What processes are in place for Trump to leave the office of the President of the United States?

Can he be forced to resign on his own or according to American constitution/ laws/whatever?

  • 1
    The Constitution forces him out of office at least by Jan 20, 2025. Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 19:48

6 Answers 6



Note that Donald Trump remains popular with his supporters. Many of them would regard an impeachment as an electoral betrayal. The first step to getting Trump to leave would thus be to convince a significant number of his former supporters to stop supporting him.

Richard Nixon had broader but more shallow support than Trump, and he lost that support based on his illegal actions. Presumably Trump could overreach in some similar way. However, it's worth noting that it wasn't Nixon's policies that lead to his resignation but his actions. Trump hasn't done anything so far that wasn't part of his original platform. It seems unlikely that if it didn't prevent him becoming president, that it will be able to force him out. He might actually be more difficult to remove than Nixon was, as his fewer supporters feel more strongly about him.

For the same reason, it is unlikely that Mike Pence and the cabinet will declare Trump unfit. Such a move would be unlikely to endear Pence to Trump supporters. So Pence is extremely unlikely to take that temporary step unless Trump loses a lot of support. Or there is some evidence of a temporary infirmity that will be fixed by a temporarily removing Trump from office. Again, fulfilling his campaign positions should not be regarded as an infirmity, temporary or not.

Resignation seems simpler than impeachment on the face of it, but it's worth remembering that Nixon only resigned when he realized that he'd lose an impeachment. His resignation saved a lot of time and effort, but it still required an impeachable case with broad support in the Senate.


If individuals do not want Trump to be their president, they would probably find it easier to move them than Trump. During the election a collection of celebrities said that they were moving if Trump won. Instead, they've stayed and protested. If their protests remain ineffectual, perhaps they'll reconsider.

Non-celebrities may claim refugee status from Canada or Germany. Both have said that they're looking. And both have sharply criticized Trump, so they may be willing to regard United States citizens as refugees easily.


At a higher level, regions could potentially secede. It's unclear how serious it is now, but there is a movement for California secession. While unlikely to cause the entire state to secede, it seems feasible that changing circumstances could cause the more liberal coastal regions to reject Trump's policies by secession. Of course, while their approval is necessary, it is not sufficient. The US as a whole would have to consent.

This may not remove Trump from the presidency of the US, but it would remove Trump as president of those who secede.

I haven't heard of a serious movement for it, but it also seems possible that other places might do the same thing. For example, New England is as overwhelmingly Democratic as coastal California (NExit). New York City might go as well. It's adjacent and overwhelmingly Democratic. That's interesting, as Trump was born in New York. So there's an argument that Trump would no longer be a natural-born citizen if New York City seceded.

That would actually remove Trump from the presidency.


Note that each of these is unlikely. No president has ever been removed by impeachment. The closest would be the resignation of Nixon, and Trump hasn't done anything comparable to burglarizing his opponents. Some might argue that his policies are worse. But they are also popular among his supporters, however condemned among his opponents. Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan also had policies that were condemned by their opponents as unconstitutional and just plain wrong. The closest to being removed for policy reasons was Andrew Johnson, and that failed.

If people had been serious about emigration, there is nothing stopping them. Yet there doesn't seem to be any serious movement among those who said that they would during the election.

Secession receives occasional discussion, but very few states actually try it. Even in the unlikely event that New York City seceded, it seems unlikely that it would succeed in removing Trump.

But hey, it's all fun to consider.


The normal way to replace a president is to wait until the next election and do it. That's also difficult. Only Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush have lost a reelection bid since Herbert Hoover. It's worth noting that all three of those lost for economic reasons more than anything else.

Taking back the House in the 2018 election would help as well. Trump would still be president, but he would no longer be able to pass legislation alone.

Taking back the Senate would be even better, but there aren't enough vulnerable seats available. Of the five Republican seats up for election in 2018, only two are regarded as vulnerable. And one of those (Jeff Flake in Arizona) is something of a reach. It might shift, but it was still a Republican state in 2016. The Democrats need three more seats to take control of the Senate. Even giving them Flake's seat, they're still short. And that's not allowing for the ten Democratic Senators in states that Trump won. Any losses there would change extremely difficult to almost impossible.

If Republicans could survive four years of Obama, twice, Democrats should be able to survive four years of Trump--at least once if not twice. If that's really impossible, then maybe people should revisit the idea of secession.

