Only 5 days after Donald J. Trump left workplace, considered one of his aides emailed a lawyer to request approval of a formal-looking seal to be used on statements from the workplace of the forty fifth president.
Margo Martin, considered one of his closest private aides, advised the lawyer, Scott Gast, that consultants had designed a subtly modified seal for Mr. Trump. “They said they changed a few things to avoid trademark issues,” she wrote, asking Mr. Gast if the design was acceptable.
The eventual picture that Mr. Trump’s workforce used — a recognizable eagle from the Great Seal of the United States, positioned in a circle — was evocative of the presidential seal that recognized Mr. Trump with the job he had simply left. And whereas he’s hardly the primary former White House occupant to affix an eagle to his web site, the early conversations about presidential imagery revealed what has turned out to be an necessary obsession of Mr. Trump’s: being seen as a lot as a future president as a former one.
Mr. Trump vacated the White House earlier than midday on Jan. 20, 2021, as required by the Constitution. But from the second he arrived residence to Mar-a-Lago, his members-only membership in Florida, he has grabbed at each alternative to inhabit the function of an incumbent president, together with by placing the everyday trappings of a post-presidency to make use of in attempting to reclaim the workplace.
At a minimal, that method could have helped to assuage Mr. Trump’s bruised ego. But it has indisputably turn out to be an important consider his effort to return to energy.
A majority of Republican voters, polls present, view Mr. Trump not as a “defeated former president,” as President Biden typically calls him, however as a wrongly deposed president whose re-election would amend a grave injustice. Elected Republicans who as soon as privately mocked the conspiracy theories a few stolen election now publicly insist that Mr. Trump was the true winner, out of concern of getting crosswise with their constituents or with him.
This widespread accession to Mr. Trump’s denial of actuality has reaped him monumental political advantages. His posture as a president in exile robbed his rivals within the Republican major of considered one of their most potent accessible arguments towards him. While evoking his presidency has been a web asset for him within the short-term G.O.P. major contest, will probably be used towards him — particularly on abortion coverage — by Democrats and the Biden marketing campaign if he turns into the Republican nominee within the common election.
From the second he started his post-presidential life, Mr. Trump refused to behave like somebody whose days as president had been over.
He shut down any conversations about constructing a Trump presidential library. He clung to categorised authorities paperwork, reveling in his data of the federal government’s closest-held secrets and techniques and exhibiting them off to guests and aides — an act that resulted in considered one of his 4 indictments. “I get to keep my title for life,” he advised a House member in 2017 of the facility of getting been president.
On Jan. 25, 2021, Mr. Trump’s workplace emailed a information launch, indicating the formal opening of his post-presidential workplace, below the heading: “Statement from the Office of the Former President.”
The phrase “former” was by no means used once more. Subsequent statements had been despatched by “45th President Donald J. Trump.”
As he rolls towards the Republican nomination — which might make him the primary former president to win his social gathering’s nomination since Grover Cleveland in 1892 — Mr. Trump is capitalizing on his uncommon standing to twist the method in his favor in methods huge and small.
He has solid himself each because the rightful president and because the inevitable future president. He has used the privileges, pageantry and powers afforded to the presidency to make his rivals look insignificant. And he has infused his marketing campaign with presidential imagery, touring on a aircraft his aides name “Trump Force One” and utilizing his Secret Service motorcade and safety element as a muscular expression of pseudo-incumbency. Uniquely, his lone remaining rival, Nikki Haley, was appointed to be the United Nations ambassador by him and served below him, making her international coverage accomplishments additionally his.
He has additionally used his post-presidency as a defend — each inside and out of doors the courtroom. He claimed presidential immunity from expenses of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election. And his workforce granted information networks’ requests to put dashboard cameras in Mr. Trump’s motorcade on courthouse visits, turning his legal arraignments — there have been 4 in 2023 — into compelling live-TV spectacles.
Asked about Mr. Trump’s use of presidential imagery within the Republican nominating contest, Mr. Trump’s communications director, Steven Cheung, stated in an announcement: “President Trump is the most famous person in the world and he’s running for the White House. The media needs him and his campaign, because their entire existence revolves around what he does.”
Mr. Trump has used his energy because the social gathering’s chief to squeeze Republicans in Congress, intervening within the House speaker races and the present battle over a border safety and Ukraine funding deal. He has used the facility of his endorsement to exert and retain management over the social gathering aggressively.
Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian and author, stated Mr. Trump had been “using the presidency as a steppingstone to getting re-elected, but when you’re an election denier, he’s basically telling the country, ‘I’m actually a shadow government.’”
“So that’s where the waters get muddy,” he added.
In this marketing campaign like no different in American historical past, Mr. Trump has tried to behave extra like a sitting president than a typical candidate. He has obtained most of the advantages of incumbency — the grandeur of the workplace, the deference from rivals and voters — however, up to now, not one of the political repercussions of truly occupying the White House, reminiscent of being held accountable for international wars or inflation.
In the interval instantly after the 2020 election, a few of Mr. Trump’s aides and confidants inspired him to graciously concede his loss. They made the case that if he took credit score for Republican victories in House and Senate races and acknowledged Mr. Biden’s slim win, he would protect a future for himself in American politics.
That future, they believed, was unalterably marred by his election lies and the assault on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021.
Those aides and confidants had been fallacious. Far from ruining him, Mr. Trump’s refusal to just accept his loss — a monthslong match of rage that culminated in a lethal assault on the Capitol — virtually actually helped safe his political future: It saved his grip on the Republican Party and allowed him to run his 2024 marketing campaign as if he had been the rightful occupant of the Oval Office pursuing not more than his restoration to energy.
Mr. Trump — who has inhaled media consideration like oxygen for many years — had no real interest in the quieter, much less seen lifetime of different previous presidents. George W. Bush took up portray and high-paid speeches. Barack Obama gave speeches, performed golf, sailed with rich pals on superyachts and raised cash for numerous causes, together with a presidential library in Chicago.
Mr. Trump performed numerous golf, however the similarities finish there.
Cut off from social media after he was banned from Twitter and Facebook within the wake of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, Mr. Trump established his personal pipelines to voters. He created his personal social media web site, Truth Social; gave interviews to right-wing influencers with their very own platforms; and communicated along with his supporters by way of emailed fund-raising appeals.
Mr. Trump clung to the trimmings of the presidency — as devices of energy, leverage and, some have steered, psychological comforters. Many Republicans have welcomed him behaving as an incumbent. One of his most-covered early stops as a candidate final 12 months was in East Palestine, Ohio, the location of a prepare derailment that President Biden had but to go to. There, he met with native officers and urged motion to assist residents. Mr. Trump’s arrival at a close-by airport and his descent down tall plane stairs from his aircraft had been evocative of an Air Force One arrival.
Mr. Trump additionally by no means stopped behaving just like the chief of the social gathering, holding rallies, intervening in Republican major races and dealing to finish the careers of congressional Republicans who had opposed him. Candidates traveled to Mar-a-Lago to hunt his help. And Mr. Trump made them work for it. He handled their help for his false claims of widespread 2020 election fraud as a litmus check.
In time, he would anticipate these Republicans to return the favor and help him again. They didn’t disappoint.
A President within the Courtroom
Perhaps most notably, Mr. Trump has tried to make use of the powers of his former place as a defensive measure in his legal and civil courtroom battles.
He has asserted immunity, by advantage of his workplace, as a protection for his conduct within the months main as much as the Jan. 6 Capitol assault, in each a legal indictment and civil legal responsibility fits. That declare of immunity is being litigated and is anticipated to be finally determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the civil defamation trial towards him in Manhattan, Mr. Trump talked again to the choose, Lewis A. Kaplan, with out struggling the type of punitive penalties an atypical defendant may effectively have. And whereas Judge Kaplan known as him “Mr. Trump” all through the trial, when Mr. Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba introduced her shopper as her ultimate witness, she stated, “The defense calls President Donald Trump.”
Similarly, in a separate civil case in Manhattan, by which Mr. Trump and his firm had been discovered to have engaged in pervasive monetary fraud, he confronted no penalties for sharply and loudly criticizing the presiding choose, Justice Arthur Engoron of the State Supreme Court, from the witness stand.
And when opposing legal professionals protested Mr. Trump’s filibustering, his lawyer Chris M. Kise steered that Justice Engoron ought to “grant the former president of the United States” — who, he rapidly added, was “perhaps soon to be the future president of the United States — a little latitude to explain himself.”