Will Trump survive his term of office 2?
What else the "lame duck" Trump to High Noon could come up with
The bill is paid on January 20th, more precisely: when the sun approaches its highest level. Since 1933, the US Constitution has been pouring what seems to be borrowed from a western film in clear words: According to the 20th Amendment, the term of office of a US President ends exactly 77 days after the election - at noon. So high noon for Donald Trump. Because he - the elected US President has emphasized time and time again - hates losers. Now he is one himself. And now has to put up with a new nickname for the last two months of his tenure: Lame Duck, lame duck.
While most of his predecessors only got embarrassed after eight years of having the usual power but no longer with the necessary political mandate, Trump was hit after four. When election winner Joe Biden moves into the White House on January 20, 2021 after his inauguration, the short but disruptive Trump era will come to an end. Until then, however, the Republican, who was so plucked in the election, will be firmly in the saddle - at least in fact - including supreme command of the US Army.
History shows that the USA can also be threatened with homemade hardships in such transition periods. When Abraham Lincoln succeeded the "lame duck" James Buchanan in 1860, seven states abandoned themselves between election and inauguration, resulting in civil war. Three decades later, during Benjamin Harrison's "transition" to Grover Cleveland, the United States plunged into a deep recession - busily fueled by the Republicans. Back then, the Republicans who were voted out refused to collaborate with the newly elected Democrat in the White House. Now history could repeat itself.
No more "Ws"
While Bill Clinton had all "Ws" removed from the keyboards before George W. Bush took over the computers in the White House, according to a legend, in 2000, Trump's refusal may cause the country to suffer far greater hardship - only late the new duo Joe Biden and Kamala Harris received official briefings, access to Corona-related information and also to the multi-million dollar funds priced in the US budget for the transition. The fear that Trump's delaying tactics will slow Biden's work from the start is increasingly overshadowing the Democrats' joy at the election victory.
Between Albuquerque and Anchorage, one or two people are already worried about what Trump, who has not admitted his defeat to this day, could come up with in his final weeks in the Oval Office.
In his less than four years in power, Trump issued a total of 192 "executive orders" - far more than his predecessors George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Observers believe that it is quite possible that he will now resort to this - legally impeccable - means. The upcoming President Biden could repeal these decrees again, in turn by executive order - but this would further slow down the political ambitions of the Democrat.
The historian Allen Lichtman from the American University in Washington thinks this approach is likely, despite all the unusualness of Trump: "We know that he does not care about democratic norms or historical usages," he recently told the US portal Vox. Because the "checks and balances" mechanisms in Congress are already largely tying the hands of the president, Trump has little choice if he still wants to create facts politically.
In contrast, another "superpower" of the president is not subject to any of the usual controls of US politics. Until 11:59 a.m. on January 20, Trump can pardon whoever he wants - a "right of kings," as critics say. If his predecessor Obama had shown mercy on a record 330 convicts - mostly with petty criminals in the drug field - Trump could envision a completely different dimension of "clemency".
Similar to the former spin doctor Roger Stone, whom Trump pardoned shortly before his arrest for false statements regarding Trump's election campaign, other confidants are also waiting for the placet of their former sponsor: his former election campaign manager Paul Manafort, for example, who has been sentenced for tax offenses since May 2020 False testimony served under house arrest.
Trump, it has been whispered in the corridors and hallways of political Washington for years, could even hope for mercy himself in the end: According to the persistent rumor, the president could step down a few days before the end of his term in office and withdraw from his automatic successor Mike Pence to pardon. At least when it comes to indictments in federal courts - the long arm of the US presidents does not extend to the state level.
Actually, according to political scientist Rebecca Lissner from the Center for Security Studies at the US University of Georgetown, the lead weeks between the election and the handover served exactly that: a handover. But what is "actually" about Donald Trump: "Usually the outgoing president explains to his successor the situation in which the country is, including information about ongoing or planned military operations, for example. But there is no law that forces Trump to do so" said Lissner to the Londoner Guardian. This leaves room for going it alone.
It was only on Sunday that the USA finally withdrew from the "Open Skies" agreement that the NATO states concluded with Russia through reconnaissance flights. The New Start Treaty, which expires in February and restricts the nuclear arsenals of the USA and Russia, could also be targeted by the outgoing US president.
Iran, on the other hand, is a topic of its own. Joe Biden has set himself the goal of sitting down at the same table with the Tehran regime and getting a return to the nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Trump had canceled. New sanctions - let alone a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities - could severely weigh on Biden's efforts even before Biden has even started. Only last week reported the New York Times of the President's mental games of having another attack carried out in his final weeks as Commander-in-Chief of the US Army - a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) suggested that Iran has far more nuclear material than the JCPOA allows. But his advisors urgently advised him against it.
Most of the time, as history teaches, presidents try to cement their place in the history books at the end of their term of office. Trump, who is one of only three "one-term presidents" in recent history, is actually already safe in this place.
Nobody else has appointed so many US top judges in such a short time, namely three, most recently the strictly conservative lawyer Amy Coney Barrett, who succeeded the recently deceased liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg - for life. But the Trump era is also having an impact on the levels below, he appointed 200 judges within four years, and it is quite possible that some - mostly conservative - personnel will be added here, which will be filled by the outgoing president. According to US historian Lichtman, "Hire and Fire" - this principle of quick personnel decisions so excessively applied by Trump - could mark Trump's last weeks in the White House.
A first foretaste: Mark Esper, the disgraced defense minister who was fired at the beginning of last week. Due to a corresponding executive order from October, Trump can now actually - from federal employees to astronauts to the minister - and act as he likes. One thing is certain: Trump's well-known slogan "You're fired!" should ring more often in Washington in the coming weeks. (Florian Niederndorfer, November 28, 2020)
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