Everything suggests that on January 20, 2021 at noon, Donald Trump‘s presidency is really over. Until then, Trump keeps all his powers as president. What else can he do and accomplish?
American expert Victor Vlam calls Trump a lame duck. “He has lost the election and thus the electorate’s mandate. His situation is similar to a demissionary cabinet.”
Biden needs the remaining weeks to prepare for the next four years in the White House, but that is different from usual. “Normally, the presidential elect and his team already have a lot of contact with the current rulers during this period,” says historian James Kennedy, “But that doesn‘t seem to be the case this time.”
The President-elect must prepare a new government team. Biden must pick out new ministers and appoint some four thousand new officials. These people will then have to read into files, have talks with current officials and be informed of matters that will continue after 20 January. “The question is whether Joe Biden and his people will be given room for this,” says Kennedy. Four years ago, Trump sat on the White House bench two days after the election. Trump is still opposed to election defeat. That’s why Kennedy doesn‘t see this happening soon.
Can Trump just make that? “Yes so far,” explains Vlam. “The General Services Administration must work with Biden to prepare for the presidency. Now that department is run by people from Trump. The head of that department has to sign a letter acknowledging that Biden will be the new president, but so far she has refused to do so, so almost nothing happens.”
obvious that Trump doesn‘t want to know about neighborhoods yet. It will probably be a thorn in the eye that many (international) politicians will now be busy with his successor. “As soon as the newcomer is known, politicians and civil servants start to focus on this,” says Kennedy. “The American policy for the next few years under Biden is much more interesting for them than Trump’s policy for the next two months.”
Biden stated yesterday that he has already spoken to many foreign government leaders:
Trump, too, can‘t do so much by shifts in Congress, explains Kennedy. “The newly elected Congress only starts in January. Until then, the present Congress is still there, but they will no longer make any real big decisions.” If Trump still wants to do something in his remaining days as president, he can resort to presidential decrees. He doesn’t need the approval of Congress for that. Such a decree would allow him to withdraw the US from important alliances and agreements in the last days of his presidency.
“ But remember that Trump remains head of executive power,” says Vlam. “For example, he recently sent out the Minister of Defence, because he has not been sufficiently loyal in the last few months.” The names of the FBI director and the famous American corona advisor Anthony Fauci also sing around. “Trump still has the power to dismiss and appoint key ministries and agencies officials until 20 January. He can no longer be punished for it by the voter, so in that sense nothing prevents him from sending out people he is dissatisfied with.”
In addition, Trump can pardon several more people. This is often waited until the very last moment because such a request for pardon is controversial in many cases. “Think of Bill Clinton for example,” says Kennedy. “He pardoned his last working day as president to his friend Marc Rich who was detained for tax evasion.”
If Trump is no longer president, he loses his immunity. Several lawsuits hang him over his head. A big question is therefore whether Trump can grant himself a pardon in advance, whether or not through a construction. “There is a theory that the president can pardon anyone except himself,” explains Vlam. “Otherwise, the president would be above the law, so there lies – according to this theory – the limit of his power.” But that theory has never been put to the test, no judge has ever had to deal with it. “Whether such a construction will last legally, we simply do not know yet.”
Another option that is mentioned is that Trump will resign shortly before the 20th to make way for Vice President Mike Pence. In the form of President, he could pardon Trump. But that has never happened before and therefore uncertain. “Trump doesn’t get rid of everything. A president can only pardonwhen it comes to federal charges,” explains Vlam. “On matters at state level – as some have been announced by the state of New York – Trump has no influence whatsoever as president.”