Senior advisors to Donald Trump are believed to be designing a number of scenarios in which the president would resign before the November 3 election, according to an alleged leaked memo.
After Mr. Trump floated the possibility on July 30 that the election might need to be postponed—a proposal repudiated by leading figures in both major political parties—aides accelerated plans to develop previously sketched out exit strategies, the memo purports. Senior members of both the White House and the president’s reelection campaign are in general agreement that Mr. Trump will likely suffer a crushing defeat at the hands of former vice president Joseph R. Biden, according to someone who has read the alleged memo. The document came to light soon after the Wall Street Journal suggested Mr. Trump consider stepping aside if he fears losing the election.
Among the more dramatic scenarios being considered involves the president’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, announcing after Labor Day that the president has tested positive for Covid-19 and is exhibiting severe symptoms. The scenario calls for describing the president’s condition as “serious,” and requiring “at minimum several weeks to recover,” the leaked memo is believed to say, therefore too close to the election. In this scenario, vice president Mike Pence would become the nominee and Georgia governor Brian Kemp would be his running mate.
Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, who reportedly vigorously opposes this plan, is believed to have offered her own exit strategy. “Having put the country back on the most solid footing it has ever been on, the president wants to make room for a new Republican majority with younger leadership,” she is believed to have suggested, highlighting a Biden candidacy weakness, Mr. Biden’s age; he’ll turn 78 in November. Nevertheless, Ms. Conway is said to have concluded that “is highly unlikely” Mr. Trump can win Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and possibly Arizona. Losing those states would result in a Biden Electoral College landslide.
The biggest wrinkle senior White House officials are trying to iron out is protecting the president from criminal prosecution in New York once he is a private citizen. “While he is strongly leaning toward leaving office, part of his reluctance is the fear of no longer having presidential impunity,” the memo reportedly says. Mr. Trump is being investigated in New York state for alleged tax fraud and other financial irregularities.
Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani is believed to be preparing to speak with the Biden campaign before approaching Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. in the hopes of striking a post election deal, the purported memo says. Mr. Vance’s office has been investigating Mr. Trump for more than a year.
Despite the ring of truth some who have seen the alleged memo have expressed, a strategist with the Biden campaign is believed to have insisted, “The whole memo is a big pile of hooey. Trump has zero intention of walking away now—with Election day so close. Besides, even if they pushed [vice president] Mike Pence out and brought in someone else, there’d hardly be enough time to mount a campaign.”
However, when presented with what the memo calls the “Hail Mary” scenario—selecting former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice as the nominee, the Biden strategist “turned white,” an aide who requested anonymity, is believed to have said. “Jesus! Independents and moderate Republicans would have a real alternative [to Biden] if Condi runs,” the strategist is quoted as saying. And, in selecting an African American woman to run for the top spot, the Republicans would undercut Mr. Biden having selected a female running mate.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump, the president’s sons, are vehemently opposed to their father dropping out of the race, the alleged memo notes. “My father has done more for this country than any president ever, with the possible exception of Lincoln,” Don Jr. says in the document. “We’ll be celebrating on Election night and getting ready for the second inauguration in January.” Asked about the polls showing Mr. Trump’s path to victory sharply narrowing Don Jr. is believed to have said, “the polls were wrong in 2016. They’ll be wrong again this year.”