Donald Trump will be removed from ‘cloak of immunity’ when he leaves office, legal experts claim

While US President Donald Trump continues to rail against the election result which saw him lose to Democratic nominee Joe Biden, it could be that his own legal problems are the real reason behind his refusal to concede defeat.

Without the diplomatic protection he currently holds as President, legal experts have warned Trump will be “vulnerable to prosecution” as soon as he leaves office.

The President has refused to concede defeat to president-elect Joe Biden, despite the election result being called on Saturday by major media outlets, instead claiming voter fraud and instigating legal challenges in a number of states.

It has left the American leader fighting against the notion of being branded a “loser” – something he has openly mocked rivals for. It has also driven a wedge between those who believe Trump is simply refusing to face the facts and those who think he should fight.

His reaction in the wake of the election has also left other world leaders in a state of confusion, with them split between those who have congratulated Biden and those who have held out, such as Russia, China and Brazil.

Now legal experts have suggested Trump could face another slew of problems in relation to his electoral woes, as he returns to private citizen status and no longer has the legal protections the presidency affords him.

“Once he leaves the office, his cloak of immunity, actual or implied by [Justice Department guidelines], will disappear,” former Florida prosecutor David Weinstein told USA Today.

The US Justice Department’s convention states that sitting presidents cannot be prosecuted for criminal offences – a policy cited by former special counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

However Weinstein said that only applies for actions taken in office and “stops there”, meaning Trump could be vulnerable to several pending investigations regarding his companies and private life the second he walks out of the White House.

In New York, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is investigating Trump and his company’s business practices, while New York Attorney-General Letitia James is looking into allegations of tax fraud.

Notre Dame law professor Jimmy Gurule told USA Today the President is “very vulnerable to prosecution”.

“I think the threat is very real and very substantial,” he said.

Trump is also facing a series of other suits that could keep the family in the spotlight for unsavoury reasons. He is facing two defamation lawsuits from women who have accused him of sexual assault and then claim he disparaged them afterwards in public.

Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen has also turned on his one-time ally, suing the Trump Organisation for legal fees he claims were not paid after he became a focus of the Russia investigation and said he would co-operate with prosecutors.

An authoritarian leader

The warnings come as Trump continues to insist his rivals are attempting to “steal” the election from him.

He has made a string of allegations of voter fraud and is pursuing legal action over the ballots in several battleground states.

However his lawyers have not yet been able to produce evidence to substantiate those allegations and commentators see the chances of the US courts overturning the election result as very slim.

Meanwhile psychologists and academics have commented on his refusal to concede, pointing to the authoritarian qualities that marked Trump’s rise to power in the Republican party, his election in 2016 and his presidency over the past four years that make it nigh on impossible for him to step down gracefully.

History professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat, of New York University, told AFP that Trump had opted for an “authoritarian model of the presidency” based on “arrogance, brutality, and the idea that he must be defended from his enemies”.

“It’s easier to claim the whole election was a fraud than admit that his policies turned his people against him in numbers sufficient to ensure his defeat,” she said.

“We can expect him to continue in this vein and delay the public humiliation of a concession speech,” she said.

“We should be watchful of what he might do over the next months in a vindictive spirit.”

Psychologist John Gartner agreed, saying he was worried that Trump may try a “Nero decree” or “scorched Earth” approach as he deals with his election loss, AFP reports.

The Baltimore-based mental health professional is among a growing number who have publicly warned that Trump is a “malignant narcissist”.

Gartner claims Trump shows all four aspects of malignant narcissism – narcissism, anti-social personality disorder, paranoia and sadism.

But the psychologist was hopeful that in this case, Trump would start to lose his grip on some of his followers after his election defeat.

Emperor with no clothes

Trump’s personality has also been dissected by his own neice, Mary Trump, who is a clinical psychologist herself.

She wrote a book on Trump released this year – called Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man – saying his father was a sociopath and his early home life had been traumatic.

So Trump had built up this big man persona – a false self – revolving around being a winner – first at selling real estate in New York and later through his reality TV show The Apprentice, where he sold the myth of his prowess, despite his numerous corporate bankruptcies, AFP reports.

Mary Trump described her uncle as a “pathetic, petty little man” who is “lost in his own delusional spin”.

“He’s utterly incapable of leading this country. And it’s dangerous to allow him to do so,” she told ABC News at the time of her book’s release.

“His ability to control unfavourable situations by lying, spinning, and obfuscating has diminished to the point of impotence in the midst of the tragedies we are currently facing,” she said.

Trump hit back at allegations of mental health problems by calling himself a “very stable genius”.

Trump has also tried to dismiss his rivals – he famously called war veteran John McCain a “loser”, adding “I like people who weren’t captured”, and just before the election, said that Biden was the “worst candidate in the history of presidential politics”.

In this way he positions himself as a winner once again, despite the polls saying otherwise.

“Could you imagine if I lose?” he mused, “maybe I’ll have to leave the country?”

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