What is Trump doing until the transfer of power to Biden?
Having finally conceded, President Trump will spend his final days in office protecting himself and his allies from prosecution and possible impeachment.
In a video posted online on Thursday, President Donald Trump finally acknowledged that a new administration will begin on 20 January, the date of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. This admission, merely a formality in any other election campaign, came after months of denial from Trump.
Since the election on 3 November 2020 much of Trump’s attention had focused on desperate attempts to overturn the result. There was a relentless disinformation campaign; numerous doomed legal attempts and increasingly divisive public appeals, which culminated in the riots in the Capitol on Wednesday.
After appearing to finally step aside and promise to support a peaceful transition of power, what will Trump do in the final days before he leaves office?
Presidential visit to Mexico border wall
One of the most memorable pledges Trump made during the 2016 campaign was to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico, which he would make the Mexican government pay for. After four years in office the 400 mile structure has finally been completed, albeit at the expense of the US taxpayer, and will be the site of a presidential visit on Tuesday.
Trump is expected to travel to the town of Alamo, Texas to highlight the achievement that was intended to be a flagship policy of his. It seems likely to be Trump’s first public appearance since conceding that his time in the White House is coming to an end, and takes on greater significance after his removal from almost all social media sites in recent days.
Presidential pardons in line for loyalists
Accordingly to multiple White House sources the President is planning on unleashing a spate of pardons in his final days in office to offer legal protection to those who have been loyal to him. Trump has already issued a pardon to former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who had admitted to lying to the FBI, and has commuted the sentence of long-term friend Roger Stone.
Reports suggest that Trump is drawing up a list of individuals that he is intending to pardon in his final days in office which includes senior White House officials, family members and even prominent rappers who supported his campaign.
Amongst those in line are Trump’s three eldest children Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka; his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner. There may be pre-emptive pardons for the likes of White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller, personnel chief John McEntee, and social media director Dan Scavino. Bizarely, Bloomberg report that rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black could also be in line for presidential pardons.
There has also been suggestion that Trump may attempt to pardon himself in his final days in office, which could prompt a constitutional crisis in the US. No president has ever attempted to do this before so no one knows how the Supreme Court would rule if it was challenged in the courts. The closest any President has come to this was Richard Nixon, who resigned from office so Vice President Gerald Ford could pardon him.
Trump will be desperate to avoid a premature end
Although he appears to have accepted his fate, Trump is by no means free of further punishment during his final days in office. In the aftermath of the tragic events in the Capitol that saw five people killed, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for Trump to be removed from office before Inauguration Day.
He has already survived impeachment once, but that relied on a Republican majority in the Senate to bail him out. Last week’s Georgia runoff election handed control of the Senate to the Democrats who appear to largely favour impeachment. There is also the possibility that members of his own cabinet may attempt to oust him, using the 25th Amendment to declare him unfit to carry out his presidential duties.
Trump’s video message, calling for a “seamless transition of power”, may have been intended to appease those wondering if he should be allowed to remain in office. If he were to be impeached he would be ineligible to run for president again, something that he has already hinted that he may do. If he wants to retain hope of a Trump 2024 run, he needs to make sure he lasts the remaining days of this term.