President Donald Trump may have lost his candidacy for re-election, but his presidency and disruptive capacity are far from over.
Trump’s last two months in office could see a flurry of recriminations, executive action, and efforts to make governance more difficult for President-elect Joe Biden.
And while nearly every President has sought to maximize his influence during his final hours in the Oval Office, few have had the contempt and contempt Trump has shown for the institutions of the Presidency and the Federal Government, opening new fronts to possible chaos.
Before he leaves office at noon on January 20, suspected enemies could be dismissed or targeted and allies forgiven, all as new rule-making efforts strain traditional legal limits to power. presidential.
“Once a president is a lame duck, there are fewer controls over his ability to wield executive power,” said Emily Sydnor, professor of political science at Southwestern University.
Without the threat of facing voters again, she said the only restriction on Trump would be traditions of presidential behavior.
“History suggests that these have little weight in this administration,” she said.
As president, Trump has refused to disclose his tax returns to the public, pushed the Justice Department to investigate his political opponents, sacked three chiefs of staff in four years, and flirted with dropping alliances in Europe and the Pacific, among other breaks with its predecessors. He was dismissed for pressuring the Ukrainian government to dirty Biden, the man who would eventually replace him.
Biden won the presidency on Saturday after winning Pennsylvania and Nevada, according to the Associated Press and Networks. Trump has vowed to challenge the election results in several states where he hangs out, alleging without evidence that there was widespread fraud during the vote. In his White House, aides are beginning to resign themselves to the reality that Trump’s defeat is unlikely to be reversed.
The president, meanwhile, has already hinted that he may be considering attacking members of his own administration whom he criticizes for not doing enough to help him politically before election day.
The president appears to have developed particular anger towards his medical advisers, blaming them for not supporting his attempt to reopen the economy despite the coronavirus outbreak. At a rally in Florida on Monday, Trump urged a crowd to encourage him to fire Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease specialist.
“Don’t tell anyone, but let me wait a bit after the election,” Trump said. “I appreciate the advice.”
Biden has previously said he will reinstate Fauci if he is fired by Trump. But other health officials more closely aligned with the president – including the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield and coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx – may not get a lifeline. of Biden if Trump chooses to fire them.
Likewise, the president could remove officials such as Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel – sources of frequent frustration for some in Trump’s inner circle – as punishment.
The President expressed frustration with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General William Barr in the weeks leading up to the election. Trump said the Justice Department should have laid charges against officials involved in the investigation into possible links between Russia and its 2016 campaign before voters voted.
Head of the FBI
Trump also publicly encouraged accusations against Biden’s son Hunter for his overseas business dealings, while complaining that the FBI had opened an investigation into a trailer of his political supporters in Texas that invaded a bus from Biden’s campaign on a highway.
While Barr has largely been a staunch ally of the president, his removal and replacement with someone even more willing to follow political orders instead of conforming to non-partisan prosecution standards might demand some vengeance. And Wray’s impeachment – the second firing of a Federal Bureau of Investigation director under Trump’s watch – would threaten to further politicize the post.
Appointing a special advocate to investigate Hunter Biden would create an unusual political and legal headache for the new president. Biden has pledged to restore the traditional wall between the White House and the Department of Justice. Intervening to shut down such an investigation would risk violating that promise and fan accusations that he was covering up his son’s misdeeds. But allowing the investigation to continue risks creating a scandal in the early days of his administration.
Trump has also made it clear that he believes he has the power to dictate further prosecution efforts and could order career Justice Department staff to charge officials he blames for the investigation into his collusion. 2016 campaign with Russia. Trump has also threatened legal recriminations for members of his own team – including former National Security Advisor John Bolton and Miles Taylor, former Department of Homeland Security staff who wrote an anonymous editorial in 2018 and a subsequent book – for revealing insider information about White House Disarray.
Powers of forgiveness
Trump can also use the period of the lame duck, as the presidents of George Washington have done, to exercise powers of grace in controversial ways. President George H.W. Bush pardoned six officials implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal in the final months of his presidency. President Bill Clinton did the same for his own brother and Democratic mega-donor Marc Rich. And President Barack Obama has offered leniency to WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning.
Trump did not shy away from controversial pardons and leniency for political allies even before the election, offering assistance to people like conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza, media mogul Conrad Black, former governor of the Illinois Rod Blagojevich and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. .
But he’s likely to expand that to include close allies and associates already convicted or facing prosecution, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. And the president could even seek to forgive himself preemptively, preventing a Biden administration from prosecuting him for possible criminal acts, although the legality of this is untested.
Trump could also seek to cement his imprint on public policy in his final weeks in office.
Ahead of the election, Trump said he expected to negotiate a major coronavirus relief package after the vote count. His appetite to do so may have now weakened – especially since any economic advantage is likely to flow to his successor – but the White House will still be involved in negotiations on a bill.
He will also likely face decisions on how to roll out the coronavirus vaccine, which administration officials say could be ready in a matter of weeks. The president may seek to proclaim the deployment in an effort to consolidate his legacy upon exiting the gate. But Trump also claimed that the testing requirements developed by the Food and Drug Administration that delayed release ahead of the election were politically motivated so he could opt out of the announcement process.
Other big priorities could see considerable action in the final days of the Trump administration.
Trump will likely be eager to impose punishment on China, which he blames for the coronavirus pandemic that ultimately doomed his presidency, especially now that he does not need to worry about the economic consequences that could lead to him. affect politically.
Trump could shake the markets by claiming that he will pull Chinese companies off U.S. stock exchanges for refusing to allow U.S. inspectors to review their financial audits – an idea that has been championed by the administration for some time.
For months, the president said his aides had come up with a radical overhaul of the country’s immigration policy. The administration could rewrite visa rules and offer protected status to those brought into the country illegally as children – using a Supreme Court ruling upholding elements of the administration’s immigration regulations Obama as a justification.
But despite Trump’s promise to unveil the plan ahead of the election, it was never released due to objections raised by administration lawyers who questioned the legal justification. Now the president could decide to push the changes forward, leaving it to the Biden administration to sort out the policies and any legal challenges that arise from them.
In anticipation of a possible transition, Senior Assistant Chris Liddell has prepared workbooks of information on the intricacies of government to help Biden’s team navigate the recruiting and security clearance processes. But there is the potential for mass disruption if Trump orders his team to stop cooperating in what has traditionally been a sacrosanct transfer of power.
Trump may also seek to travel in his final weeks in office – both to states he has not visited as president and to areas where he remains politically popular. A farewell tour – particularly to Georgia, where control of the US Senate is expected to boil down to two second-round elections – could both mend the president’s battered ego and underscore his enduring political influence, if he plans to start a conservative media business or stay active. in the Republican Party.
But while there are many opportunities for Trump to wreak havoc in the final weeks of his presidency, there is also the distinct possibility that after losing, his attention turns to more pedestrian matters – like shaving his golf handicap. The president traditionally visits his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida for extended periods during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and may simply decide to extend that vacation.
“Do you think it’s fun?” Trump spoke about the presidency’s work at a rally late last month in Pennsylvania. “I had a great life before that. I had a great, beautiful life. I could go anywhere, I could do anything.”
If Trump has legislative priorities he hopes to enshrine before he leaves office, the expiration of a resolution continuing to fund the government on December 11 could give him his best opportunity.
While Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill may seek to start a fundraising battle in the Biden administration, the president could threaten to veto any new funding legislation – and even force a government shutdown – if the legislators do not integrate its priorities.
The impact of a government shutdown as coronavirus cases increase and the economy remains fragile could prove to be disproportionate. Not only should critical health programs be shut down, uncertainty could shake the markets.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)