Yesterday's report by Asawin Suebsaeng for the Daily Beast was an LOL moment for most of us-- but not all of us. Señor Trumpanzee, he wrote, wants a good airport named after him. I suggest a future Ramat Trump (Trump Heights-- רמת טראמפ) airport in Israeli-occupied Syria, although as of June the site remained deserted and all but two letters of the entrance sign had been stolen by patriots. "[I]n the past three weeks," Suebsaeng reported, "Trump mentioned that 'no president' wants an American airport that has a bad reputation or crumbling infrastructure named after them... [A]t one point since the 2020 election, offhandedly asked what kind of 'paperwork' was necessary to get an airport named after a former president... Trump, very likely, will have a number of allied state and national politicians eager to demonstrate their devotion to him with an airport-naming push. But the process isn’t supposed to come until after he leaves office. The fact that it’s on his mind now, amid an exploding coronavirus crisis and accompanying economic problems, demonstrates how far his attention can drift even during weighty and difficult moments."
Señor T better hope that Max Boot doesn't get a vote on airport naming. His Washington Post column yesterday, Trump Saved The worst For Last hints that he might vote against it. He noted that "Presidents usually experience a poll bump after they leave office... If there is any justice in the world (admittedly a big if), that won’t happen with Donald Trump. If posterity needs any reminder of how awful he has been, all it will have to do is look at his final days in office. Trump has saved the worst for last-- and there is still a month to go before he is evicted from the White House. Trump’s singular focus since the election has been on overturning the results even at the cost of destroying U.S. democracy. For more than six weeks, Trump has been spewing conspiracy theories about nonexistent election fraud-- claims that have been rejected in 59 court cases and counting, including by Trump-appointed judges."
On Friday, as the New York Times first reported, Trump met at the White House with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a pardoned felon, and attorney Sidney Powell, who was fired from the Trump legal team after promoting conspiracy theories about the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez too wacky even for Trump. Trump reportedly discussed with the duo Flynn’s idea of declaring martial law and having the military “rerun” the election-- or, failing that, appointing Powell as a special counsel to probe (nonexistent) election fraud.
...While Trump is focused like a laser on his election grievances, he has all but checked out of the fight against a pandemic that has already claimed the lives of more than 316,000 Americans and that is projected to kill more than 560,000 by April.
...The pandemic isn’t the only threat to America that Trump is ignoring. U.S. government and corporate computer systems have been massively infiltrated, apparently by Russian hackers. “The magnitude of this ongoing attack is hard to overstate,” warns Trump’s former homeland security adviser Thomas P. Bossert. “The Russians have had access to a considerable number of important and sensitive networks for six to nine months.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attributed the assault to Russia. But Trump took to Twitter, contradicting Pompeo, playing down the severity of the attack and claiming that “it may be China (it may!).”
Thus the Trump presidency ends as it began-- with Trump denying the reality of Russian cyberattacks and serving as an apologist for the dictator in the Kremlin. Gregory F. Treverton, the former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, told The Post that Trump “behaves so much like a paid Russian agent. If you look at the string of his actions and pronouncement, the only consistent interpretation that you can logically draw is that he’s in their thrall.”
...There are many other Trump transgressions since the election. He has purged the senior leadership of the Pentagon and installed conspiracy-mongering loyalists in their place. He has fired a senior cybersecurity official, Christopher Krebs, for attesting that the election was free of fraud. He unloaded on Attorney General William P. Barr for not doing more to politicize his department, leading to Barr’s departure. He has pulled U.S. troops out of Somalia just as a new al-Shabab plot to attack the United States was uncovered. He has held holiday parties that undoubtedly spread covid-19. And there is certainly worse to come-- including a pardon-palooza that would put Trump cronies and family members beyond the reach of the law.
If future generations are tempted to romanticize the Trump presidency, all they will have to do is look at his final days to see why historians are likely to regard him as the worst president in U.S. history.
Meanwhile, Washington Post reporters Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan looked at the mess-- and the sabotage-- Trump is leaving for Biden, who will be facing a long list of crises Trump botched or ignored: "a massive cyber intrusion, a still-raging global pandemic, a slowing economic recovery and a lingering reckoning over the nation’s racial tensions." Trump has used the transition to make matters worse and has denied "the still-expanding cybersecurity breach that many experts blame on Russia, even as its impact has spread to a growing number of federal agencies. The delayed and turbulent transition process could complicate the Biden administration’s ability to address the challenge and shore up the nation’s cyber defenses."
The Post trio emphasized that "The result is a situation without precedent in American history: One president ending his term amid crisis is seeking to delegitimize a successor and floating the prospect of mounting a four-year campaign to return to power.
Trump’s moves to handicap his successor also involve foreign policy, the latest signal that the idea of politics stopping at the waters’ edge may be a relic of the past.
At the Pentagon, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper after the election and abruptly announced a swift drawdown of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. One former senior administration official said Trump’s precipitous withdrawals of troops in the Middle East could leave Biden “a real mess.”
“He’d do almost anything to complicate the life of Joe Biden,” the official said.
Yohannes Abraham, executive director of Biden’s transition, said Friday that while it is receiving cooperation from officials in several agencies, the Pentagon was among several “pockets of intransigence” hampering the president-elect’s team.
The comment came after acting defense secretary Chris Miller abruptly halted all briefings for the incoming administration and announced a “holiday pause” beginning Saturday.
...[S]ome governors complain of vaccine shortages and lawmakers haggle over attempts to claw back the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending powers shortly before Biden takes over. The Treasury Department has already pulled the plug on some of the Fed programs, returning money Biden would’ve been able to use to prime the economy.
Trump’s suggestion that he may run for office again gives him a personal stake in seeing Biden fail. He will waste no time highlighting any stumbles by his successor, aides said. He is looking to begin campaigning in earnest soon and is likely to criticize Biden daily-- a break from previous presidents who have at least temporarily stayed out of the fray.
“I think Trump is trying to seed the landscape with land mines,” said Chris Whipple, author of “The Spymasters” a book about the CIA. “He’s going to make the transition as painful as possible for Biden at every turn.”
According to Bloomberg News' Jonathan Bernstein, one thing that worked out well enough, because of Trump's complete disinterest in governing, was a foolish Trumpanzee priority in the pandemic relief and stimulus bill-- the 3 martini lunch deduction-- which Democrats let the GOP get away with in return for expanding tax credits for low income families and the working poor in the final package.
Bernstein wrote that Señor T told Mnuchin that "he didn’t much care what was in the bill as long as it included this provision. (And surely it’s a coincidence that restoring this deduction will once again subsidize high-priced establishments such as those Trump owns.) I’d be very surprised if congressional Republicans would’ve made this deal on their own. As for the Democrats? This particular log-roll seems like a big win for them. The business deduction may be lousy policy and a subsidy for the rich, but it’s relatively harmless overall-- and liberal policy experts are thrilled with what they got in return. So it’s a win for Trump, a win for Democrats and a loss for congressional Republicans. If there’s been a deal with any similar configuration over the past four years, I can’t think of it.