Trump’s final days: Pardons, executive orders, and legal jeopardy will dominate
President Trump’s public schedule for the day after stormed the Capitol was pointedly terse.
“President Trump will work from early in the morning until late in the evening,” said the guidance note from his press office. “He will make many calls and have many meetings.”
The White House has used a similar formulation for days, much to the irritation of insiders who complain it provides ammunition for haters who think the president does nothing but watch cable news all day. But those are the president’s wishes, and such is the pattern set for his remaining time in office.
The administration was already hollowing out before Christmas as staffers found other jobs and accepted an election defeat that Trump denied, and the president’s public appearances dwindled as he fumed and plotted with a shrinking circle of advisers.
Now, he finds himself under fresh pressure after urging his supporters to march on Congress and refusing to condemn the ensuing violence. He has been condemned by world leaders he might have considered friends, and Washington swirls with new talk of impeachment and whispers that Cabinet secretaries are discussing invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from power.
It leaves him with almost two weeks to contemplate what is left of his presidency and watch as more officials are expected to leave, following the departure of first lady chief of staff Stephanie Grisham and deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger this week, among others.
“He is a lame duck and a lame duck who just lost the Senate,” a senior administration official said. “There is not much he can do. And that might not be a bad thing.”
He is not powerless, however. Since his defeat, Trump has issued 12 executive orders. Several were designed to ramp up pressure on China, while others included statements on coronavirus vaccine distribution and the order of succession in the Department of Defense.
There could be more to come. On Thursday, officials were considering expanding an order banning United States investment in alleged Chinese military companies, according to Reuters.
The White House declined to offer any specifics other than to say the president remained hard at work.
“President Trump and the entire administration continue to do the work of the American people and advance the priorities of the forgotten men and women of this country while also preparing for a smooth transition to a new administration,” deputy press secretary Judd Deere said.
And there is the fun stuff — the trappings of office that Trump has clearly enjoyed.
On the day after a violent mob attacked the Capitol, Trump entertained the family of Gary Player, one of his favorite golfers. Video posted by his grandson showed a Marine pianist entertaining guests in the entrance hall.
Player was one of three sports superstars, along with golfer Annika Sorenstam and the late Olympian Babe Zaharias, to be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
So far, his weekend looks unlikely to be busier than his weekdays.
On Friday, Trump is expected to fly to Camp David, where he will spend the weekend.
Jeanne Zaino, professor of political science at Iona College, said the other big issue for departing presidents was the question of pardons.
Trump issued a string of pardons and commutations in the week before Christmas. Many were for loyalists and friends. Among them were Republican operatives Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, as well as his son-in-law’s father, Charles Kushner.
Time is running out for other figures, such as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or more controversial names.
“The first thing is whether he will wreak any more havoc,” Zaino said. “Then, the big question is whether he pardons himself and any of his family members.”
Pardoning himself, she added, was a source of contention among legal and constitutional scholars and likely to trigger future battles.
And then there is the 25th Amendment. A former official told the Washington Examiner that the subject is the source of concern among staffers at the White House, although it is not thought to have been elevated to the level in which the vice president and the Cabinet are actively considering removing Trump.
Either way, with opponents drafting the articles of impeachment, it seems that Trump’s last days in office will play out in much the same way as they began: with an embattled president huddling with lawyers and pondering legal jeopardy.