Discover more from The Bulwark
On to the next phase of the transition
He’ll never concede. But yesterday, he caved. So much #Losing.
Welcome to the Countdown Journal. There are now 57 days left until the Inauguration of Joe Biden.
Michigan was the dagger that even the hapless and graceless Emily Murphy couldn’t ignore.
But even before she finally triggered the formal start of the transition, Trump had suffered dozens of other cuts — bleeding support from Republicans, the business community, the national security community, and even the ranks of his loyal fluffers. His legal team imploded in a cloud of insanity and recriminations as it began to dawn on Trump that perhaps Rudy Giuliani was not, in fact, the super elite, legal galaxy brain Clarence Darrow of his imagination.
Apparently, Trump was also bothered by Rudy’s hair color.
Meanwhile, Trump continued to get pummeled in one court after another. He lost in Pennsylvania. Again. He lost in Michigan. Again.
For Trump the non-transition was turning into a Groundhog Day in which he was laughed out of one court after another. Fantasies of fraud and vast conspiracies may still live on Newsmax and OAN, but in actual courtrooms, Trump’s game shriveled and died. He had no evidence, no standing, no credibility.
So, now we enter the next phase of the transition. What can we expect?
I. The grief and disbelief of TrumpWorld. They were promised a Great Victory, or at least a coup. They were promised bombshells. They were promised The Kraken. Instead, all they got was a whine and a whimper.
Rush Limbaugh was gobsmacked by the fall of Sidney Powell:
You call a gigantic press conference like that — one that lasts an hour — and you announce massive bombshells, then you better have some bombshells. There better be something at that press conference other than what we got…I talked to so many people who were blown away by it, by the very nature of the press conference. They promised blockbuster stuff and then nothing happened, and that’s just, it’s not good.
Folks are angry.
The Trumpist grifters are beginning to cannibalize one another. Via the Daily Beast:
Conservative operatives and a super PAC with ties to infamous GOP dirty trickster Roger Stone are calling for Trump supporters to punish Republicans by sitting out Georgia’s crucial Senate runoffs or writing in Trump’s name instead. And though their efforts remains on the party’s fringes, the trajectory of the movement has Republicans fearful that it could cost the GOP control of the Senate.
II. Here come the pardons.
III. The Burn It Down Phase? Via the WSJ:
The Trump administration formally shut the door on the Open Skies treaty Sunday, exiting the agreement while moving to get rid of the U.S. Air Force planes that have been used to carry out the nearly three-decade-old accord. …
In a move that could complicate President-elect Joe Biden’s options if he sought to re-enter the agreement, the Trump administration is taking steps to dispose of the two specially equipped OC-135B planes the U.S. has used to carry out Open Skies flights.
IV. The GOP will attempt to rewrite history. Republicans will gradually come out of the tall grass and acknowledge Trump’s defeat. But there will also be an attempt to rationalize their support by insisting that he leaves behind of record of laudable successes. So it’s worth re-upping this brief Year in Review I wrote two days after the election.
But the reality is that on January 20, 2021, Trump will be leaving the White House as a one-term president, rejected by the voters, stripped of power, and facing a world of legal and financial hurt.
He will also be trailing clouds of failure.
It’s worth remembering this: Donald Trump began the year with his impeachment and trial for abusing his power; he badly bungled a pandemic that has infected more than 9.5 million Americans and killed 234,000 so far. His failures and corruption will have a long tail, lingering for years over our culture, economy, and lives.
None of it will look better in retrospect.
He coarsened our discourse, trafficked in racism and poisonous conspiracy theories, and winked at voter intimidation and violent vigilantism. He will undoubtedly continue to do so.
His failed campaign devolved into a series of reckless super-spreader events. All the while he continued to abuse his office for personal gain, lied incessantly, and tried to weaponize the Department of Justice against his enemies. He called men and women who served their country “suckers and losers,” and his financial house of cards was exposed when we got a look at his taxes.
If Trump’s history is any guide, he has saved the worst for last, as he launches his post-presidential grievance movement.
Donald Trump’s final days in office will be like so much of his presidency; chaotic, bitter, corrupt, and shambolic. He will undermine the institutions of our democracy, scatter pardons like skittles, and he will embarrass his friends. He will be petulant and vengeful. He might not even show up for the Inauguration.
But two days ago, the voters threw him out of office. It was a very specific and very personal verdict rendered by the largest vote in American history.
And Trump knows it, even if the pundits don’t.
V. A gradual, but nevertheless jarring, return to normalcy. Biden’s initial appointees are both boring and startling, because it’s going to take a while to get used to a government staffed by experienced and qualified grownups rather than the misfit toys we’ve grown accustomed to over the last four years.
Exit take: We were warned of socialism, but apparently will get Janet Yellen instead. It’s almost enough to make you suspect they were scamming us.
1. Exposing the Morons
Matt Lewis, writing in the Daily Beast: “Sidney Powell’s Ravings Exposed the Right’s Morons & Zealots.”
Between the time of the press conference and Trump’s throwing her under the bus, a lot transpired. Rush Limbaugh raved about Powell’s “impeccable” reputation (for what it’s worth, he’s now singing a different tune). Michael Knowles of Daily Wire tweeted, “This Sydney [sic] Powell press conference is a must-watch. She’s outlining evidence of massive, widespread voter fraud.” Fox Business’s Lou Dobbs introduced her as a “member of President Trump’s legal team,” and described her as “a great American.” Radio host Mark Levin called her a patriot. Radio host and formerly respected Christian author Eric Metaxas called Powell a “hero.” Turning Point USA’s Benny Johnson said, “Sidney Powell should be our first female President.” Glenn Beck had her on the air to spread her story unchallenged, and Newsmax gave her a forum.
2. Just One
“That’s all I’m looking for. Just one Trump defender—literally just one—to stand up and say, ‘Yeah, I was wrong. This guy is dangerous in ways I didn’t fully understand. America dodged a bullet by not reelecting this man.’”
Charlie Kirk, Anarchist?
Four more years! And then four more years after that, amirite?
1. Trump’s GOP is Increasingly Racist and Authoritarian—and Here to Stay
One danger has become abundantly clear: far too many elected Republicans are just fine with Trump’s anti-democratic moves, or at least would not honor their sworn responsibility to defend the Constitution from his depredations—often because they are simply too terrified of their party’s base, and the voracious right-wing media which inflames it.
That partisan media, ever more toxic, is creating a separate America fed by infinite servings of hagiography and disinformation meant to nourish Trump’s cult of personality. Their latest target of opportunity is Fox News, which has thrived on igniting a Republican audience galvanized by fealty to Trump. As Trump works to undermine the election, outlets like Newsmax and OAN are striving to cannibalize Fox’s viewership by outdoing its hysteria in perpetuating Trump’s lies and endorsing his methods