What remains of Trump’s presidency? Tantrums and flirting with autocracy

Stephon Johnson | 11/12/2020, midnight
The next two months of President Donald Trump’s term could determine whether the country remains a democracy.

The next two months of President Donald Trump’s term could determine whether the country remains a democracy.

One week after losing the presidential election to Joe Biden, an election he refuses to concede, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday and appointed Christopher C. Miller, the now former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, to the position making him the fourth defense secretary under Trump.

“I am pleased to announce that Christopher C. Miller, the highly respected Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately,” Trump stated on Twitter.

In response to the news, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sounded the alarm on what Trump could attempt in the 60-plus days between now and Inauguration Day.

“The abrupt firing of Secretary Esper is disturbing evidence that President Trump is intent on using his final days in office to sow chaos in our American democracy and around the world,” said Pelosi. “Continuity and stability are always important during a presidential transition; they are absolutely imperative at this moment, as this historically erratic administration prepares for its departure.”

Esper and Trump clashed earlier this year over the president’s desire to send the military into cities rife with protests over police brutality. Both parties also fought over Esper’s willingness to help Congress in its pursuit of removing the Confederate names from military bases. According to sources, Esper had a resignation letter ready to go back in June due to these clashes with president Trump.

Four senior officials in the Department of Defense were fired or had resigned this week and were replaced by those who are loyal to Trump.

Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the presidential election and the Republicans’ willingness to side with him put America at a crossroads. That crossroads could lead to a constitutional crisis.

With multiple lawsuits accusing states and/or voters of engaging in fraud to steal the election from Trump, the official tally could take weeks and maybe months.

Trump and his campaign have filed lawsuits in Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania going so far as demanding that Pennsylvania delay certifying election results.

With U.S. Attorney General William Barr issuing a memo calling for investigations into voter fraud, members of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said his actions were unprecedented and unbecoming of his position.

“We condemn Attorney General Barr’s post-election attempt to weaponize the Justice Department to breathe life into President Trump’s baseless and unsubstantiated claims of vote fraud,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in an emailed statement. “Barr’s attempt to interject and activate federal prosecutors is clearly part of a coordinated attempt to sow chaos and discord, and undermine confidence in the electoral outcome. Americans will see this move for what it is—a naked political ploy—and it will not succeed.”

In an emailed statement the conservative-leaning Judicial Watch fired back and said that Biden hasn’t won anything yet and claimed that results were changed after Election Day (despite states just counting up all votes).

“Joe Biden is not ‘president-elect,’” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Changing results after Election Day raises significant legal and constitutional concerns, and President Trump should use available legal and constitutional remedies to help ensure the election results can be trusted by the American people. It is not normal for multiple states to be counting presidential votes for days after Election Day. And it raises significant concerns about the validity of post-election counts.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even played with the notion of a coup when, in responding to reporters’ questions about working on Biden’s transition on Tuesday, said there would be a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” The uproar over the comments sent Pompeo to Fox News later that day to state that he was joking and said there would be a “smooth transition” regardless of who’s in the White House.

“That’s what I was speaking to today. I think it’s important for not only the American people, but the whole world, especially our adversaries, to know that we will achieve this in a way that’s deeply consistent with the American tradition and keeps us all safe here at home.”

Pompeo’s joke hasn’t landed well in a time where the American public are on edge over Trump’s refusal to concede.

Here’s how Trump could stay in office despite losing the election: delay, delay, delay.

A process, known as The Interregnum, goes on for 35 days concluding Dec. 8, which is the deadline for states to appoint the people who make up the Electoral College. On Dec. 14 electors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia meet to officially cast ballots for the presidential election. Congress then meets for a formal count of the vote Jan. 6. But if Trump continues to contest the votes and allege fraud around that time, Congress could decide which electors for which states are allowed to cast ballots.

The Trump administration could then appoint Republican electors in states where they hold the legislative majority.

Despite all of this, when asked by reporters about Trump’s refusal to concede, Biden called it “embarrassing.” When asked if the GOP will work with the Biden administration during his presidency, Biden said, “They will.”

The AmNews contacted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for comment and didn’t get a response. However, on Twitter, the congresswoman said that Democrats shouldn’t fear Trump or the Republican Party.

“Trump routinely targeted some of the popular & respected movements & figures - both politicians and non politicians- bc the right wants Dems to run away from our strongest assets,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote after Biden’s victory. “Strategy can be nuanced & we’re a big tent, but we don’t have to run scared all the time. Be proud!”