Why hasn't anyone heard of Grinnell College

Trump's dangerous endgame: He could still do a lot of damage in the last few weeks as US President

But none of that means that the elected but still incumbent president is not politically active - or better: above all, could still be. The opposite is the case: Trump is concentrating his forces on a strategy that consists of three elements:

Firstly, he continues to fight legally against the election result. Second, he positions loyalists to make life as difficult as possible for president-elect, Joe Biden. And third, Trump is in the process of creating facts wherever possible in the remaining two months - this applies to domestic policy, foreign policy and, above all, trade policy.

Dispute with the Fed

Actually, a president is considered a "Lame Duck" during the transition period. But constitutional experts warn: The president can still cause a lot of damage in the last few weeks of his term of office. "There are no limits to his power during this phase between the election and the assumption of office of the successor - neither for pardons, nor for the appointment of judges or the issuing of executive orders," says Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School.

"And that's very scary because he's so unprincipled and corrupt," added the constitutional lawyer and founder of the American Constitution Society. “There has never been a president who was so willing to break all the rules. This president has nothing to lose and he is a very vengeful person. "

Trump has already provided the first examples of this in the past few days. On Tuesday he fired cybersecurity chief Christopher Krebs. Finance Minister Mnuchin started a dispute with the central bank on Thursday.

It is about the extension of aid programs, which Mnuchin now wants to stop. These programs include, for example, loans to small and medium-sized companies or the purchase of municipal securities. Fed Chairman Jay Powell is convinced that both measures would have stabilized the financial markets.

Trump had dismissed Secretary of Defense Mark Esper the week before. Observers in Washington assume that Trump could also fire the heads of the intelligence agency CIA and the Federal Police FBI.

The irritation and damage that Trump has caused since he was voted out three weeks ago can hardly be overlooked. But what else can we expect in the coming days and weeks?

Trade policy - punitive tariffs within a few days by decree

There is also a threat in trade policy over the next two months. In his current situation, who should prevent Trump from inflicting punitive tariffs on China and Europe? That would make the foreign policy start more difficult for Biden, who values ​​a healthy transatlantic partnership.

Second, attacks on Trump's favorite enemy, China, are a great way to keep Trump's base happy. The political fate of Trump also depends on whether he can continue to mobilize his political base.

The president has a great deal of power in trade policy. He can order punitive tariffs overnight by decree if he feels like it. They can then come into force in a few days. It has happened many times in the past three years.

That is why economists are also wondering whether it was wise on the European side to impose punitive tariffs on the US during the transition in the dispute over illegal subsidies for Boeing, however WTO-compliant they may be. "At this point in time, I consider the EU punitive tariffs to be the completely wrong signal," says Gabriel Felbermayr, head of the Institute for the World Economy.

The president had repeatedly threatened to impose punitive tariffs of 25 percent on European car imports. Even if his own party is against it and the American auto industry warns of harm to the domestic industry - what does the president care? A brilliant commercial aggression keeps his base happy and complicates his successor's start.

Foreign and Security Policy

The risks in foreign and security policy are no less. Here, too, the White House has the greatest leeway to make decisions on its own without Congress. Trump has already made use of this. At the beginning of the week, the acting defense minister, Christopher Miller, announced that he would accelerate the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and limit the number of soldiers on site to 2,500 each by January 15.

With this, Biden is presented with a fait accompli five days before the start of his term of office. Trump also met with harsh criticism in his own party. Even Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who has been loyal to Trump so far, is against this decision. A hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan "would hurt our allies and please all those who want to harm us."

McConnell, like many others, fears that the region may experience a period of instability.
Trump is also said to have thought about a military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, US media reports. However, his advisors had warned him not to escalate the conflict in the final weeks of his presidency.

Trump's erratic behavior coupled with the fact that he continues to block the transfer of power could be exploited by other countries, security experts warn. “The fact that Biden cannot attend the safety briefings harbors some risks for the country,” says Martin Flaherty of the renowned Fordham University in New York. "The fact that Trump has fired the Secretary of Defense is not exactly good for our security," he says.

Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton, expects Trump to keep a list of enemies that he will fire in the coming weeks, he said in an interview with the Washington Post.

Trump's relationship with China could also complicate things further for Biden. For example, the president recently banned investments in shares of two dozen Chinese companies by executive order. The ban won't take effect until next year, though, and Joe Biden could easily reverse it.

