When President Donald Trump prematurely declared victory early on Nov. 4, claiming that the Supreme Court should make the vote counting stop, he was saying is he would like to retain the presidency without actually completing the election.
The laws that govern elections are a patchwork of 50 states and federal law. No election has ever been certified by the early hours of the day after Election Day.
Trump wanted to ignore election law and declare himself the winner, in what is clearly coup d’état.
Having failed to subvert the election, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who refused to deploy military troops against Black Lives Matter protesters on American streets earlier this year.
President Trump on Monday fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper in what Republicans expect to be the first of several leadership changes during the final two months of his administration.
The president has also indicated to allies that two top officials on his intelligence team are on the chopping block: FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel.
Trump and some congressional Republicans have repeatedly and publicly complained about the two officials, angered that they were not cooperative in pursuing unproven allegations that the Obama administration illegally spied on the Trump campaign, or in Wray’s case, allegations about Hunter Biden’s business dealings.
FBI directors are appointed for 10-year terms, meaning Wray could stay on the job until 2027 if he is not ousted. Haspel was appointed to lead the CIA in 2018.
National security experts are deeply worried about the loss of Esper and questions about whether the acting secretary will be in over his head. They’re also unnerved by the potential for disruption at the FBI and CIA during a presidential transition.
“Esper seems like only the beginning, this is going to go on until noon on Jan. 20 so God help us all,” said Dov Zakheim, a former foreign policy adviser and undersecretary of Defense for George W. Bush.
One administration official said Trump’s anger could extend to public health agencies, whose leaders have at times undercut or broken with the president in giving guidance to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Trump could target Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, the official said.
The president publicly mused at a rally this month about firing Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases. But Fauci is not a political appointee and thus can’t be fired directly by Trump.
The purge could extend to lower level White House staffers in the coming days and weeks. John McEntee, the head of the Presidential Personnel Office, reportedly warned that staff who are discovered to be looking for other jobs will be fired.
One administration source said that some agencies had not received such word from the White House and instead learned of it from the press, and remarked that it was a sign McEntee was concerned about people leaving.
The threat puts White House staff in a difficult position, as Joe Biden has been projected as president-elect and will take office in January, but Trump has refused to concede.
The president’s family and allies have expressed frustration at Republicans they believe have been insufficiently loyal in the days after the election, firing warning shots at those who haven’t been vocal enough about the need for investigations into election fraud that would back up the president’s unsubstantiated claim that the election was stolen from him.
Widespread firings could also complicate the lame-duck period between the election and when Biden takes office.
“Joe Biden is President-elect, and it’s past time for Republican leaders to step up and explain that reality to President Trump before he takes further rash and attention-seeking acts that damage America,” said Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence.
Democratic leaders also expressed alarm over what they view as the president creating a power vacuum in the national security space that could linger for two months until Biden is sworn in in January.
(D-Calif.) accused Trump of seeking to “sow chaos” in the U.S. and around the world in his final days in office.
“The timing of this dismissal raises serious questions about Trump’s planned actions for the final days of his Administration,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Again and again, Trump’s recklessness endangers our national security. It is disturbing and dangerous that, at this precarious moment, our military will now be led by an official who has not been confirmed for this position by the Senate.”
It’s believed FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel could be terminated by the end of the week.
“Esper seems like only the beginning, this is going to go on until noon on Jan. 20 so God help us all,” said Dov Zakheim, a former foreign policy adviser and undersecretary of Defense for George W. Bush. “If Trump is going to pursue a scorched Earth strategy, will the acting secretary stand up to him? I think the answer is probably not.”
Clearing out potential obstacles who have objected to carrying out illegal orders is a sign that Trump is trying to get personnel in place to undertake more dramatic action.
The Electoral College is scheduled to vote on December 14 and Biden is expected to be inaugurated on January 20, so anything Trump is planning could occur at any time.
Republican-controlled state governments on Monday began throwing their weight behind Trump’s plan go to court to challenge the results of last week’s presidential election.
“President Trump’s baseless claims that this election was ‘stolen’ from him through ‘fraud’ will have an effect that lingers long after President-elect Joe Biden has left office,” said Citizens for Tax Justice. “By sowing doubt about the legitimacy of votes not in his favor, the president and his enablers are striking at the heart of America.”
The prospect of a tumultuous power grab appears to be increasing. For years, political comedian Bill Maher has predicted that Trump would refuse to give up power at the end of his term but few others have given credit to such prognostication.
Michael Ellis, a Trump loyalist who was named senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council earlier this year, has been tapped by the Pentagon general counsel to be the top lawyer at the National Security Agency.
Despite his defeat last week, Trump has refused to concede the race, insisting without evidence that the election had been swayed by voter fraud.
The President has forcefully refused to admit defeat and repeatedly peddled lies about mass election fraud while falsely claiming he won the race with “legal” votes.
His allies have fallen faithfully in line with his corrupt efforts to delegitimize the election results and Trump’s lawyers have been attempting to invalidate the results in various swing states that Biden won.
Even Fox News clearly wasn’t buying into Trump’s baseless election fraud claims.
Meanwhile, much of the political world is turning without clear attention to what the current White House occupant is up to.
Trump’s defeat has set off a flurry of activity as would-be successors start to position themselves for 2024 and a battle to lead a Trump-less Republican Party begins to take shape.
On Tuesday, November 10, President-elect Joe Biden planned to deliver remarks in Wilmington, Delaware on the stakes for families across the country in Texas v. California, the Trump administration’s lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
Biden also was to describe his plan to expand access to quality, affordable health care.
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