First things first: Even if Donald Trump does not want to take note of reality – the 46th President of the United States will be sworn in on January 20, 2021 in Washington, and his name will most likely be Joe Biden. But since there are still 64 days until then, and because Trump is Trump, the big question is: what can the Republican still do until then?
MISSING THE MOOD
Apparently at the top of the list of priorities is his successor to make the start as difficult as possible. This is why Trump refuses to cooperate with Biden’s transition team and incites his supporters by claiming that his election victory has been stolen. To a large extent, they believe this, as surveys suggest. Biden will have the Herculean task of convincing this part of America that he is a legitimate president. This goes hand in hand with the danger that the Republicans in Congress, under pressure from the grassroots, will enter into a fundamental opposition that makes it almost impossible for the Biden government to negotiate the necessary compromises.
PRESSURE FEDERAL STATES
The states are due to certify their final results by December 8th and report them to Washington. On December 14th, the 538 electorate will vote on the next president. It is speculated again and again that states in which Biden won, but whose local parliaments are controlled by Republicans, as in Pennsylvania and Michigan, could not stick to the result when appointing the electorate for the “electoral college”. For example, by claiming that there was election fraud.
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There is theoretically this possibility, and Trump has already spoken in this direction. But in both states the governors belong to the Democratic Party, they have to sign it. It is also unlikely that courts would allow this step.
START A WAR
Trump is proud that no war was started during his tenure. That could explain why he was evidently dissuaded from the idea of a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. According to the New York Times, he asked at a meeting on Thursday in the Oval Office, among others, his Vice Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff Mark Milley and Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller whether he would be against Iran’s most important nuclear site in the coming weeks could proceed.
That could have meant Natans, as the newspaper writes, where twelve times as much slightly enriched uranium is stored as allowed under the International Nuclear Agreement of 2015, the agreement from which the United States withdrew under Trump. His advisers warned him against an escalation of the conflict at the end of his presidency. Trump could quickly impose new sanctions to make it difficult for Biden to make a new diplomatic start, which Great Britain, France and Germany are hoping for.
Instead of risking a war, Trump prefers to continue withdrawing troops. Before the 2016 election, he had promised his voters to end the “endless wars”, at least American involvement in them. He wants to keep the promise.
On Tuesday afternoon (local time) Defense Secretary Miller announced that the number of soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq would be reduced to around 2,500 each – by January 15, that would be just five days before Biden’s swearing-in. According to CNN, around 4,500 US soldiers are currently stationed in Afghanistan and 3,000 in Iraq. Most of the soldiers could also be withdrawn from Syria and Somalia.
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Such a step had been expected at least since the dismissal of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other high-ranking Pentagon employees a week ago. Among other things, the former army officer Douglas Macgregor had been appointed chief adviser to Miller. Macgregor is known as a critic of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
DEALING WITH CHINA DIFFICULT
Relations with Beijing are already one of the greatest challenges for the new administration in Washington. Trump has escalated the trade conflict with China, which he also accuses of being responsible for the corona virus. How the US under Biden will deal with the world’s second largest economy in the future is also of enormous importance for Europe. So Biden has to decide whether to allow punitive tariffs on Chinese imports amounting to 360 billion dollars or use them to make concessions, for example on climate protection.
On Monday, he said the US and its allies must counter China’s growing trade influence. Trump could make it much more difficult for his successor to improve relations again. That is what it looks like: on Thursday, he had an “executive order” ban investments in Chinese companies with links to the military.
That Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol next to Biden on January 20th and him good luck in the new office wishes is difficult to imagine. Not only because, in his own words, he is a bad loser, but also because he faces several criminal proceedings after the end of his term of office.
Therefore, there is speculation that he will resign before that and then allow himself to be pardoned by his Vice Pence, who would take over government until Biden’s inauguration. It remains to be seen whether this would stand in court. He would also give the impression that he was guilty.
Considerations that Trump will simply withdraw to his property in Florida at some point and skip the handover to Biden sound more likely. For the “disruptor in chief” who likes to break with tradition, this could be the right exit.