The Trump Endgame
What, exactly, is the Trumpian endgame?
Here is a look at some of the actions taken by the Trump administration in the past few days:
The OMB is moving forward with a Trump budget request for February.
The Office of Management and Budget is actively working on its budget request for February, weeks after President-elect Biden will be sworn in. The news, first reported by The Washington Post, is further evidence that the Trump administration is not acknowledging that Biden will be the next president.
The Trump administration is vetting new hires for a second term.
The White House Presidential Personnel Office (PPO) is currently in the process of vetting candidates for federal job openings that begin next year, which was first reported by The Daily Beast. As Asawin Suebsaeng notes,
The office, which is tasked with staffing the federal agencies, is headed by Trump uber-loyalist and purge-overseer John McEntee. And it is still contacting listed references and conducting background checks, even though major networks called the 2020 presidential election for Biden on Saturday.
Trump has purged senior officials at the Pentagon, and has appointed loyalists in key positions.
The president, via Twitter, fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who had balked at the idea of sending active duty military troops into cities to squash civil unrest. Esper also distanced himself from the infamous Trump Bible photo-op. The Defense Secretary will now be Christopher Miller, a Trump loyalist with a penchant for sidestepping formal channels. Oh — and this move by Trump may be illegal, as the Senate-confirmed Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist is the first in line to fill a vacancy, according to 10 U.S.C. 132 (b).
Additional figures appointed to top Pentagon roles also include Anthony Tata, who called President Obama a “Muslim,” a “terrorist leader,” and “an anti-Semite,” as well as Kash Patel, a former Devin Nunes staffer who attempted to discredit the Russia probe.
The US Attorney General, Bill Barr, authorizes federal prosecutors to examine voter fraud allegations.
The highly unusual move for the country’s top federal lawyer to probe elections, which are performed by individual states, have alarmed some. Richard Pilger, who headed the Election Crimes Branch of the Justice Department, resigned in protest over the Barr memo. Barr is attempting to prove substantial voter fraud “prior to the certification of elections.”
Mike Pompeo doing Mike Pompeo things.
At a State Department briefing, Secretary Pompeo announced that “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”
The comment, its seriousness still in question, received quick, bipartisan backlash. Former National Security Advisor John Bolton said, “I think it’s delusional for Mike to say that, and I must say I think he’s eviscerated his credibility internationally.”
There was one fan of the comment, however. The president retweeted the video, adding “that’s why Mike was number one in his class at West Point!”
With that backdrop, I must ask again — what is the endgame here?
The president’s lawyers are currently dropping, to use the sports terminology, an “0 for,” as they are 0–12 in their lawsuits. The average recount will change the vote total by about 400 votes, and for Trump to win, he would need 12,000, 14,000, and 49,000 votes changed in three states, according to Peter Baker.
Even Trump’s closet allies have acknowledged the reality of the electoral situation. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson referred to Trump as “the former President” in Parliament the other day, and Bibi Netanyahu congratulated Biden on his victory.
It’s over. And it’s been over.
It seems, on some unspoken level, the president knows that. His Twitter account has morphed into an odd Fox News-bashing machine. Trump is “eyeing a digital media empire to take on Fox News,” according to one recent report. His gaze seems to be elsewhere. The failure to acknowledge Biden as the victor appears to be an ego-saving maneuver less than an authentically held belief that he was reelected.
Given these circumstances, the most likely outcome is the following: Trump’s court losses continue to mount, more Republican lawmakers gradually (and publicly) reach out to Joe Biden, Trump’s support will fade, and he will leave. Trump won’t concede, but he will leave. He will whine on Twitter to an ever-shrinking audience. Trump will continue to claim he won an election that he lost decisively.
Then he will do what all great grifters do. Find the next gig.