Trump is using the last few days to lock in the policies and make Biden’s task more difficult


WASHINGTON – Voters have decided that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. must guide the country through the next four years. But on issues of war, the environment, criminal justice, trade, the economy and more, President Trump and top administration officials are doing what they can to make it harder to change direction.

Sir. Trump has spent the past two weeks hunting in the White House, furious about a “stolen” election and refusing to accept the reality of his loss. But in other ways, he acts as if he knows he will soon travel and shows none of the reverence that presidents traditionally give their successors in their last days of office.

For the past four years, Mr. Trump has not spent much time thinking about politics, but he has shown a penchant for striking back at his opponents. And with his encouragement, senior officials are running counter-clockwise to pull troops out of Afghanistan, secure oil drilling contracts in Alaska, punish China, carry out executions and prevent plans that Mr. Biden had to have to restore Iran’s nuclear deal.

In some cases, like the executions and the oil contract, Mr Trump’s government plans to act just days – or even hours – before Mr Biden is inaugurated on January 20.

In a large number of departments and agencies, Mr. Trump’s political appointments go to extraordinary lengths to try to prevent Mr. Bite in rolling back the president’s legacy. They fill vacancies on scientific panels, push to fill rules that weaken environmental standards, appoint judges and rush their confirmations through the Senate, and try to remove health rules that have been in place for years.

Ultimately, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to expand important emergency lending programs that the Federal Reserve had used to help keep credit afloat for businesses, state and local governments and other parts of the financial system. He also moved to get back much of the money that supports them, which prevented Mr. The bite’s ability to use the central bank’s great powers to curb the economic fallout from the virus.

Terry Sullivan, Professor of Political Science and CEO of The White House Transition Project, a non-partisan group that has studied presidential transitions for decades, said Trump did not behave like previous presidents who were interested in how their last days in office shaped their legacy.

“They are increasing tensions in Iran, which could lead to a confrontation. “The economy is thinking and they are not doing anything about unemployment benefits,” he said.

It is a last norm broken by Mr. Trump – and a stark contrast to the last Republican president who handed over power to a Democrat.

Former President George W. Bush deliberately left it to his successor, Barack Obama, to decide how to save the car industry and whether he would approve Afghan troop increases. And when Congress demanded negotiations on the bank’s rescue, Mr. Bush aside and let Mr. Obama cut a deal with lawmakers even before he was inaugurated.

Helpers for Mr. Bush said the outgoing president would leave Mr Obama with a range of political options as he began his presidency, a mindset clearly reflected in a 2008 email on the status of US forces in Iraq from Joshua Bolten Bush’s Chief of Staff at the time to John D. Podesta, who drove Mr. Obama’s transition, just a week after the election.

“We believe we have negotiated an agreement that gives President-elect Obama the authority and protection he needs to exercise his full powers as Commander-in-Chief,” Mr Bolten wrote to Mr Podesta on 11 November 2008. in an email later sent publicly by WikiLeaks. “We would like to offer you and your staff a full briefing as soon as possible.”

It has not been Mr. Trump’s approach.

The president has continued to deny Mr. Biden briefings and access to agency officials – delays that the president-elect has said threaten to undermine the country’s response to the pandemic. And far from trying to help Mr.Biden’s team, Mr. Trump spent more than two weeks actively seeking to undermine the legitimacy of his victory.

Mr. Biden and his top aides have not publicly criticized the president’s political actions at home or abroad, adhering to the tradition of having only one president at a time. But the president-elect has promised to move quickly to undo many of Mr Trump’s domestic and foreign policies.

It will likely start with a flash of executive action in his first days in office as well as an aggressive legislative agenda during his first year.

Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers make no attempt to conceal the fact that their actions are intended to deliberately hamper Mr. The bid’s political possibilities, even before he begins.

An administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to not being allowed to speak publicly said that in the coming days there would be more announcements, especially related to China, that Trump advisers believe Mr. The bite would try to improve conditions.

White House spokesman Judd Deere defended the administration’s actions, saying the president was elected because voters were “tired of the same old, business-as-usual politicians who always promised to change Washington but never did.” ” Sir. Trump, he said, had reversed rules and brought responsibility to agencies and “remains focused on the important work.”

Some previous transitions have also been hesitant. Incoming officials from the Bush administration accused the exciting Clinton White House of minor malice, last-minute forgiveness to friends, and delays due to the controversial 2000 election.

