President Donald Trump continues to howl on Twitter — between rounds of golf — spreading the lie that he won the election he lost, and promising he will be in the White House come January.
Meanwhile, a “bunker mentality” has set in, according to CNN’s reporting, and the first family has canceled plans for Thanksgiving in Florida to instead stay in the White House he’ll leave in just more than two months.
But across the government Trump oversees — with actions at the Pentagon, inaction on the economy and denialism about the pandemic — the President and his allies are undercutting President-elect Joe Biden and harming the American people, even as none of them acknowledge that they’re about to be replaced.
Instead, Trump’s been busy firing officials who admit anything counter to the election-fraud narrative — Tuesday it was Christopher Krebs, the DHS official who confirmed the election was safe from meddling.
Here’s a short guide to how Trump is leaving things for his successor.
Boxing Biden in on foreign policy
A report by CNN’s national security team is emblematic of how Trump’s administration is working actively in ways to make Biden’s life more difficult.
The goal is to set so many fires that it will be hard for the Biden administration to put them all out, an administration official tells CNN in the report.
Trump’s administration is:
- Further removing troops from Afghanistan and Iraq in the final days of Trump’s time as President.
- Contemplating new terrorist designations in Yemen that could complicate efforts to broker peace.
- Rushing through authorization of a massive arms sale that could alter the balance of power in the Middle East.
- Planning a last-minute crackdown on China.
- Floating the idea of a last-minute military strike on Iran, according to The New York Times.
- Building a wall of sanctions that make it difficult for Biden to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal Trump scuttled.
- Sending Mike Pompeo on the first-ever official visit by a US secretary of state to an Israeli settlement.
Intentionally making things more difficult for Biden could set up Trump’s argument for a 2024 rematch, according to experts in the report.
And Trump’s last-minute change of civilian leadership at the Pentagon is part of this effort.
Handing Biden an economic grenade
Trump’s failure to negotiate a new Covid stimulus with Congress will set Biden up for a political fight on Day One about how to help Americans hurt by the pandemic.
Here’s what expires in December without further action:
- Provisions to beef up unemployment insurance
- A deferral on student loan payments
- A paid family leave provision
- Coronavirus relief funding for states whose tax base has been decimated
- And a moratorium on evictions
Trump could potentially address these items with executive orders if he were to focus on them. Regardless, the first major political fight of Biden’s presidency is likely to be this standoff with either a narrowly Republican- or Democratic-controlled Senate.
Trump also signed a temporary delay on payroll taxes this year. Not all employers took part, but with Trump unable to make the tax delay permanent or to forgive it, Biden will have to figure out how not to make the accumulated payroll taxes feel like a tax hike when the bill comes due in 2021.
Weakening American Democracy
The most important of these various nails left under the couch cushions is Trump’s steadfast refusal to accept the legitimacy of Biden’s win, an ultimately futile bit of pique, since Biden will take the oath of office and Trump will no longer be President in January.
Either because he wants to retire campaign debt, seed a new media empire of democratic disbelievers or is personally incapable of admitting defeat, Trump’s actions will have consequences. We keep fact-checking these allegations and theories. They all spin a kernel of something into lies.