Lots Of Presidents Have Considered Resigning, But Only One Actually Did

Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

According to John Raines, who serves as head of political risk at IHS Markit, the possibility of Donald Trump resigning as president has a real chance of happening if Democrats win back Congress in 2018. How many U.S. presidents have resigned from office? A President Trump resignation would be nearly historic — but he wouldn't be the first.

Only one president has resigned: Richard Nixon. Two others, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached. In 1974, before the House of Representatives could hold a vote on previously approved impeachment resolutions against him, Nixon chose to resign rather than be removed from office. By then, Nixon's involvement in the Watergate scandal had become so undeniable, and his reputation so damaged, that his removal would have been the inevitable result if he hadn't first resigned.

Speaking to CNBC, Raines hypothesized that Trump might opt to step down from the presidency rather than face the consequences of actions his opponents in Congress might take. A Democratic majority would not only make getting the necessary votes for Trump's impeachment easier, but the House of Representatives would also have the authority to publish his tax returns.

If the Democrats win in 2018 as far as the House of Representatives, they can then actually publish the tax returns of the president. So is there something in those tax returns that could actually cause damage to the president? All of a sudden he feels compelled to do something like resign.

Talks of Trump's resignation have recently intensified after his widely criticized response to the violent Charlottesville rally. In an interview with LADbible, former Vice President Al Gore gave Trump one word of advice: "Resign."

Tony Schwartz, who ghostwrote Trump's 1987 book The Art of the Deal, predicted last week that the president would resign by the fall. "The circle is closing at blinding speed. Trump is going to resign and declare victory before Mueller and congress leave him no choice," he wrote. "Trump's presidency is effectively over. Would be amazed if he survives till end of the year. More likely resigns by fall, if not sooner."

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Trump would not be the first to at least consider quitting the job of leading the nation. John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower all reportedly considered giving up the job for different reasons. John F. Kennedy vowed during his 1960 to resign if the presidency if the job's duties forced him “to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest.” Ronald Reagan said he'd resign if his mental health declined.

Trump himself has not ruled out the possibility of resigning. During the 2016 campaign, when asked if he would quit the job, he flashed what the New York Times described as a "mischievous smile" to reporters and said, “I’ll let you know how I feel about it after it happens.”