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Since Trump is still president until January, and he has already packed the supreme court, would it be possible for him to be president eternally by extending his power through executive orders, and the supreme court validating their legality?

Or is there any mechanism to prevent this?

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    Elections in the US are subject to judicial review, but the notion of even the current, fairly far-right Supreme Court backing Trump in throwing out the election is pretty far-fetched. – Colin Nov 7 '20 at 19:04
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    @Colin: I really hope you are correct :) – user000001 Nov 7 '20 at 19:05
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There's no legal method by which Trump could stay in office or extend his powers past January 20.

Trump can't extend his term directly: the Constitution as amended by the Twentieth Amendment states that the president's term ends on January 20, and there is no mechanism for changing that short of another amendment, a procedure that the President has no part in. The decision on who the next President will be is made by a joint session of Congress voting to accept the votes of the Electoral College, a procedure that, again, the President has no part in.

Executive orders are instructions to the executive branch on how to carry out laws passed by Congress. They can be freely revoked by the next President, they can be overturned by the courts, or they can be overruled or made irrelevant by Congress changing the law. Because of this, they can't be considered a reliable method of asserting power after the end of a President's term.

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  • For example what if there was an executive order towards the army and the police to prevent Congress from ever having a session again? Wouldn't they be legally obligated to carry out such an order? – user000001 Nov 7 '20 at 20:55
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    @user000001 I'm reasonably confident that neither the police nor the army have the jurisdiction to prevent Congress from meeting. As such, any orders to do so would be illegal, and they'd be legally obligated to ignore them. – Arcanist Lupus Nov 7 '20 at 21:01
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    @user000001, no. Article 1, section 6, paragraph 1: "They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same." The authors of the Constitution were very familiar with assorted English kings' attempts to rule without Parliament, and took measures to prevent that from happening in the United States. – Mark Nov 7 '20 at 22:12
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The only way that Donald Trump's current term can be extended is by amending the constitution. This requires the agreement of 2/3 of the House, 2/3 of the Senate, and 3/4 of the individual States to agree. There is no prospect of any of the above agreeing to such an amendment.

It is worth noting that the quickest timeframe between an amendment being proposed and completed was 100 days (the 26th Amendment), while President Trump's term expires in 74 days.

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  • I was thinking about declaring a "state of emergency" or similar, that would extend forever. – user000001 Nov 7 '20 at 19:04
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    Nope, declaring a state of emergency does not allow you to do anything that violates the constitution. – Joe C Nov 7 '20 at 19:17
  • That was my point, it's up to the supreme court to decide that. – user000001 Nov 7 '20 at 19:18
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    @user000001 But they really only have leeway on questions where there is some ambiguity. The constitution states in plain text exactly when the term of a president ends. There's no wiggle room: It ends on the 20th of January at noon. – user141592 Nov 7 '20 at 20:27
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    @user000001, the conservative members of the Supreme Court tend to be originalists, not Trump loyalists. Any ruling is likely to be based on what the justices think the authors of the Constitution meant, not on what Donald Trump wants. – Mark Nov 8 '20 at 18:29

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