Sir. Trump has long claimed that after his election, he faced an insidious effort to undermine his transition because of the investigations that were underway into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia. And there were documented cases of Obama officials making one last effort to put roadblocks in the way of what they expected would be Mr. Trump’s political reversals on immigration and other issues.

In his inaugural address, Mr Trump still said that Mr Obama and his wife had been “magnificent” in carrying out an orderly transition and thanked them for their “gracious help” throughout the period.

And rarely in modern times has a president and his allies been so conscious in their desire to hack the incoming government that Mr. Trump has been facing Mr. Biden.

“It does not match anything we experienced,” said Denis McDonough, who served as Mr. Obama’s chief of staff and was part of Mr. Obama’s team during the transition from the Bush administration. He said Mr Trump’s actions in the last days of his administration were heralded by his determination to suspend agreements reached by Obama on climate change and Iran’s nuclear program – something presidents rarely do.

“It’s a violation of this norm,” McDonough said.

Some of Mr. Trump’s actions are anything but permanent, such as the appointment of judges with life appointments or the appointment of his supporters to government panels on terms that extend beyond Mr. Biden’s probable term of office. Once that is done, there is not much the new president can do to turn them around.

But they are not the only nominated officials trying to rush through.

Among the others are two nominees for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, who will serve until 2024 and 2030, respectively, a trio of potential members of the Federal Election Commission to serve six years, as well as nominees for the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, who , if confirmed, would prevent Mr. Bite in installing majorities on these bodies until well into 2021.

Other actions may be reversed, but are designed to charge a political price for doing so.

Since the election, Mr Trump has ordered the withdrawal of thousands of troops from Afghanistan, with Mr Trump aiming to halve an already dismantling force of 4,500 when he leaves office, and defying advice from some top generals.

Sir. Biden’s vision for deploying US troops is not radically different: he has said he supports only a small number of combat forces, primarily tasked with fighting terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. But Mr Trump’s last – minute withdrawals could force Mr Biden into an unwanted confrontation with Democrats in Congress if he decides he needs to return to the modest status quo before the election.

Analysts say Mr Trump’s withdrawal of troops also deprives the United States of any leverage in the ongoing peace process in Afghanistan between the Taliban and the Afghan government, potentially enabling the Taliban to achieve important military gains.

Trump officials are also working to impose new sanctions on Iran that could be difficult for Mr. Bitten to turn around for fear of opening up to accusations that he is gentle over one of the country’s most dangerous opponents.

The sanctions could also undermine any move by Mr. Bitten to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, a move that would require giving Iran economic respite after years with Mr. Trump’s narrowing.

“I think you’ll see a pretty quick clip of new actions by January 20,” said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which often consults the Trump administration about Iran.

At an Oval Office meeting last week, Mr. Trump asked his senior advisers what military options were available to him in response to Iran’s storage of nuclear material, although he was deterred from pursuing the idea. Any military action would undermine Mr. Biden’s attempt to reset US policy.

Similarly, Trump officials continue to take punitive action against China, which is likely to further press the tense relationship with Beijing that Mr. The bite will inherit. Last week, Mr. Trump issued an executive order excludes Americans from investing in Chinese companies with ties to China’s military. Administration officials say more steps are on the way.

Mr. Mnuchin’s shutdown of emergency lending programs this week could also have long-term consequences for Mr. Biden as the new president fights to stem the economic breakdown of the pandemic. The programs from the pandemic era are run by the Fed, but use the treasury money to insure against losses.

Sir. Mnuchin defended his decision on Friday, insisting he followed Congress’ intention to urge the Fed to return unused money to the treasury. But it will be Mr. The bite that is allowed to deal with the consequences. And restoring the programs would require new negotiations with a congress already locked in over Covid relief.

In the summer of 2008, Bush White House officials sent a note to agency officials warning them to pack new rules – and not try to rush new ones just before the next president. Mr. Trump does the opposite.

The Danish Environmental Protection Agency is in a hurry to try to finish the work with one new rule it will change the way the federal government counts costs and benefits, an adjustment that may make it harder for Mr. Bite to extend certain air or water pollution rules.

In health and human services, the agency moved just after election day to adopt a rule that would automatically suspend thousands of agency rules if they are not confirmed individually to be “still necessary” and “have appropriate effects.” The agency itself called the radical plan – realizing it would tie the hands of the next administration.

Brian Harrison, the agency’s chief of staff, called it “the boldest and most significant legislative reform effort ever undertaken by HHS”

Michael Crowley, Nicholas Fandos, Maggie Haberman and Jeanna Smialek contributed with reporting.



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