As a Joe Biden election win appears increasingly likely, many in Washington, D.C., are beginning to wonder what will happen between Nov. 3 and Jan. 20.
Even if President Donald Trump calmly accepts an election loss, he’ll have 77 days left in the White House until Biden is inaugurated — and many believe things will get even crazier, reported Politico.
“Early in the administration they threw just a lot of stuff at the wall,” said one legal observer of Trump’s war against the federal bureaucracy. “[They said,] ‘We’ve got 100 ideas, let’s just try it all and see what sticks,’ and they weren’t really paying attention to what the odds were whether it got through. It seems like they might try to do the same here — even if it just ties up the Biden administration for a while undoing it.”
Any efforts Trump undertakes to undermine the Biden administration would be caught up in legal challenges that could limit their harm, but Trump could also sow chaos with an even larger flurry of pardons than lame-duck presidents typically issue in their final weeks on the job.
“The pardon power operates in the way he imagines the presidency to operate — you wave your hand and it’s done,” says Quinta Jurecic, managing editor of the Lawfare blog. “I’m absolutely expecting him to do something weird.”
Trump could be tempted to pardon any of his associates caught up in the Russia probe and possibly pre-emptive pardons for his family — or even himself — and close associates such as Steve Bannon, Brad Parscale and Rudy Giuliani.
“The pardon power is the easiest to exercise,” said law professor Jack Goldsmith, former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
Government watchdog groups have already asked archivist David Ferriero to preserve Trump records, as required by law, because the administration has already shown a disregard for its legal obligation to create and preserve presidential records.
“They’re just going to not care about the Records Act — just like they didn’t care about the Hatch Act. It falls into the category of nuisance laws that they just don’t think apply to them. Like what’s going to happen to them if they don’t?” said one legal observer. “That’s less indicative of him and more about the type of people he has brought around him.”
Many electronic records are automatically backed up or preserved, but watchdogs fear the administration would be tempted to destroy other sensitive and controversial records — regardless of the law.
“Golly, the documents they must have,” said one observer. “Email is regularized, but the documents kept in safes and SCIFs, next to burn bags? It’s an open temptation.”
There’s also growing concern the administration could ease up on efforts to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine, and some worry the president would be tempted to launch a military action on his way out the door.
“I can imagine a low-level constitutional crisis if he starts being aggressive,” said one former official.