If anybody had dared suggest the final days of the Trump administration would ebb away quietly, as that cowardly lion retreated back to Mar a Lago for a gargantuan sulk to the evident relief of much of the nation, they would have been sadly mistaken. All the evidence and experience of the past half-decade points the other way. And so it has been as Donald Trump, his works and his allies and supporters have proven capable of extraordinary mischief, right to the bitter end.
Nevertheless, with only a few days remaining in Donald Trump’s term of office — but still with so much to wreck — in the week after the Trump-instigated mob attack on the Capitol aimed at subverting congressional confirmation of the electoral vote for the November presidential election, a fight back against Trump and Trumpism is beginning to gather momentum.
It is just days before he becomes Donald J Trump, private citizen and the perpetual self-described victim at the hands of prosecutors, creditors, social media companies, Democrats (big “D” and small “d” both) — and everybody who can pile on is beginning to pick the right moments. This is coming even as he lurches around like a blind giant, but one still armed with some dangerous weapons. Eventually, the final act in the Donald Trump saga will have several set-piece scenes of mayhem, even as his harder-edged supporters try their own disruptions.
As further details and more video of the mob’s storming of the Capitol became public, it has become increasingly clear this was not just some over-enthusiastic, riled up crowd that got a bit out of hand on adrenalin, out for some politically fuelled fun and frolics. People died, both from the mob and the police. Other police were manhandled by the crowd, and federal property was damaged or stolen.
Some of the mob came with plastic ties used in place of handcuffs; yet others chanted rallying cries to hang the vice-president and take out their aggressions against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, among other intended victims. A growing number of members of Congress have now publicly spoken about how they realise they were under imminent threats of physical harm or worse, and that they only avoided those dangers as the mob broke through because they had been escorted to safe rooms in the nick of time. Of course, some Republican congressmen refused to wear anti-virus masks and so some of the other representatives sheltering there have now tested positive.
It is also increasingly clear that at least some in the mob were coordinating their efforts via social media, while others had weapons stockpiled in vehicles parked nearby. Moreover, others had apparently carried out a reconnaissance of the building the day before, posing as tourists, and may even have had operational information about the building layout, useful in planning efforts to seize the building or its occupants. Further, and very worryingly, numbered among the mob were at least a few off-duty members of police departments from around the country. That indicates dangers to law and order by forces of law and order.
As a result of all of this, federal law enforcement offices have been on the job to coordinate arrest warrants on identified members of the mob, and asking the public to help identify still more of the mob. (That tip line has apparently received more than 40,000 responses.) There are also reports that there was advance information about the mob leaders’ intentions, but this information was neither coordinated effectively nor taken into consideration as the Capitol’s defence was planned.
In contrast to that lacklustre defence of the Capitol Building on 6 January where the Capitol Police were seriously outnumbered and out-manoeuvered by the mob, preparations to guarantee the safety of the Capitol and the inauguration ceremonies on 20 January should make that day a very different one. There are now thousands of National Guard troops called to active duty from many states for events in Washington and they will secure a much better set of barriers and other crowd control arrangements than on that previous day. The city is now in an official state of emergency, declared by the city’s mayor, and there will be a much better organised, well-coordinated plan of operations among all the various police departments that operate in the city and with the National Guard.
They will have to be coordinated in this way, well beyond the national capital, it appears. There are persistent reports that groups aligned to those in the Capitol Hill attack are planning similar efforts at many state capitals across the country. No one is now taking this as an idle threat, not after the recent Capitol attack and the mob that descended on the state capitol in Lansing, Michigan.
The net result of these plans, rumours, threats, and omens is that, along with the continuing ravages of the Covid pandemic, the upcoming inauguration will be very different from almost any other in recent memory, although Franklin Roosevelt’s 1945 inauguration was seriously scaled back, given the pressures of the World War 2. In Washington, DC, just getting around in the downtown has already become an arduous task and before the inauguration, most streets will be subjected to roadblocks, and many subway stations will be shuttered. Regardless, there will be vast national and international attention on what the president-elect has to say on 20 January, given the ructions of the Trump presidency.
Meanwhile, over at the Capitol, by Tuesday, the House of Representatives had already passed a resolution calling for Vice President Pence to initiate proceedings under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, declaring the incumbent president unable to continue in his duties, failing which the House would vote on the impeachment of the president for inciting an insurrection.
Not too surprisingly, Pence failed to take up this gracious offer and so, after several hours of short, but repetitive speeches by Democrats explaining in rather explicit detail the president’s serious misdeeds — and which in response Republican speakers cluck clucked over the rampaging mob, but who pleaded for national unity and a great kumbaya moment — the roll call was dutifully held for the impeachment motion. For Republicans, this is surely the most public chutzpah moment of modern times, given that they had been cheering on the president for years, regardless of his egregious acts, and 140 of them had actually voted not to accept the electoral vote count — after the mob had invaded the Capitol and chased them all into safe rooms or via escape tunnels out of the Capitol Building itself.
While the end result was unsurprising, what did surprise was that 10 Republican members — the opposition party in the House of Representatives — voted to impeach as well — a number of opposition legislators larger than in any previous impeachment (against Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump the first time around). With that vote, Donald Trump has assured himself a unique place in history — as the only president to have been impeached twice.
In a modest but meaningless aside, Donald Trump had apparently been bludgeoned into recording a message in which he spoke disapprovingly about mob violence and that his movement (what movement is that?) abjures any such uncivilised behaviour. Nobody with an ounce of sense or sanity is taking this very late conversion to adulthood on the part of Donald Trump seriously, however.
With the passage of this second Trump impeachment, the action passes over to the Senate. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell has already publicly broken with the president over his behaviour — muttering darkly that he is considering the question of supporting such a conviction — but still declining to convene the Senate before the previously determined date of 19 January. That would obviously give virtually no time for the Senate to have a trial, let alone call witnesses and summon evidence, although truth be told, everything covered in the impeachment charge had been carried out in public, generating an abundant public record.
What this does mean, however, is that a trial would only really occur after the new president and vice president are sworn in, and the new Senate with its 50-50 party split with the vice president as the tie-breaking vote in favour of the Democrats would come into being. That means New York Senator Charles Schumer would be the new Senate majority leader, and he is certainly no friend of the incumbent president.
It is possible to argue this tactic would be smart politics on the part of the current majority leader so he does not have to preside over a trial and can push it all on to the incoming majority leader. One might ask why have such a trial at all, given it will now be private citizen Donald Trump and not President Trump. The major objective might well be to ensure the appropriate punishment is that he is disqualified from running for any national public office, ie president in 2024. Other punishments might also be forfeiture of any pension money, Secret Service protection, staff and office support and so forth. (A former president now gains those benefits after his or her term of office concludes.)
But Donald Trump’s troubles are now not limited to these questions. He has lost access to his social media platforms which had previously been the way he had augered deeply into the consciousnesses of his followers for years.
But there is yet more trouble for him. The Deutsche Bank, his chief financial backer for years, has informed him he is no longer welcome into their precincts, and there will obviously be a reckoning with the estimated $330-million he is on the hook for personally with them, that comes due in the next several years. Along the way, his current accounts bank has closed his accounts as well. Ouch.
But there has been still more. The PGA of America cancelled plans to have their premier tourney at a Trump golf club, and then the mayor of New York City announced a decision to cancel their contracts with the Trump Organisation to manage the city’s golf course, and its world-famous ice skating rink and carousel as well. These cancellations have cut to the heart of Donald Trump’s self-esteem, given the pride he has taken in them over the years.
But there was still more. A growing list of major corporations has decided to sever any political contribution efforts to any members of Congress who supported the effort to decertify the electoral vote count, making obeisance to Trump a particularly painful and costly exercise.
There are also all those New York State investigations into funding irregularities or potential frauds perpetrated by the Trump Organisation that are going to eat up Donald Trump’s time and vast sums for legal fees, fending off the depredations of these investigations and other likely charges.
Along the way, the main sources of his income, the allure of his branding on hotels owned by others, but run by his shop, will fade rapidly, leaving him with bills to pay from diminished returns from those establishments as well as half-empty hotels such as the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC in the revamped but federally owned Old Post Office Building. Then there are the private golf clubs that are making little profit in the current circumstances of the economy. He may not be a martyr, but he will increasingly become an embittered old man, nursing ever-present grievances against so many, many people.
The incoming president, of course, will have his own challenges. In addition to obvious ones like the pandemic, the need for further stimulus packages and the national economic malaise, there are also a whole host of now-instituted decisions on foreign policy and environmental concerns the new Biden administration will want to untangle and revise quickly. That list does not even include efforts to restart negotiations for a new six-power Iran nuclear agreement, re-accession to the Paris climate accord, or refiguring US-China relations in tandem with allies, or reconfiguring the bilateral relationship with Russia.
Perhaps the Biden administration will just want to see the back of Donald Trump, even without pushing for a Senate conviction, especially since it may be rough sailing in getting 17 Republican senators to join for the two-thirds majority needed.
The almost certain bottom line from all of this that the Biden administration will want to make sure any preoccupation with Donald Trump does not overwhelm the critically important needs for congressional action on every other issue. DM
Marie Curie’s research papers remain highly radioactive to this day.