WASHINGTON — When networks projected he had lost his bid for reelection to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump was playing golf. He’ll soon have plenty more time to enjoy the links if he so desires.
But if there’s one constant for Trump, it is his love of the limelight and few expect this most unusual of presidents to pursue a traditional post-White House life of public reticence, reflective memoir-writing and occasional charitable events.
He will lose the keys to the White House but not his login on Twitter, where Trump and his itchy fingers could still wield powerful control over his Republican Party.
Some allies have already spoken of Trump planning a rematch in 2024. Only one other president, Grover Cleveland, has served non-consecutive terms, winning in 1892 after narrowly losing reelection four years earlier.
Former White House chief of staff Mark Mulvaney said with understatement that Trump — who has refused to concede and made unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud — “doesn’t like losing.”
“I would absolutely expect the president to stay involved in politics and would absolutely put him on the shortlist of people who are likely to run in 2024,” he told an Irish think tank.
“He’s a very high-energy 74-year-old.”
Trump’s children have made clear that they are still demanding loyalty from Republicans.
“The total lack of action from virtually all of the ‘2024 GOP hopefuls’ is pretty amazing,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted on Thursday.
He called out by name Senator Lindsey Graham, a former Trump critic turned supporter who coasted to reelection. Hours afterward, Graham was on Trump’s favorite Fox News show pledging money for the president’s legal defense and repeating unsubstantiated accusations of election irregularities.
Fair game for social media rules
When Trump departs the White House, he also leaves behind any immunity he might have from social media rules.
Efforts by Twitter and Facebook to balance letting political leaders speak to the people unfettered with enforcing rules about hateful and misleading posts have afforded Trump leeway not given to regular users.
But any special treatment that Trump has enjoyed ends with his presidency.
“Twitter’s approach to world leaders, candidates, and public officials is based on the principle that people should be able to choose to see what their leaders are saying with clear context,” a spokesman for Trump’s go-to messaging platform told AFP.
“This policy framework applies to current world leaders and candidates for office, and not private citizens when they no longer hold these positions.”
So, Trump posts masked by warnings or amended with labels could qualify to be deleted instead.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has consistently resisted setting limits on Trump rhetoric, saying that “the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting, and I believe we should trust voters to make judgments for themselves.”
Twitter said Friday it had banned an account created by former Trump advisor Steve Bannon that called for the execution of federal officials.
The @WarRoomPandemic account was “permanently suspended for violating the Twitter Rules, specifically our policy on the glorification of violence,” a statement from the social media platform said.
Before the account was blocked, it featured a call by Bannon to remove the heads of FBI director Christopher Wray and top government pandemic expert Anthony Fauci.
The president has hinted about seeking to start a “Trump TV” brand as he has increasingly complained about Fox News, accusing the channel that helped fuel his rise of being insufficiently right-wing.
Viewers, he tweeted, “want an alternative now. So do I!”
And no one can deny Trump has the gift of the gab.
Prison, or a road trip?
No less plausible is a scenario where Trump is embroiled in serious legal problems.
Prosecutors in New York are already probing Trump’s hush money payment to a porn star, his tangled business dealings and mysterious accounting practices. Then there are those old rape and other sexual assault allegations.
As president, Trump is largely protected from prosecution. Some have speculated that he may again challenge accepted norms by trying to issue a pre-emptive pardon to himself.
Eight Trump associates, including men who served as his campaign managers, lawyer and national security advisor, have already been indicted or imprisoned for serious crimes including over the 2016 campaign’s links to Russia.
Or, just maybe, Trump will want to get away from it all.
In June at the White House he mused about taking a road trip in an RV with his former model wife Melania.
Less romantic but equally heartfelt, he paused mid-speech during a campaign rally in Pennsylvania to admire parked trucks.
“Nice trucks,” the president said. “You think I could hop into one of them and drive it away? I’d love to do it, just drive the hell out of here. Just get the hell out of this.”