trump has become toxic for many Republicans, especially in the Senate, after the assault on the US Capitol. The Republican Party will find it very difficult to hold both these planks together and an actual split in the GOP cannot be ruled out.
If Trump does not contest the next presidential election himself, he could back the candidacy of a member of his family, perhaps daughter Ivanka, or one of his loyalists, someone from the party who has not slammed Trump for egging on the violent mob on January 6. By acknowledging Joe Biden’s victory, Mike Pence is out of favour. But outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and GOP Senate leaders Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who continue to indulge in the falsehood that the November presidential election may have been stolen, hope to tap into Trump’s base. All three are believed to be contemplating a run for the White House in 2024.
Communicating with his millions of supporters is a practical problem for Trump in the short term since he has been de-platformed from Twitter and other major social media sites. He could start his own social media venture to reach out to his followers but he will always miss the megaphone that Twitter provided. There is also talk about Trump starting his own TV news channel or becoming a regular fixture on existing right-wing networks and cable news.
After the Capitol riot, many businesses have cut ties with the Trump family hotels and properties. It will take him some time to sort out this mess.
His single biggest worry, though, will be the flurry of court cases and possibly even criminal investigations that will follow. Inciting rioters is only the latest possible lawsuit he could face.
Whatever Trump does next, the soon-to-be former president is unlikely to quietly walk into the sunset.