  • 9
    I think "natural born" is better interpreted as "citizen at birth" rather than "the location of birth is currently part of the country". His home state seceding doesn't change the fact that he was a US citizen from birth. Some people may argue it, but I doubt it would be upheld.
    – Samthere
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 16:32
  • 5
    It would be virtually impossible for a US citizen to qualify as a refugee unless the current administration starts employing totalitarian tactics. A refugee must have "a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group." So far, the administration isn't persecuting US citizens. As to impeachment, you might mention the emoluments clause; there is a fair amount of related discussion simmering in the media.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 17:22
  • 2
    They could try to clean up their own country. Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 19:17
  • 3
    Is secession really an option though? Last time it happened in the United States it ended poorly for the states that tried it. Seems like you'd need a constitutional amendment before a state could leave. Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 21:36
  • 2
    @Brythan The Civil War wasn't about slavery until Lincoln made it about slavery in a bid to keep the British from getting involved. When he did, the majority of Northern soldiers deserted and he had to resort to shelling NYC to get enough conscripts to replace them. (It's ironic that the "war to end slavery" was fought by slaves, on the side doing the freeing, no?) In the modern era I suspect it would be a lot more difficult to get political support for a war of conquest against a former state. The Internet makes telling the kinds of lies necessary to start the CW much harder to get away with.
    – Perkins
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 0:14

Basically, there are 2 ways for a President to step down.

1. Impeachment

Section 4 of the United States Constitution states:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High crimes and Misdemeanors.

However, this clause is quite broad as there are many possibilities.

There have been many articles by commentators that describe how Trump could be impeached. However, just because many people don't support his Executive Orders doesn't mean that it is grounds for impeachment.

You can check out some articles that list the possibilities:

Also, only 2 U.S. Presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives, but both were later acquitted at trials held by the Senate.

2. Resignation

A President can resign on his own will, which is a personal decision. Usually, it's due to pressure since Nixon resigned to avoid an impeachment.

To date, only Richard Nixon has resigned the presidency.

  • 8
    There is also the 25th amendment section 4 which states that in certain cases the VP can remove the president from power. Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 12:24
  • 1
    @DavidGrinberg Yea when the VP declares the P is unable to discharge his duties but the VP seems to become an Acting President not President
    – Panda
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 12:31
  • 8
    These are mechanisms more than motivations.
    – user9790
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 12:40
  • 2
    @DavidGrinberg if the president is declared unable to discharge his duties, he remains nominally president, and there remains the possibility of his restoration to office at a future point. I agree that the answer should include that as a possibility, but it is also necessary to note that it is fundamentally different from outright removal from office or resignation.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 17:16
  • 2
    Because the OP is "not that strong in political terms", they need to know that The Huffington Post and the Washington Post are two very democrat leaning sites. There's an update on the Washington post article today admitting one of their major points was incorrect.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 19:15

Under current law, there are six ways for a president to leave office. In order of frequency:

  1. His term expires: Trump's first term ends on January 20th, 2021. The winner of the election on November 3rd, 2020 will then assume the office—and that winner may not be him. Thirty-five presidents have left office when a term ended.

  2. He dies: Upon the death of a president, his vice president is elevated to his office. Eight presidents have died in office—four of natural causes and four of assassination.

  3. He resigns: Upon the voluntary resignation of a president, his vice president is elevated to the office. One president, Richard Nixon, has resigned.

  4. Congress impeaches and convicts him: A majority of the House of Representatives can vote to impeach the president by charging him with "high crimes or misdemeanors"—that is, serious misconduct in office. The Senate then holds a trial for the president, with the Chief Justice as judge, the whole Senate as jury, and "managers" appointed by the House as prosecutors. If two-thirds of the Senate votes to convict, the president is removed and his vice president is elevated to the office. Two presidents have been impeached, but neither was convicted; Nixon resigned on the eve of being impeached.

  5. His subordinates declare he has an inability: The vice president and a majority of the Cabinet can submit a letter to the heads of Congress declaring that the president is unable to carry out his duties; the vice president then becomes the acting president. The elected president can submit a letter declaring that the inability has ended, but if the vice president and Cabinet disagree, the vice president continues to be acting president until a majority vote of Congress decides if the president is able to resume office. This procedure is intended to be used for medical disabilities, though nothing actually restricts it to that; the particular provisions allowing the suspension of the president without his consent have never been used.

