What is Trump up to?

One cannot forget that until his term expires on January 20, Trump remains the commander-in-chief, whose orders must be obeyed if they’re lawful

Can anyone dismiss the possibility that Trump wants a Pentagon chief who can order the military to take steps that might help keep him in power because of an election result that he claims is fraudulent?
Can anyone dismiss the possibility that Trump wants a Pentagon chief who can order the military to take steps that might help keep him in power because of an election result that he claims is fraudulent?

Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Trump campaign is still predicting that he can still ‘win’.

In a recent article in The Washington Post, Andy Card (formerly George W. Bush’s chief of staff) and John Podesta (formerly Bill Clinton’s chief of staff) – who were on opposite sides in the 2000 election and the infamous Florida recount – argue that it is imperative that President-elect Joe Biden be acknowledged so that his transition can operate with maximum effectiveness at a time of national challenge. They argue that while Trump is fully within his rights to pursue legal action or demand recounts, for the good of the country and with the rest of the world watching, “America needs to come together and start a smooth and peaceful transition of power.”

Contrary to what the Trump camp is claiming, there is no indication that there is evidence to back up claims of massive voter fraud in court. But, even so, Trump is losing by massive margins in key states – 150,000 votes in Michigan and by nearly 50,000 in Pennsylvania. Isolated irregularities would not convince a judge to invalidate that many votes.

But this attitude could belie something more sinister.

When President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus declared an implausible landslide victory in an election in August, the United States and other Western nations denounced what they said was brazen defiance of the voters’ will.

Yet, just months later, President Trump and many of his supporters are borrowing from Mr. Lukashenko’s book by declaring Trump the winner of an election, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Journalists from The New York Times contacted officials representing both political parties in every US state and no one reported any major voting issues. Trump’s actions place him among other such anti-democratic leaders as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia. The US being the leader of the free world is already part of history.

Experts warn Trump risks “creating a new model” for like-minded populists in Europe and elsewhere.

So what is Trump’s game? One thing is sure: The man hates being seen as a loser. Tricking his 70 million supporters into thinking his second term was stolen will also be useful if he runs again in 2024.

But another theory is bound up in a complex constitutional strategy.

While media organizations have called the results, the election is not official until it is certified by individual states. When Americans cast a ballot for the president, they are effectively voting for a proxy: a slate of electors who correspond to the number of electoral votes in each state. These are distributed nationwide roughly reflecting the population of each state. Those electors are then formally appointed, and they vote for the president in January.

Is Trump hoping to convince Republican legislatures in key states to appoint electors that favour him rather than Biden? This would be a flagrant defiance of the voters’ will, though technically possible. However, some Republican leaders have already indicated they won’t play ball, and in many states, it is illegal for the so-called electors not to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote.

But Trump has tried the unthinkable before.

Just dismissing Trump as a bad loser is America’s way out of having to face – an improbable but possible – unprecedented US Constitutional crisis and many believe that, come what may, Trump will leave the White House on the 20th January.

But are Trump’s actions just the tantrums of a bad loser?

There might be something sinister behind Trump’s sudden firing of Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper. Trump’s ‘termination’ of Esper by tweet last Monday surprised many, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, who – according to reports – was lunching with senior Pentagon officials when the news broke.

Pentagon officials were similarly stunned by Trump’s choice of Christopher C. Miller, director of the National Counter Terrorism Center, as acting defense secretary. The mystery is whether the Esper firing is simply an act of pique and petulance by a president who is fuming about having lost his re-election bid, or whether this 11th-hour reshuffle has a deeper and potentially more dangerous purpose. Trump has already used counter-terrorism personnel to quell protests and he may use them again if people protest in the streets, while simply claiming that such demonstrators are ‘terrorists’.

Can anyone dismiss the possibility that Trump wants a Pentagon chief who can order the military to take steps that might help keep him in power because of an election result that he claims is fraudulent?

One cannot forget that until his term expires on January 20, Trump remains the commander-in-chief, whose orders must be obeyed if they’re lawful.

The other Jason

Just when everybody thinks that we’ve had enough of Jason Azzopardi and his misadventures in Tel Aviv, the other Jason – Jason Micallef – pops up with the idea of organising something called Christmas in the City.

I have no doubt that Jason Micallef – as Chairman of the Valletta Cultural Agency – is facing the daily grumbling of Valletta shop-owners who are at the end of their tether, mostly as a result of a substantial loss of business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

His ‘solution’ was to organise a month-long activity programme in Valletta during December – while the COVID-19 pandemic rages on!

Jason Micallef announced this in a press conference together with Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia who explained that the Malta Tourism Authority was forking out a €50,000 ‘investment’ to allow free access to the MCP car park during the days of the ‘Christmas in the City’ events. How this ‘investment’ will attract tourists to spend Christmas in Malta is beyond me.

For Julia Portelli to put her foot in it once was pardonable, but doing it again is ludicrous.

Concerns were immediately raised by both the Medical Association of Malta and the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses. They were followed by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health, Chris Fearne, saying he was not informed of the initiative. Talk of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing!

The upshot seems to be that the events have vanished into thin air but the free parking remains...

More in Blogs