However, that could only have been the beginning. According to media reports, the government is considering sanctions against high-ranking politicians or companies on the pretext of human rights violations in Hong Kong or threats to national security.

That could bring the US-China relationship to a new low. Biden will take a tough line against China in some areas, but is also relying on closer cooperation in the fight against climate change and the pandemic.

Confidence in the legal system is eroding

In Washington, the experts assume that Trump will primarily make use of his power to issue pardons. This is customary for presidents at the end of their term of office. But Trump, feared, could take it to extremes. The Republican "can pardon all his friends, no matter what crimes they have committed," said security expert Flaherty.

That in turn will make it more difficult for law enforcement officers to take action against Trump himself. "If people like Education Minister Betsy DeVos and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are pardoned, then prosecutors cannot lure them with impunity to get them to testify," says the professor. Some proceedings against Trump are already underway and will pick up speed after his term ends.

There is also speculation in political circles about whether Trump could pardon himself. This case has never happened in the history of the USA, so there are no clear court rulings on it. Legal experts don't believe Trump would get away with it. But in order to check whether the pardon would last, a federal attorney would have to indict Trump and the then former US president would then have to refer to his pardon. A judge would then rule the case.

Tribe points to a more likely scenario: Trump could resign briefly so that Vice President Mike Pence can pardon him. “Nixon and Ford did it that way back then,” he recalls.

After all, a pardon would only cover violations of federal law and would have no effect on state-level claims. This could keep the two lawsuits filed by Attorney General Letitia James and the Manhattan District Court, which concern insurance, tax and banking fraud, among other things.

“The allegations are serious enough that he faces a few years in prison there. This option is definitely on the table, ”explains Tribe.

Violated democratic values

The biggest damage Trump does with his behavior is long-term: With his relentless claim that the election was “stolen” from him, “the president is undermining trust in the electoral system,” says Peter Hanson, a political professor at Grinnell College in the US - State of Iowa.

Trump has already failed with many lawsuits, but the Republican does not give up his unsubstantiated theories on electoral fraud. Apparently with success: Around half of Republicans believe that Trump “legitimately won” the election, according to a recent poll by Reuters and Ipos. Almost 70 percent of those surveyed consider the election in favor of Biden to have been rigged.

What the metaphor of the “stolen election” means for the next four years is clear: no constructive cooperation between both parties in Congress and an increasingly poisoned political culture across the country.

With a destructive policy to the goal

It's not unlikely that Trump's strategy could work out in the end. It is not even ruled out that the incumbent president could achieve his most important short-term goal: preventing Biden from taking over the presidency.

Trump hopes that Republican representatives in the respective electoral bodies will refuse to certify the votes cast and thus the transfer of power cannot take place on time. Most recently, two Republicans in Michigan refused to certify the results in important Wayne County, causing a national outcry. A few hours later they finally gave in and then tried again to change their mind.

This sets a dangerous precedent. "A democracy only works if you can trust that the election results will be correct," says Hanson. "If the voters lose this confidence, it is very dangerous."

Economy is rehearsing the insurrection

Business representatives now see it that way too. According to a report in the New York Times, more than 100 top managers wrote to Trump asking for Joe Biden to be recognized as the winner. This includes CEO Gerage Walker of the financial house Neuberger Berman as well as the president of the private equity firm Blackstone Jon Gray. "Every day that the orderly transition to the next president is delayed, our democracy weakens in the eyes of our own citizens and the stature of the nation on the global stage dwindles," says the draft for the letter. "Withholding resources and vital information from the coming administration is putting the public and security of America at risk."

The vast majority of his party, on the other hand, has Trump on his side. Few have congratulated Biden on winning the election so far. On the one hand, there is a tactical electoral calculation behind this. The runoff election for the two Senate seats of the state of Georgia will take place in early January. If the Republicans fail there, they will also lose their Senate majority. And a divided party doesn't necessarily increase Republican chances to vote in Georgia.

On the other hand, many Republicans still fear Trump's still large electoral base. In other words, if you annoy the president, you also endanger your own re-election, as Joshua Wilson, who teaches political science at the University of Denver, explains. MEPs "place more value on short-term benefits than on upholding longer-term and more abstract norms."

These abstract norms, however, are what the American political system supports. In the end, the big loser in this development could not be Trump or Biden. The biggest loser in this development is the once proud American democracy.

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