Sunday, October 17

Trump is more erratic than ever (Analysis)

(CNN) — Turns out there are no nights of silence in the Trump era.

Even on Christmas Eve, even after a humiliating defeat, even as Americans try to reflect on what has been, for many, the worst year of their lives, President Donald Trump seems determined to maintain a relentless pace of breaking the rules. as his term ends.

No one expected him to quietly fade into retirement. And no one, at this point, is particularly forced to pay attention, a fact that Trump seems well aware of as he desperately seeks to catch the spotlight for the duration of his shine, even as his staff are instructed to clear their desks and clean. your microwaves.

The effect is a president more erratic than ever. Although he has all but disappeared from public view, Trump is wielding his remaining executive powers to spiteful effect, ensuring that his presence is felt even when hiding in virtual isolation. Rather than spontaneous demonstrations or yelling under his helicopter, Trump introduces himself in pre-produced videos and, as always, tweets.

All his actions seem designed to offer the other branches of government who share the same level of equality a taste of what he can do, and the damage that he can inflict, in the days when he is still president.

By pardoning convicted liars, corrupt loyalists and war criminals, Trump has reminded the judiciary that, if he wants, he can reverse his work. Launching a vague surprise attack on carefully crafted stimulus legislation lets lawmakers know that it is still in the game, even if it stayed out of the negotiations entirely and seemed confused about exactly what it is against.

So concerned is Trump with his final actions, which also include his futile efforts to devise a way to stay in office, that advisers weren’t sure whether the president would leave the White House for his annual pilgrimage south to Mar-a. -Lake.

Ultimately, on Wednesday he left the White House for the first time in days, ignoring advice from health experts about staying home for the holidays to take a trip to his Florida property, where earlier this week, a group of students called a large party without masks in the Donald J. Trump ballroom.

Hoping to disabuse the apparent notion that Trump has practically abandoned his governing duties, the White House included an unusual note on his empty Florida itinerary: “As the holiday season approaches, President Trump will continue to work tirelessly for Americans. His schedule includes many meetings and calls.

Without overcoming the elections

A few hours earlier, Trump had gathered Pennsylvania Republican state lawmakers for lunch at the White House, apparently unfazed by repeated defeats in state and federal courts in his attempt to challenge election results there. Trump has aggressively courted Republican members of state legislatures, hoping someone, somewhere, will help him reverse the Electoral College results. It has not yet been successful.

As Air Force One landed in Florida, Trump made another call for a special counsel to investigate his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, a message that perfectly coincided with the departure of Attorney General William Barr, whose last day was Wednesday, and who has said publicly, the election was free of widespread electoral fraud. Barr’s replacement, Jeffrey Rosen, declined to say in a recent interview whether he would appoint a special counsel if Trump demands it.

Shortly after, Trump retweeted a call from one of his supporters to Vice President Mike Pence for him to refuse to ratify the results of the Electoral College on Jan.6, a prospect that has captured his imagination even if it remains completely impossible. Trump has recently told people that Pence is not doing enough to fight for him while his presidency ends.

In the middle, Trump announced more pardons for well-connected supporters, including Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose crime involved luring his brother-in-law into having sex with a prostitute with a hidden camera recording him.

Chris Christie, who was the prosecutor in the case before being elected governor of New Jersey and entering Trump’s orbit, once called it “one of the most disgusting and disgusting crimes” he has ever prosecuted. But Kushner’s proximity to Trump through his son Jared appears to have been enough to secure clemency – a factor, some White House officials have privately speculated, that could be driving the young Kushner’s limited intervention in the efforts. of his father-in-law for annulling the election results. Kushner traveled with Trump to Florida on Wednesday after returning from a trip to the Middle East, where he was praised by foreign officials for his efforts to secure agreements to normalize relations between Israel and Arab nations.

Others included in the latest round of pardons were the criminals indicted by Robert Mueller, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, whose loyalty to the president did not appear to go unnoticed. Mueller, in his final report, extensively documented how Trump had pointed out to Manafort and Stone the possibility that they could receive pardons during their criminal proceedings if they followed him. They did so and pardons were delivered diligently.

The pardons extend Trump’s streak of exercising his clemency powers for criminals loyal, well connected or close to his family, erasing guilty pleas or jury convictions for even the most depraved acts. While all presidents issue controversial pardons at the end of their terms, Trump appears to be advancing at a faster pace than his predecessors, showing little inhibition in rewarding his friends and cronies using one of the more unfettered powers of office.

Pained but far from humble after his electoral defeat, advisers say Trump is trying to maintain control of what he can, while he can, in the final days of his term. The fact that the chaos Trump intends to cause in the final month of his term is coming into sharper focus just as the country enters a traditionally quiet stretch, which this year has become calmer due to the still rampant coronavirus, only increases the feeling of a captive capital against its will.

Throw your party ‘under the bus’

As Trump left the White House, he refused to stop and answer questions about his veto of a defense bill or his unexpected video in which he ripped apart the $ 900 billion stimulus package that Congress had negotiated with his administration. , leaving Americans with the need to guess when or if the relief they had been promised the day before would materialize.

Trump had long vowed to reject defense legislation over an unrelated demand that it also repeal a law that protects internet companies from liability for what is posted on their websites. The bill would also require the military to rename bases that were named after Confederate figures, something Trump said in his veto message amounted to an attempt to “erase history.”

This potentially establishes Trump’s first presidential veto override vote, one that could pit members of his own party against him. It’s a position that doesn’t seem to particularly concern him, given his parallel rejection of the stimulus package and the government spending bill that all Republican leaders had backed.

In the video rejecting the measure, Trump complained about a litany of federal spending, claiming that the orders had nothing to do with covid relief. The expenditures were actually included in a general spending bill that became a legislative vehicle for stimulus and is not part of the aid bill itself.

And a closer inspection of them revealed that the things Trump was complaining about fit almost exactly what the White House had requested in its 2021 annual budget, which was released earlier this year.

Even the president’s main allies in Congress don’t seem to know what Trump is doing. Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy, in a call with members of his conference Wednesday, said Trump has not explicitly pledged to veto the joint coronavirus relief and government funding measure. Instead, he somewhat ambiguously told House Republicans that they needed to find a way to address the president’s concerns.

That did little to quell the frustration of some members. Rep. Don Bacon, a Republican from Nebraska, said Trump had thrown Republicans, who voted for the package in large numbers, “under the bus,” according to one person on the call.

A Republican official said Trump was simply seeking revenge on Republican Senate leaders, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and No. 2 House Republican John Thune, who helped negotiate the package. Both have discouraged efforts to challenge the Electoral College results next month.

“Trump’s tantrum has nothing to do with the size of the check or the expense; he was fully aware of the negotiations conducted on his behalf by (White House Secretary Mark) Meadows and (Treasury Secretary Steven) Mnuchin and never said anything, “the official told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “It’s about McConnell and Thune recognizing the inevitable. When it comes to venting anger and seeking revenge against the millions who lose unemployment assistance the day after Christmas and millions who lose apartments and millions of small businesses that go under, there is no competition – your ego always comes first.

However, it is not only members of Congress who acknowledge Trump’s defeat. White House staff received an email Wednesday detailing the next exit process, including how to pack their desks, clean their refrigerators and microwaves, and information on the schedule for the delivery of their paychecks. final, according to an email seen by CNN.

A few hours later, another email arrived informing them to ignore the previous message. No reason was given for this, but the White House administration office said “updated information will be shared in the next few days.”

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