  6. A constitutional amendment: Amending the Constitution could change any aspect of the presidency, including altering its term or adding means to remove him, but Congress can more easily use its impeachment power than the amendment process. The Twentieth Amendment, which shortened the "lame duck" period between the election of a new government and its seating, slightly shortened Franklin D. Roosevelt's first term, although it was ratified before he entered office; the Twenty-fifth Amendment created the inability process described above.

Finally, there are extralegal options, such as a coup, a revolution, or a replacement constitution ratified outside the amendment process. These have obvious practical difficulties.

  • 2
    Replacement constitution need not be extralegal if it is created by a properly formed constitutional convention.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 8:11

The president can't be protested out of office or pushed out by his opponents. Informal street protests aren't supposed to have any formal power or legal standing.

The president isn't elected by street protest and thankfully not by combat or violence. There is a standard non-violent election process, and Trump won that. The opposition is furious and hysterical, Trump's win was narrow, but it is completely legitimate, and his opponents have to respect that and respect the law. Every president has opponents, every election leaves the losing team disheartened, but they have to accept the results.

Bottom line: change what you can and accept what you can't. Trump gets to be president. If you want, you can vote against him next term, donate money to political causes, pursue a career in politics, or pick up informal writing or humor or some informal activism. Beyond that there isn't much a normal citizen can do. It might be wise to turn your attention to something else where you can more direct control.

  • 3
    Moreover, Trump's win was not the narrowest in history by far. In fact, he is 46th out of 58, and won by a larger margin than Dubya. Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 2:30
  • @DepressedDaniel Trump lost the popular vote by a larger margin than any other elected president. Clay: protesters could influence the political processes that are in place to remove a president. If enough people continue to protest in enough congressional districts, he could be impeached. As it stands now, though, there aren't enough people who want to see him removed to make that happen.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 18:26
  • 3
    @phoog It's not the popular vote that counts. Both Trump and Clinton optimized their campaigns to target electoral college votes. It's unfair to dig at any candidate for losing a different metric than what actually decides the election. Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 18:34
  • @DepressedDaniel the popular vote nonetheless reflects upon the strength of the president's mandate, arguably more than does the margin in the electoral college. I therefore conclude that the president's mandate is weak.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 18:37
  • 3
    @phoog The "popular vote" isn't an official vote. It doesn't exist in any legal sense. It may have informal implications, but officially it means nothing. I don't see how street protesters can remove the president in any way. He can be voted out in the next election. Not everyone gets to have the election outcome they want. People can protest and vent but people don't have no right to change the results of the election simply because it is not what they wanted.
    – clay
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 19:32

This is basically a hypothetical question. What might compel Trump to resign on his own volition? The simplest answer is he might when he finishes most of his agenda, what he's set out to do. That includes:

  • Destroying ISIS
  • Repealing Obamacare and replacing it
  • Fixing the immigration policy of the US
  • Brining manufacturing and jobs back for middle America
  • Reducing significantly the regulatory burden on American business
  • Fixing the VA

Say that gets done in 3 years time. I could see him stepping down.

  • 14
    That, or he up and gets bored. It's not like politics is his life's work like it is for Clintons
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 14:47
  • 1
    @user4012 I'd say it's not as much as a politics vs business job, but more about being in power Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 16:40
  • 9
    This is all opinion, unless Trump or his team have released this information. Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 17:05
  • 1
    @notstoreboughtdirt - as I noted in another answer, an option is always more valuable than no option. Filing gives him an option, so it's better than not filing, regardless of any other factors.
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 18:04
  • 1
    @KDog, The OP text reads "to force him to resign on his own or according to American constitution/ laws/ whatever?" The text "on their own accord" doesn't seem to be there.
    – agc
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 18:57

You can always vote him out. You know, the election process every few years. You can go on a hunger strike,...

Then there are numerous non Democratic and treasonous options.

  • 2
    The question doesn't mention it explicitly, but I think there is an implicit "...before the end of his term." Your answer would also be improved by a discussion of the "nondemocratic and treasonous options."
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 17:25
  • @phoog They seem pretty obvious - blackmail, torture, assassination, etc. Obviously all strongly not recommended, for all sorts of reasons, but they are, technically, "theoretically things that could force him to leave office". :p
    – neminem
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 23:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .