Donald Trump may be on his way out, but former leaders can return to haunt us all – Susan Dalgety
Is there life after the White House for Donald Trump? Late morning, on Tuesday 20 January, Trump will likely have to hand back the keys of the Oval Office, salute his new Commander-in-Chief, Joe Biden, and bid farewell to the biggest job on the planet.
As his increasingly deranged Twitter feed and press conferences suggest, Trump may not go quietly, but whether he likes it or not, he probably needs to find a new career. But what does a 74-year-old former reality TV star with a mountain of personal debt do after four years of running the world’s biggest economy?
It is unlikely he will retire to his Mar-a-Lago resort and spend his days eating tacos and playing golf. He loves the spotlight too much to hide away in his Florida bunker, or take up painting as George W Bush did in his post-presidential life.
Some suggest he may set up his own TV channel to rival Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. Trump may be on the verge of losing the election, but he did win nearly half the popular vote. Around 68 million people voted for his brand, giving him an instant audience base. The Morning Show with Donald and Rudy (Giuliani) would make compelling viewing, as long as you like your news fake.
He may even run again. His nemesis, Joe Biden, will be 78 in on 20 November so it is possible that Trump could consider a second presidential bid in 2024, when he too will be 78.
Or he could turn the Republican Party into a family enterprise and groom his successor. What are the odds on a presidential run by Ivanka Trump in four years’ time, with Daddy as campaign chief?
Trump reportedly more than $1bn in debt
One thing is certain – he will not spend the next few years writing his memoirs, as Barack Obama did after stepping down in 2016. Trump has published several books where he is credited as being the author, from his first bestseller, The Art of the Deal to Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again, his 2015 manifesto. He wrote none of them.
So, while there is bound to be a Trump presidential memoir, Donald will not spend the next few years carefully drafting his book by hand on yellow legal pads, as Obama has just done. He will hire someone to write his best-seller, which he will never read.
But first, the 45th President of the United States will have to make some money. The Financial Times reported a few days ago that Trump owes more than $1 billion, and his biggest creditor, Deutsche Bank, told Reuters News Agency recently that it is eager to rid itself of Trump and his $340 million loan.
And he may have to hire a better lawyer than the hapless Rudy Giuliani to avoid the threat of prison. His financial affairs are currently under investigation by Manhattan’s District Attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr. More than 20 women have accused of him of sexual assault, including rape, and both the Mueller report and the Senate Intelligence Committee have documented alleged crimes by Trump, from obstruction of justice to conspiring with Russia.
Not heard the last of him
If the thought of Trump in the dock is too improbable – no American president has ever been charged with a criminal offence, not even Richard Nixon – think again. In 2013, the once-mighty Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced to four years in prison for tax fraud. Only his age prevented him going to jail. Instead, he did community service, working with dementia patients. And last year, at 82, he was elected to the European Parliament.
But whatever lies in store for Donald John Trump, you can rest assured we won’t have heard the last of him. He is, arguably, the most famous person on the planet, and he will be forever in the public eye, for good or ill.
What to do after leaving office is a serious dilemma for most politicians. Some, like the former Labour Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, carve out a new career in the media. She is a regular on LBC and was a contestant in this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, following in the footsteps of her former colleague Ed Balls and the inimitable Ann Widdicombe.
One of the most remarkable re-brandings of recent times is that of Michael Portillo, the man people of a certain age used to love to hate. The former arch Thatcherite has re-invented himself as a national treasure as he travels around the world on trains, amusing us all with his wardrobe of bright pastel suits and his gentle observations on life.
The ex-King of Scotland
The House of Lords has become a haven for many senior politicians, including former First Minister, Jack McConnell, who uses his seat on the red benches to campaign for sustainable development across the globe. Tony Blair, Labour’s most successful Prime Minister to date, sometimes cuts a lonely figure on the national stage, but his global institute offers governments across the world practical advice and support, most recently on tackling Covid-19.
But there is one former political leader who is as immersed in domestic politics today as he was when he was in charge of his party. Step forward Alex Salmond, King of Scotland for seven years until his resignation in 2014. He doesn’t spend his days campaigning for girls’ education, like former PM Gordon Brown, or skulking in his shed, like David Cameron.
Instead, Salmond is engaged in a battle for the SNP’s soul. The dispute between him and Nicola Sturgeon, ostensibly over the court case that saw him cleared of serious sexual assault, is also about the future direction of Scotland’s ruling party.
The First Minister must be wishing that her former mentor, now tormentor, had retired to the golf course with his old buddy, Donald Trump. Rather, he may well prove to be the ruin of her.
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.