On Tuesday, columnist Jeff Hauser offered a stark warning to Democrats in The Daily Beast: There is no reason to think that President Donald Trump, who has respected no other norm of office or constitutional precept, would honor the democratic process in 2020. Indeed, warned Hauser, he might use his presidential powers to actively twist the system into giving him another term.
"Does President Trump have the means, motive, and opportunity to tilt the 2020 election?" wrote Hauser. "The answer, unfortunately, is yes, yes, and yes. And it behooves Democrats to understand that now, before it is too late."
"First, means," wrote Hauser. "Even a normal president has some ability to manipulate government spending and contracting decisions in such a way as to goose, say, purple state economies at the expense of dark blue and red states. Think it’s bad that Trump appears to be manipulating Air Force decisions to benefit his Scottish hotel? Amid a potentially slowing economy, think about how many ways Trump could shift resources across the entire federal government to, say, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, or Tempe, Arizona, at the expense of New York City or Birmingham, Alabama."
Hauser noted that Trump has already done things like this, from sending troops to the border during the midterm, to having his cabinet secretaries threaten agencies that disagree with him, to intimidating private businesses from negotiating policy with blue states.
"Next, motive," continued Hauser. "Remember 'Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing' was a Trump statement at a 2016 press conference. Also recall the Trump team’s willingness to sit down with Russian assets offering dirt on Clinton. That was in the service of winning an election. Now he has the added motive of not losing one. Trump, lest we forget, has ample reason to fear that indictments could well await him should he not prevail in 2020."
"So means and motive have been established. What about opportunity?" wrote Hauser. "Well, it’s best to commit a crime if you control law enforcement. With Bill Barr as attorney general, it’s fair to surmise that Trump’s fear of federal law enforcement is not especially high."
The only bulwark against these abuses, Hauser concluded, is House Democrats — if they are willing to use the tools the Constitution gives them. There is impeachment, of course, but there are other things short of that that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) can use, like blocking Trump's executive actions with provisions in must-pass legislation.
"Big picture, House Democrats must signal to Trump that they are up to the task of being the last line of defense against a federal government being organized as a partisan tool," concluded Hauser. "Otherwise, their 'let the voters decide in 2020' plan might have a fatal flaw."