Final Decisions: Trump Will Leave a Lasting Footprint on the US

Outgoing presidents normally refrain from making important decisions unless circumstances require it. Trump breaks with this tradition as well.

After his defeat in the presidential election, Donald Trump rarely appears in public, but he continues to be very active. Outgoing presidents tend to refrain from making important decisions unless circumstances require it. Trump, however, breaks with this tradition as well. He may have agreed to start the transition of power despite his refusal to acknowledge defeat, yet he is still making moves that may make Joe Biden’s presidency difficult. He is also taking steps that will further poison the already toxic atmosphere of political life in the U.S.

Trump Pardons a General

On Wednesday Trump pardoned retired Gen. Michael Flynn, his first national security advisor, who was convicted of — and pleaded guilty to — lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. This is a federal crime. Flynn was not punished because he cooperated with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated the alleged collusion of Trump’s staff members with Russia to gather evidence against Hillary Clinton in 2016. In May this year Attorney General William Barr filed a motion to drop the charges against the general, but the court dismissed the motion.

Flynn is also charged with lobbying for foreign clients and trying to cover it up. Trump had declared that he would pardon the general a long time ago. In February 2017, he only dismissed him at the specific request of Vice President Mike Pence. Flynn also lied to Pence about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Making Life Difficult for Biden

A week ago, Trump ordered the withdrawal of 2,500 troops from Afghanistan, which is half of their current number. The situation in the country does not justify the move since the government forces have great difficulty resisting the Taliban. According to the agreement they had negotiated with Americans, all U.S. troops are expected to leave Afghanistan by May of next year. Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper advised against the hasty withdrawal of troops, pointing out that the Taliban repeatedly flouted the terms of the agreement. Subsequently, he was fired from his post. Even the leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, criticized Trump’s decision, warning that the withdrawal of troops might result in the reemergence of the Taliban regime. The Taliban have been in power in the country since the 1990s, and they granted asylum to al-Qaida, which on Sept. 11, 2001, carried out a terrorist attack on the U.S.

Three-fourths of Americans support the withdrawal of troops from volatile regions, so the move has added to Trump’s popularity. Yet the decision puts Biden in the difficult position of having to deal with a fait accompli and he, like his predecessors, will have to take measures to protect Americans against terrorism. Islamic radicals may also target U.S. military bases and troops overseas. According to experts, Biden will not reverse Trump’s decision and will not increase the American presence in Afghanistan. It is always easier to bring troops back home than send them to military operations overseas.

Harsh Stance on Beijing and the Climate

The White House is sending signals that Trump might impose new sanctions on China, this time in response to the arrest of Hong Kong opposition leaders. It is probable that he will introduce new tariffs on goods imported from China. Some suspect he may opt for similar sanctions against Europe — if Europe resists the measures against China.

The tough stance against Beijing is, of course, a leading element of his foreign policy, as popular as the military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Middle East. Biden will continue the policy since the conflict with China will not suddenly disappear on Jan. 20, but he also plans to resume diplomatic efforts, which might prove difficult because of the escalation of tensions.

On a national level, Trump continues to loosen environmental restrictions on businesses. It turns out that not long before Biden’s inauguration, energy corporations will be granted oil and gas drilling licenses in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. It is also likely that his administration will undertake some spectacular steps to reduce illegal immigration by, for example, deporting thousands of immigrants who don’t have the right to stay and work in the U.S. According to some reports, Trump will send a draft bill to Congress to amend the Constitution that would abolish birthright citizenship — which applies to people who were born in the U.S. or those with at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen. The 14th Amendment of the Constitution grants this right.

Trump Will Leave His Footprint

By making all these decisions Trump clearly wants to leave a lasting footprint, and what he leaves behind will be impossible to undo. There is a lot that he has not managed to accomplish during his four-year presidency, so he wants to catch up with whatever he may have not yet completed. He may complicate things for Biden, who wants his presidency to differ in style, who represents different voters and who plans to repair weakened alliances and restore the proper role of diplomacy.

Evidently, Trump does not care about that, and he will be happy if things are difficult for his successor. After all, he thinks that the victory should have been his and his opponent won the election because of fraud.

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