Breaking News

Trump threatens more damage on his way out of office, with complicity from the GOP


The final chapter of the Trump presidency has become a crude effort to manufacture what doesn't exist and to deny what does. Having declared long before the first votes were cast that the election was rigged, President Donald Trump and his allies have been mired in a desperate and apparently fruitless effort to prove that it was.

This will end soon enough, but not without damage - damage far more serious than any effect on the president's legacy. Tearing at the integrity of the electoral process to satisfy the bruised ego of the president will leave the country more divided and more difficult for President-elect Joe Biden to govern. The president threatens to burn down the house on his way out the door.

Biden has won the election. The results are not yet certified. In some states, the margins are close. There will be recounts and the Trump campaign is within its rights to pursue them, even if they are not triggered automatically. But reversing counts in enough states to change the reality that Biden has the necessary electoral votes is fanciful.

The spaghetti strategy of lawsuits employed by the Trump team has yet to prove any systematic or widespread fraud, or that any irregularities that might turn up would result in Trump winning where he is losing. Allegations, even in affidavits, are not ironclad proof required in court.

Some of the president's closest allies seem to have lost touch with how elections work. Last Saturday, shortly after networks projected that Biden would become the 46th president, Rudy Giuliani accused the Democrats of trying to steal the election. "Networks don't get to decide elections," he lamented. "Courts do."

Actually, voters decide elections, and in this case, they have. Courts step in when necessary to adjudicate disputes. In 2000, the Supreme Court effectively decided the election by stopping the Florida recount with George W. Bush 537 votes ahead of Al Gore. No one thought it was good that the court decided the election.

Can Biden's Reverse The Margins Of Trump

This year, no state count is anywhere as close as Florida was on the day the recount battle started in 2000. The Trump team hasn't produced anything that would suggest that the president can reverse the margins where he is disputing the results.

Giuliani conveniently ignored the fact that, four years ago, these same networks called the election for Donald Trump, and a lot sooner than they did for Biden this year. Not every vote had been counted then, but the world - and Hillary Clinton - accepted the reality that was clear from the numbers. Clinton conceded the next morning.

For their own reasons, Republican elected officials have decided to become complicit in the charade. Humoring the president or turning away in silence when he abuses the traditions of his office have become ingrained behavior for all but a handful of Republicans in office.

Most Republican leaders and some Trump advisers understand that the election has been decided and that Biden will take the oath of office on Jan. 20. Still, out of fear of presidential retribution and a desire to maintain what power they can in Washington, they risk allowing the fiction to take root among Trump's loyalists that Biden's victory is somehow illegitimate.

These are leaders of a party that over a period of years have systematically sought to make voting more difficult and that this year resisted efforts to make it easier for people to cast ballots in the middle of a raging pandemic by encouraging wider use of mail ballots. They seemed to fear the effect of massive turnout.

Republican officials are afraid of Trump's base and of Trump's hold on those voters. It was enthusiasm for Trump that stoked turnout, which in turn helped Republicans avoid more substantial losses in the Senate and win back seats in the House - two unexpected events. There have been no claims of fraud about any of those results.

Republicans also know that they need their base energized in Georgia to produce maximum GOP turnout for the two Senate runoff elections in early January. Those two races will determine whether Republicans hold their majority in the Senate or find themselves in a 50-50 chamber where Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would have the tie-breaking vote. Offending the president by calling on him to yield to reality could put at risk the party unity they need in those contests, or so Republicans must think.

If he can't have a second term, Trump appears willing to further disrupt the government in his final weeks in office. The firings at the Pentagon this week, and the ensuing installation of Trump loyalists into key positions there, have worrisome national security implications. They also might be just the first volley in a week-long effort to purge the executive branch of officials deemed to be disloyal and to embed Trumpian officials in their place. The president has plenty of time for additional fits of retribution.

Trump's posture has prevented the administrator of the General Services Administration from signing the papers that would give Biden's transition team access to federal agencies. A delay of a few days will have little impact on Biden's ability to form a government in a timely and effective way. A delay of weeks could and likely would.

Andrew Card, White House chief of staff to former president George W. Bush, and John Podesta, White House chief of staff to former president Bill Clinton, who were on opposite sides during the Florida recount in 2000, jointly wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post calling for a Biden transition to begin promptly. "The 2020 election is not like 2000 and should not be treated as such," they wrote.

Biden has been restrained in his response, though he said Tuesday that what is taking place is "an embarrassment," and one that ultimately will not reflect well on the president - a mighty understatement. But the Biden camp will probably start to ratchet up the outrage meter the longer this continues.

Trump may never concede the election, but the orderly transition to a Biden administration is owed to the winners, as Card and Podesta say. Republican coddling of the president is making what should be a simple process all the more difficult. But after four years of the Trump presidency, it is now standard fare for the party - despite the consequences for the country.


No comments

Featured Post