Donald Trump is being effectively marginalized and neutered. This is really quite an extraordinary thing in itself. Essentially, the rest of the federal government, including most of Trump’s own administration, is taking him out of the loop and out of the decision-making process. They are not following his orders. There seems to be a tacit agreement that others will muddle through any remaining issues in his administration. If anyone is really in charge in what’s left of the Trump administration, it’s probably Vice President Mike Pence, perhaps now the de-facto acting president.
We got a clue what was going on back on Wednesday during the coup attempt. According to reports, Trump waffled on sending the National Guard to assist. Pence, hiding in the Capitol with the rest of Congress got on the phone with Defense Department officials and convinced them to deploy troops. Later, there was some rumbling from inside the Trump Administration that Trump had in fact ordered these troops in, but that appears to be a face-saving maneuver. I can see why Pence would be ringing them up because his life was in danger too. In effect, Pence took action when Trump wouldn’t and DoD officials accepted his orders. You might say Trump has been unofficially 25th Amendment-ed. And the DoD seems to have followed his orders, not Trump’s.
This is frankly extraordinary and I didn’t see this coming. I don’t think anyone did. Washington’s senior leadership has been doing all sorts of extraordinary things. House speaker Nancy Pelosi also spoke with Acting DoD Secretary and got him to agree that the military would not implement any decision by Trump to use nuclear weapons. Both Pelosi and incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for Trump to be 25th Amendment-ed. Since that doesn’t seem to be happening, Trump is likely to get impeached a second time by the House. It’s unlikely that the Senate could try Trump for a second time before he leaves office. There’s nothing stopping them after Trump’s term expires though. With Trump no longer president, the Senate might find the two-thirds majority it would need. The benefit of a post-term impeachment conviction: Trump could never run for office again. That might even encourage Ted Cruz to vote for his removal, helping to clear the way for him to run. Other Republican senators are probably considering this tactic too.
A 25th Amendment solution though is highly desirable, if something of a long shot. Aside from removing Trump from power, if done quickly it could have one other major benefit: Trump might not be able to pardon himself, his family and likely all the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol before he leaves office. But if Trump is really undergoing a silent coup by his own administration, he may not have the means to issue these pardons anyhow. That would take some staff and some lawyers. The staff could refuse to do the paperwork or procrastinate until it becomes moot.
Yesterday Twitter permanently banned Trump from their network. The other major social media platforms have already banned him too, including Facebook and Instagram. YouTube is removing or delisting incendiary Trump videos, including reposts by his supporters. The magic of the private sector is busy marginalizing Trump. He’s no longer profitable and keeping him on their platforms are seen as a liability.
In addition, more Republicans are coming out against him. It’s hardly a stampede, but he has cabinet secretaries resigning left and right, including Betsy DeVos his education secretary and Elaine Chao, his transportation secretary (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife). This will curiously leave career civil servants in charge should any decisions need to be made, in other words: institutionalists.
So far, Trump seems to be mostly holing up in the White House having an existential crisis. He’s sort of conceded the election, but only in the sense that Biden will be assuming office, not that he fairly lost the election. Doubtless he is full of rage. He’ll probably find a new outlet soon, likely Parler, a Facebook-like social media platform that seems to be set up primarily for conservatives. I expect he will give interviews to Fox News, OANN and other extreme right wing media platforms. Trump has proven he doesn’t like not being in the spotlight.
Yesterday I suggested he might flee to Mar-a-Lago. That would be decent of him. It would give them a chance to clean up and disinfect the White House before the Bidens occupy it. If he does though it won’t be because he wants to do something decent.
In any event, our new de-facto interim government is an unexpected and fascinating outcome, something that hopefully will never be replicated, but seems to be the only way to bide time until January 20th. We live in extraordinary times indeed.